At the beginning of our journey in 2008 we decided to establish a fashion workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi. Rooted in the ‘Trade not Aid’ philosophy, we saw this project as a way to teach transferable skills and open a door for fashion designers and brands looking to take an ethical and sustainable approach to their businesses.
The Mayamiko Fashion Lab workshop provides training in sewing and tailoring to local women, many of whom are affected by the HIV pandemic or care for HIV orphans. The women are trained in a variety of different textile processes: pattern reading, cutting, sewing, tailoring, all the way through to finished garments.
Our trainees start from the basics and learn to produce simple items of everyday necessity, such as school uniforms, nurses’ and doctors’ uniforms, nappies and towels, to satisfy the huge demand in their internal market.
Our trainees also join a free educational program and attend classes in literacy, maths, life skills, social skills, economics, accounting and computer skills.
At the end of their training, women are free to join our fairtrade fashion and artisan workshop as apprentices, where they learn to make beautiful items that you can buy online all over the world.
While at the Fashion Lab, our trainees have the option to leave their babies and pre-school children in our nursery, where they are looked after and engage in educational activities. This ensures Mum can focus on learning, with the comfort their baby is well looked after.
As well as this, we provide a nutritious meal for each trainee and their child every day.
Alongside learning how to sew and tailor our trainees are taught entrepreneurship and financial literacy classes to ensure they have the best possible chance at success when they leave us. During these classes they are taught how to evaluate their market, form a business plan, managing finances, understand legal requirements, utilise profits and much more.
In conjunction with a multi-country vocational training institution, TEVETA, the training we provide is based on continuous assessment and leads to recognised qualification which our trainees receive upon successfully completing their training.
Once trainees graduate from the fashion lab they are given the option to stay with us learn how to manufacture a simple range of products for women, men and babies ready for export, using ethical trade practices in our artisanal and fair-trade workshop. We are supported by designers and textile experts in the creation of these pieces and our aim is to promote access to the ethical markets all around the world to make their work truly sustainable. Some of the garments made by our graduates have been featured on Vogue, Grazia, Cosmopolitan and The Guardian.
All trainees graduating from the Fashion Lab have the opportunity to take out a grant to fund the purchase of a sewing machine and a business starter kit to help them start their own business. Some graduates decide to start working independently, while others join forces to set up local cooperatives. Mayamiko asks that each applicant saves 25% of the required amount, and commits to funding the remaining 75%. Why not sponsor a sewing machine, or part of it, to give a graduate a great start to their business?