The fashion industry isn't generally concerned with social justice or making the world a better place. Just making it prettier. But new label Maiyet aims to do both.
Maiyet, which is named for the Egyptian goddess of truth and harmony, is the brainchild of South African human rights lawyer Paul van Zyl and industry vet Kristy Caylor (she was most recently the president of Band of Outsiders). "Part of this idea was to try to find a way of restoring prosperity to communities which had been through hard times," van Zyl said. "So the idea was to find artisans who have this very rare skill and to elevate that into something beautiful and to allow them to derive greater value from their craft and to return the prosperity to them."
What that means is that Maiyet partners with artisans in communities in India, Colombia, Kenya and Indonesia (to name a few countries) and works their craft into design elements of the line. "We take their skill set and do the design work ourselves and harness that skill set into their looks," Caylor said. Maiyet then works with these artisans to develop their crafts over time and bring value back to the community--no plundering here. To find these artisans, Caylor and van Zyl took 25 international trips over six months. "We scoured the earth from places we both wanted to work with from a social perspective but also from a product perspective," Caylor said.
And the end product? Well, it's beautiful, as one might expect from a label that utilizes the talents of skilled artisans from around the globe. Maiyet showed their debut collection at the ornate Hôtel France-Amériques during Paris fashion week. The designs are relaxed and pared down--simple sheaths, loose tops and long flowy skirts--all the better to showcase the unique artisan techniques, embroideries and fabrics made in India and Indonesia and beyond. Craft and design are fused seamlessly to create a luxury product, including an extensive line of chic leather bags (price points will run between $600 and $1800, according to van Zyl). To highlight the communities that helped to create the looks, line sheets noted where each garment was created.
Keep your eye on Maiyet. They're not a flash in the pan cause célèbre. They've hired fashion PR powerhouse KCD, had Lori Goldstein style the show, and Barneys has already purchased the full collection. The label is also in talks with Lane Crawford and Joyce, all the "key tastemaker stores" van Zyl said. Maiyet is off to a succesful start and we hope it's lasting. Because the example they set--of marrying fashion with a social cause--is one that other brands would do well to follow.
Photos: Courtesy KCD