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Who says giving back or buying-for-a-cause has to be a self-sacrificing act that involves quietude and boring reverence? You can have plenty of fun, buying the kind of things that makes you happy; simultaneously, it can also make people less privileged than you, happier. Here are two witty, sustainability-focused labels that have captured our imagination (and our giggles).
Mua Mua Dolls Ludovica Virga met Karl Lagerfeld during a Chanel fashion show in Venice in 2009, and she handed him a Mua Mua doll —a crocheted doll that resembled the designer , created with the help of Balinese artisans. Lagerfeld was so impressed that he commissioned 500 dolls to be sold in the Lagerfeld shops. Virga’s humorous and ironic take on fashion now has a universe of dolls—Anna Wintour, Coco Chanel, Franca Sozzani, Lady Gaga, Suzy Menkes, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and more—which have become prized collectibles. Luisa Via Roma, the eclectic Florentine fashion behemoth, started stocking Mua Mua Dolls in 2010, and today she is available in top fashion concept stores all over the world. Lady Gaga chose her Mua Mua doll to be part of her Barney’s Workshop, and it sold out within weeks.
While it’s the wit and humour that draws her clients, Virga is quite philosophical about her creativity. “A deep soul has a very light mind” she says.
But it is the heart-felt story behind the brand that has her fan following increasing by the day. When the tsunami hit Bali in 2004, many artisans were left without work, as tourism dipped sharply following the catastrophe. Virga decided to do her bit to help. She employed mostly women, living in difficult conditions in rural Balinese villages, to craft her Mua Mua dolls. Part of the proceeds of the sale is donated to a school in Sumbawa to support women’s education.
Just recently, Virga added to her eccentric design repertoire. “We have designed a limited edition collection decorated with sequins that are completely recycled from plastic. It has a bold catch-phrase—No Plastic is Fantastic,” says Virga. Fifty per cent of the profit will be donated to ByeBye Plastic Bag—a non-profit organisation created by two young students in Bali who work relentlessly to educate locals on plastic pollution. “For me, giving back to the communities I work with is a no-brainer. It’s a regular engagement that is part and parcel of the fabric of my brand.”
Threaded Tales With Threaded Tales, you can wear your heart on your sleeve and have your life embroidered on your jeans. Robin Domeniconi, the founder of this loveable brand, is nothing short of a fashion-therapist, as she embroiders the most memorable moments from your life story on your favourite piece of clothing—an instant boost of happy hormones. All you have to do is fill out a questionnaire that will help her chart your favourite moments in life in little embroidered patches. “I have a team of illustrators. After reviewing the answers to questions from a client, we consider several different things. For example, we consider age, life-stage (we check Instagram and Facebook for likes and interests), and of course, the answers themselves. Then, the client is matched with one of our illustrators, and we work together to interpret the designs that are literally drawn directly on the clothing article that is sent to Haiti for hand-embroidery. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind creation.”
Once you send your favourite piece of clothing, your custom-crafted story is ready to go for a walk within eight weeks. But here’s the best part—the intricate and delightful embroideries are done by the incredibly talented women of Haiti. Domeniconi was on the board of an organisation called Global Goods Partners, which empowers female artisans around the world. One of the artisan groups she now works with is Haiti Projects, which provides the incredible embroidery skills to her projects. For every piece of personalised clothing, one Haitian child gets free education for a year. This embroidered narrative has the power to educate and enrich the lives of this less privileged than you. “As each pair takes over 100 hours to create, these are not inexpensive—they retail at about $1,250,” says Domeniconi. “However, it was important for us to also make sure that each pair of jeans would pay for one-year of education for a Haitian child, while also paying the artisans 3x fair trade wages.”
While there’s no doubt that the need for exclusivity, self-expression and a desire to give back is what drives this brand, Domeniconi says that her belief that “there isn’t a single person you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story” is what makes her fashion a journey of passion. 1 /10
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