Mamoq: choosing well
By BEL JACOBS
Ethical labels are often, by nature, small scale operations, without time or budget or even stock levels to promote themselves aggressively. A number of platforms have emerged to create online ‘marketplaces’ for these brands. One of the latest – and prettiest – is Mamoq (for ‘meaning’, ‘accountability’, ‘material’ ‘opportunity’ and ‘quality’). Founded by Madeline Petrow and Lenny Leeman, with 40 labels from Europe and beyond, Mamoq is on a mission to replace unquestioning consumption with informed decisions that can turn fashion into a force for good. Below, Madeline outlines the site’s philosophy and development – and talks about how exciting it is to be caught up in sustainable fashion.
The site feels very established but you only launched in January …
We started on Instagram a year before the launch, posting about sustainability, consumption habits, fast fashion – just to find out what our audience was engaged in. It allowed us to create a presence and tailor our identity.
You’ve got really fresh, unusual labels.
We look for small independent brands that, as part of their core identity, are challenging the status quo and putting ethics and sustainability at the forefront. We want brands that crusade for market transformation.
The result feels much more than a retail site.
We do a lot of championing. It’s hard for small labels to compete against mainstream fashion – to manage design and production and sales and also the awareness-raising that goes with sustainable fashion. That’s something we’re trying to offer the brands we work with.
Rhumaa collaborates with talented artists from developing countries, like South Africa to create beautiful collections that combine local artwork with fashion design.
Retail marketplaces can feel a bit fiddly.
We figured out the hardest thing about working in this marketplace and how to do it differently. Most traditional marketplaces are too much of a hassle for small brands; there’s managing inventory levels and monitoring dashboards to see if orders have come through. Now, for a lot of our brands, we’re the only marketplace they work with.
And then there’s the blog …
We always wanted to be a source of knowledge. A lot of awareness raising still needs to be done. It’s about consolidating, evaluating and synthesising [what we learn] in ways that are digestible for ordinary consumers, particularly as the environmental side can feel technical and overwhelming.
What’s your criteria for including a brand?
We have 12 MAMOQ values, environmental and societal ways that brands can use to make the fashion industry a more positive place – from using upcycled or natural materials to working with marginalised communities. That’s what sparked this project in the first place. My background is International Development and even I was finding it difficult to evaluate criteria.
Hitting all twelve sounds like a push …
We ask for a minimum of three; most meet between four and seven. The ethos of the platform is that we gather as much information as possible and bring that to the foreground so that people can decide for themselves. There’s no one standardised definition of ethical fashion. For example, we work with a wonderful brand called Mayamiko. Their ethos is about empowering community in Malawi. They buy fabrics from the local market but they also have an incredible fashion lab which trains local women in sewing skills.
Mayamiko’s Fashion Lab, based in the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi, functions as a production and community centre.
Is the consumer a passive recipient of ideas or engaged and political?
We push the idea that we’re all empowered to make choices we feel proud about and that align with how we’d like to live our lives. We encourage people to take a stand for the world they want to live in through individual actions.
How are you finding the world of sustainable fashion?
It has this immense momentum right now and it’s nice to be part of that snowball. There’s tons of innovation in design, materials, thoughts, all coming together at once. [And] there’s an immense amount of collaboration. Even those verging on being competitors still come together. Awareness has to be raised; if we come together to raise it, that’s the goal.
Neither you nor Lenny have a background in fashion.
It’s seen as a positive by a lot of our brands. Because we’re not producing; what we do is content marketing and digital marketing. Interestingly, many of our brands have a co-founders with an international development background. That gives us lots to talk about. And it helps confirm that we’re working with people who really value having a positive impact.
It’s nice when labels see fashion as a vehicle for deeper beliefs.
One of our brands is called Tales of Thread. Its founder, Rebecca Fordham, worked in the UN and helped pioneer the Day of the Girl Child. She started Tales of Thread, making gorgeous pyjamas because she saw it as an opportunity to empower female artisans in Ghana. Their skills have been harnessed to create a product that will cause this amazing ripple effect.
There’s a strong movement towards vegan fashion right now.
We get the most engagement from the vegan community. Mamoq does have animal products on the platform. We have a brand called Moxhi, which works with artisans and independent producers in Argentina. They take the leather from free roaming cows, they eat the meat within the community. They use vegetable tanned leather. If you [believe] that nothing should die for you, then of course, that’s not going to do it but what they’re doing may be ethical in someone else’s eyes.
Times are changing.
Ethical fashion follows food. Fifteen years ago, people became more aware of organic and fair-trade foods. Now those same principles are being applied to a different industry. Vegetarianism and veganism is skyrocketing. The idea of who was a vegan and who was adopting to these philosophies is so much wider than it was 15 years ago. We’re seeing it in fashion as well.