As part of Sustainability Week at Makerist, we’ve had the chance to collaborate with MAVOLU! We spoke to their founder, Nadja, about the brand, her interest in sustainable fashion, the making process, and her advice for consumers trying to be more sustainable.
1. Can you tell us a bit about MAVOLU?
MAVOLU is an online platform for sustainable fashion and accessories made from innovative textiles and future materials. This includes products made from fibres that are relatively new to the market (such as banana fibre, apple leather, Piñatex and recycled PET), but also fibres like hemp and ramie, which have been around for quite some time and are now gaining new popularity thanks to the rising interest in sustainable fashion. The product range is a curated selection of items that are trying to challenge the current perception of materialism and consumption, be it through fibre creation from waste or cruelty-free production methods. While I don’t think that the use of innovative materials is the only solution to a more sustainable fashion industry, the materials we choose to work with as designers (or to wear as consumers) certainly have a major impact on the environment and the people in the supply chain – affecting farmers, weavers, garment workers and ultimately even consumers. The aim of MAVOLU is to offer products that are both unique and sustainable, while at the same time critically evaluating the characteristics of each fibre and material.
2. Have you always been interested in sustainable fashion?
I started to become interested in sustainable fashion during my BA course in ‘Fashion Business’ at Glasgow Caledonian University. While I had always enjoyed the creativity and expressiveness that comes with fashion, I was very much struggling with the environmental issues and the critical labour practices that are often involved in the production process. I therefore decided to focus on sustainable fashion by moving to Berlin and studying a MA course in this field. During the course I developed a keen interest in material innovation and the use of less common fibres for the fashion industry. As part of my final thesis I travelled to India to research the production processes of peace silk, banana fibre and soy fibre, and compared their properties and usability for the fashion industry. I realised that the research in the area of these unusual fibres and textiles is still somewhat limited, and that gaining this sort of information online can often be quite tricky. So I decided to create an online platform specifically focussing on material innovation – with a material library that provides short summaries of each fibre, a blog with more in depth information and an online shop where consumers would also be able to buy products made from these different materials.
3. I love the sustainability criteria, could you explain how this works on MAVOLU?
The sustainability criteria was added to the online shop in order to simplify the website experience and to rate each product’s impact within the supply chain and user phase. My friend designed the icons for each of the 12 individual criteria, including aspects such as “local production”, “from waste to value” and “cruelty-free”. The products that are offered on MAVOLU all have a unique selling point and show very different approaches towards a more conscious consumption. With the help of the sustainability criteria, each customer can specifically choose products that are most related to their own needs and values.
4. How do you decide which products to sell on Mavolu?
I mostly try to support small designers and brands that are working with interesting materials. Besides being made from sustainable and innovative fibres, other main factors for each product offered on MAVOLU are quality, aesthetics and timelessness. I would like customers to be able to wear their garments for many years to come, without them falling apart or coming out of fashion. In addition to that I try to offer a diverse selection of brands from both local places (e.g. Hamburg based fair fashion label Jan ‘n June), as well as artisans from across the world (e.g. the banana fibre wallets from Green Banana Paper, which are produced under fair working conditions in Micronesia).
5. Do you make any of the products yourself and if so, do you enjoy the making process?
Yes, a small selection of the products offered on MAVOLU are also made by myself. At the moment these are mostly home & decor items such as thermal cherry stone cushions, but also a few tops. I started making the thermal cushions during the Christmas season one and a half years ago, and I never expected them to sell so well. But they seem to be quite popular as gifts and are also a great natural alternative to hot water bottles – they can quickly be heated up in the oven or microwave and are great for treating headaches, neck tensions or stomach cramps. Last autumn I started to experiment with bundle-dyeing peace silk for the cushions by using coloured autumn leaves which create a nice natural print on the fabric. I am also constantly looking for other interesting materials to use – the latest addition being a fabric mix of recycled hemp and organic cotton. And yes, I very much enjoy the making process! I find it quite calming to sit at the sewing machine and it gives me a welcome break from being in front of the laptop. Besides the thermal cushions I am planning to also focus more on designing and sewing my own clothing collections again in the future, which will then be available online as well.
6. What do you think is most important for consumers to consider when buying products, and what can we all do to support sustainable fashion?
Especially now it is more important than ever to support small businesses and designers, who are struggling during this global pandemic. And while I am of course very happy about every purchase through the online shop, I think it is also important that we only buy things that we actually need, and to invest our money into high quality items that last and can be worn or used for many years to come. Questioning the background of a product and how and where it’s been made is also incredibly important. In terms of fabrics and clothing, certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) can be very helpful – they ensure that regulations are adhered to throughout the entire manufacturing process, from the initial fibre production to the finished garment. In addition to that it’s nice to see that an increasing amount of people are sewing their own clothes again, and that the second hand market as well as clothes-swapping events are gaining more popularity – you can even organise them amongst your friends, which is so much fun! And last but not least, customising and repairing the garments you already have is a great alternative to throwing them out and getting new ones. After all, the most sustainable fashion is the one that we already own!