Maiyet, named after the Egyptian goddess of truth and harmony, is currently working with groups of artisans in five countries: India and Indonesia for textiles and embroidery, Colombia for silver jewelry, and Kenya and South Africa for accessories carved out of bone and horn.
Co-founder Paul Van Zyl, a lawyer and former executive secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, founded the fashion house with the label's president, Kristy Caylor.
“We don’t want to be a pity product,” Caylor told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s not sustainable. It lasts a couple of seasons and then the customers stop coming back. “We are about making things that people genuinely desire, regardless of whether they’re ‘good’ or not,” she said.
“We don’t tell them, ‘do this faster and cheaper,’” Van Zyl said ahead of Sunday’s show. “We say, ‘do it slowly and carefully and better and we’ll put it on a rack at Barneys.’”Final products are put together in small factories in Italy, the Mecca of the luxury industry.
Because artisans in the developing world often don’t have the tools or training necessary to churn out luxury products that meet international standards right away, Maiyet is working with an organization called Nest that provides training to help craftsmen and women hone their skills, Caylor said. She added that artisans in three additional countries — Liberia, Togo and Mexico — are undergoing training and could soon be contributing to Maiyet.
The idea for the label grew out of Van Zyl’s experience of being named a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2008. After a grant provided initial seed money, Van Zyl went searching for people with top fashion pedigrees.