Added Luxury on Google+ Added Luxury: Maiyet - African Luxury Fashion Label With Heart

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Maiyet - African Luxury Fashion Label With Heart

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.


Launched with a runway show during Paris fashion week, Maiyet aims to promote development through high-end consumption, by tapping into the skills of artisans in developing countries to churn out sleek, desirable luxury clothes, handbags, shoes and jewelry.

“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.

Enter Caylor, a merchandising executive who had worked at The Gap, Banana Republic and the L.A.-based fashion label Band of Outsiders, among other leading brands. Deals are in the works for the brand to be carried at some top retailers in the United States, including the exclusive New York department store Barneys. Meanwhile, Van Zyl is dreaming big."I want it to be an absolutely gigantic success,” he said, with a grin. Visit Maiyet online.