In honour of Fashion Revolution week, I’m interviewing the people behind some of my favourite responsible fashion brands. Since Fashion Revolution is all about asking who made my clothes lets get to know the people who make our clothes a little better. Today I’m talking to Effy from Mamahuhu, whose shoes you may recognise from my post a couple of weeks ago. Mamahuhu not only make great quality footwear they are also a responsible brand which cares about the people making their shoes.
Could you introduce yourself and tell me about your brand?
I’m the Chief Marketing Office at Mamahuhu Online, and Mamahuhu is an ethical brand offering leather shoes and accessories, handmade by artisans in Colombia.
The unique thing about Mamahuhu is that we don’t employ artisans, but help unemployed artisans to set up their own ethical workshops, and give them purchase orders to help them grow the workshops and create more jobs in the communities. In this way, they become independent and sustainable business owners, thriving with pride.
Over the last 6 years, we have helped set up 11 ethical workshops with over 120 happy artisans in Colombia.
It’s Fashion Revolution week right now, why do you think Fashion Revolution and the slow fashion movement are important?
For many, after watching the documentary The True Cost, it becomes very difficult to purchase clothes without thinking about the people behind them, whether they are suffering like what we saw in the video, or actually treated respectfully as human. I believe most of us who have learnt about the horrifying condition of some fashion workers would start developing this ‘fashion conscience’. As natural and effective as other human conscience, this ‘fashion conscience’ guides us to purchase and wear clothes that don’t hurt other people.
And it is down to us who have picked up this fashion conscience to spread the word and make more people aware of the ‘dark side’ of fast fashion, and rethink their fashion preference. I really appreciate that Fashion Revolution and Slow Fashion Movement can gather everyone who cares about the issue, whether you are bloggers, brand owners, consumers, journalists, policy makers, etc. These events not only influence consumer’s choice but also add pressure for big brands to be ethical and sustainable. And the ethical efforts of these industry leaders can really make a great impact.
Could you tell me about how you ensure your brand remains ethical/sustainable?
In the 90s, Colombia used to be a leather goods centre, with more and more manufacturing being moved to South Asia, the majority of the leather artisans were left unemployed in Colombia.
The cofounders of Mamahuhu are from Colombia and Spain. One day they were walking on the street of Bogota and saw a cobbler Rozo in a tiny stand. They walked to him and asked him to make a shoe with their design, and when the very first red Colorines boot was created, they were struck by the quality and beauty.
Rozo was once a master artisan in a big leather manufacturing company, and since the company was close, he had to work as a cobbler to make a living. Mamahuhu offered micro loan to Rozo, helped him buy equipment to set up his own workshop, and hire 2 new workers to help. And then Mamahuhu gave Rozo’s workshop purchasing orders. As the business grew, the workshop started to hire more and more workers and train them to become artisans. When it grew to a 20 people workshop, Mamahuhu helped Rozo to register it as a company, that pays taxes, and social benefits to its workers. There is no child labour in these workshops, many women artisans, and all artisans are paid 25% more than in a factory.
Just like this, we have helped set up 11 ethical workshops. They are independent of Mamahuhu, meaning that even without us, they are still able to thrive on their own merits. We call this business model ‘to teach a man to fish, you feed him a lifetime.’
Price is often given as a barrier to ethical fashion. Could you tell me the average price of your pieces? (If they are £100+ please explain the higher cost eg fair wages, quality, materials etc)
The average price of a pair of Mamahuhus is £109.
We sell directly from workshops to customers through our online and physical stores, to make sure there’s no middle man involved. In this way, we can keep the price as low as it can be.
The leather used are top quality materials ethically sourced within Colombia, from leather tanneries with eco-certificates. Some of the most renowned leather bag brands also source their leather from the same tanneries, and they would easily charge 10 times the price.
Besides the materials, we buy directly from ethical workshops that pay 25% more to its artisans than factories.
What are your top tips for consumers looking to make more ethical purchases?
- 1.Start with watching documentaries and speeches to strengthen the motivation, because it is not as easy to purchase ethical fashion as to buy fast fashion.
- 2.Read ethical fashion blogs to learn about new brands and their products.
- 3.Join the communities, ask questions to bloggers, to brans, to other ethical consumers, and get tip and recommendations from them.
- Make a purchase and enjoy the great feeling of dressing ethically!
Is there anything else you would like to tell me?
We get asked a lot about the name Mamahuhu, what it means and why.
Literally translated as ‘horse horse tiger tiger’, Mamahuhu is a Chinese phrase meaning careless. The brand was established when the cofounders were studying in Shanghai. As one of the very first phrases everyone learns in Chinese, ‘Mamahuhu’ has an easy and fun pronunciation, and our cofounders really liked it:) And don’t worry, regardless of the meaning, Mamahuhus are by no means made carelessly 😉
*Photos published with permission from Mamahuhu