Africa Fashion Guide
A social enterprise promoting sustainability within Africa's fashion and textile industry.


March 25th, 2015

Getting up Close with…Mayamiko – Fashion Africa Conference Speaker

In the lead up to our annual event Fashion Africa Conference 2015 we wanted to introduce you to a selection of our panellists who will be speaking at our conference. They all have an interesting relationship with the continent and we felt that a short Q&A with them would give you a small snippet of all the exciting and rich conversation you will hear on the panels on the conference date – April 24th 2015.

Tied in with Fashion Revolution Day a day which remembers those who were affected by the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh in 2013. April 24th therefore is a fitting day for us to hold the event to help raise awareness of the negatives that happen and the challenges faced, in the industry. Above all we want to make sure those 1100+ deaths will not be forgotten and to raise the point that this should never happen in the Africa, that continent that we are all connected to and love dearly.

So have a read of our weekly Q&A’s, get familiar and then book your ticket here to attend our one-day event. With 35 speakers over 6 panels it is going to be amazing! And the following and upcoming interviews and the people we interview are a major part of the reason why.

Next up we present Paola Masperi the Founder, Director and we would like to say Visionary mind of Mayamiko Trust and Mayamiko Designed an amazing production and educational enterprise based in Malawi

AFG: Please give us a synopsis of what you do and your professional connection to African fashion.

Mayamiko: I started the Mayamiko Trust in 2008 to teach disadvantaged people from the community in Malawi skills  that would allow them to earn a decent living – tailoring and sewing, small business skills, financial management. Our level of training, skills and dedication meant that we achieved high level of production and quality, so that international designers started to ask us to produce for them. Then in 2013 we launched our own brand Mayamiko Designed.

Mayamiko is based on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Our workshop (the Fashion Lab as we like to call it!) and training centre are down a couple of Km of dirt road in the middle of the local community. So we are right in the thick of it! We run a totally charitable training centre, where we provide tailoring and sewing training, as well as embroidery and other artisanal skills to disadvantaged women from the local community. Often, on top of our syllabus-based course, we host experienced artisans who come and teach specific skills. Sometimes a trainee may be a beginner at tailoring, but may have other great skills. For example recently one of our new trainees showed us some beautiful upcycled flip-flops made of old tires, scrap leather and local beads. She is now teaching the other ladies how to make them. So you never know where the creative input might come from!

We also teach financial and basic business skills. At the end of their training, our graduates can apply for a grant to get a sewing machine and start their own business activity, or some may want to stay and work with us next door in the fashion lab on Mayamiko Designed. It is very much a mutual arrangement, as everyone’s circumstances are different.

Alongside the training centre, at the Fashion Lab, making Mayamiko Designed collections we have three male tailors, a cutting manager and a cutting assistant – both ladies were promoted to those new roles over time. Charity, our cutting manager, used to be our tailoring trainer, and Jane started as our workshop-keeper, then applied for a place in the tailoring course, and then was promoted to cutting apprentice. Jane is a grandmother, while Charity recently got married and is expecting her first baby. We also have a production and QC manager, Carlo, and an operations manager Emma. So age, gender and circumstances are varied – but everyone is part of the Mayamiko family.

We then collaborate with other artisans depending on the project we are working on: batikers, dyers, carpenters (we made some lovely carved little buttons recently), knitters, crochet experts, embroiders. There are plenty incredible skills around, and for us it is about taking those traditional skills and interpreting them to make products that are desirable by our lovely customers all over the world.

And of course we have design collaborations with emerging designers who want to produce ethically, small scale and want to know who stitched their clothes, fashion schools, other labels, academic researchers. There’s never a boring day and every experience is enriching in its own way.


AFG: In 5 words describe what Africa means to you.

Mayamiko: Love, Potential, Hope, Challenges, Beauty

AFG: What in your opinion are the pros and cons of working with African suppliers and manufacturers?

Mayamiko: Pros are tapping into the creativity of the african people, their materials and traditional crafts as well as providing them with a reliable and fair source of income. Cons are that the supply chain and infrastructure are very challenging and costly.


AFG: Where do you see the future of Africa’s textile and fashion manufacturing industry going forward?

Mayamiko: I’m worried about the textiles at the moment. We see less and less local artisans being able to survive as the competition from cheap imports and second hand clothes prices them out of the market. and we find that often we cannot really get to the bottom of where our textiles have come from. Also governments need to do more to help Africa compete globally, not by copying the model of other continents, but by finding its own way built on its own incredible creativity, talent and skills. But there is a movement around African or African-inspired textiles that is emerging strong and spreading globally so I hope this will be a strong ambassador for the African textile and fashion industry.


AFG: What would you advise to businesses who wish to enter the African continent for sourcing or manufacturing?

Mayamiko: Do your research, understand the context and invest in partnerships – in for the long haul!

AFG: Why is a conference like Fashion Africa conference so important for our readers to attend?

Mayamiko: To inform, excite, inspire, put things in perspective, and connect !

Thank you Paola!

You can find more about Mayamiko and all their contact details here: and

Paola Masperi of Mayamiko Trust & Mayamiko Designed will be speaking on the Panel 4A titled Source Africa and Navigating Value Chains, Logistics and Red Tape from 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM on April 24th 2015.

Conference details can be found here: and tickets can be bought here: Eventbrite.

Early booking tickets end March 31st and seating is limited so book early to avoid disappointment!



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