Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Interview with Yevu

Welcome to the second interview in our "ethical" fashion series. Today, we speak to Anna Robertson - the force behind YEVU.

1. You’ve now been running YEVU for more than two years. Can you tell us the story about how YEVU got started and what were your motivations for creating  it?

I started YEVU with no long term plans. It was created quite organically out of a love of West African print and a vision to transform them for the Australian summer. The response in Sydney was pretty incredible and I realised there was a demand for it here, and its just grown since then. I think since that initial inception, its become much more than that - partnering with small businesses who have little income and working with mostly economically disadvantaged women has become the foundation for the enterprise. I am slowly trying to scale this side of it up, monitor, evaluate and grow in social impact.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Dakar Markets - HLM

The bustling markets of Dakar and the people who we met there are such an important part of the Madame Tây creation process. We spent hours trawling through piles of fabric, visiting shop after shop and chatting with so many shop assistants and traders, its hard to remember everyone's names!

Today, we're giving you a glimpse of Marché HLM - Dakar's largest and most renown textile market.  HLM is the place we found lots of our wax print, some of the cotton and silk-mix linings we used, as well as buttons and zips. We'd like to show you around, and introduce you to some of the people we worked with to source all our materials. If you're in Dakar and are looking for textile supplies, drop us a line and we'll gladly pass on our friends' contact details.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Focus on Fabrics: Bogolanfini

Bogolanfini, otherwise known simply as bogolan has recently taken the Western design world by storm, with the distinctive geometric cloth popping up in all sorts of homewares and decoration sites. Despite this recent emergence in the Western design world, bogolanfini has a long history in Mali, where it originates and where it continues to play an important cultural role.

Bogolanfini by Naktune Diarra, The Smithsonian

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Bogolan Skirt with Sarah

One of my favourite things that we've made with Madame Tây so far is this skirt of beautiful bogolan or mud cloth fabric from Mali. Cara is writing a blog post about the history and cultural contexts of bogolan, and about the fascinating hand-dying processes used to create it. Bogolan is traditionally made in Mali and is strongly associated with Malian cultural identity, yet in recent years the cloth has also gained popularity within global fashion and design. By using this cloth outside of it's original cultural context, we are engaging in a form of appropriation that removes the fabric from its original meanings, so Cara is also going to explore this and discuss the ways in which bogolan production in Mali has been affected by global interest. We did not travel to Mali but purchased our bogolan at a Malian market in Senegal. Once Cara's post is ready I will link to it here!

For this post I'm going to focus on how to wear and care for the skirt.

I love the crisp white-on-black lines of the bogolan, so to keep these lines as the main focus of the outfit, I've worn the skirt with a plain fitted black t-shirt and black sandals, keeping everything monochrome. 

The skirt is quite fitted, like a pencil skirt fit, and tends to hug the body. There is a small slit at the back for easier movement. The fabric is a thick, soft cotton, which has a tiny bit of give, and is sturdy and comfortable to wear.

Let's take a closer look at the fabric!

It's possible to find fabrics that imitate the designs of bogolan, but are not actually created using a mud-dyeing process, for example thin linens and cottons that are machine-printed with bogolan-inspired patterns. These fabrics may also look good, but for our Madame Tây skirt we really wanted to source some genuine Malian bogolan, because the fabric has the most amazing individual character and texture, and we were trying to find fabrics that were local and hand-made in the region.

In these close-ups you can see how thick the fabric is. You can also see the underside of the fabric and how the design seeps through slightly. Cara's Malian friends taught her that if the design seeps through to the underside of the cotton, it is genuine bogolan, but if it doesn't seep through it probably didn't go through the same production process (soaking in ngamilla solution, mud dye, bleaching) and could be a mass produced variation.

Back of the skirt, with the hem turned up

The skirt has a cotton lining so it feels smooth and comfortable against the skin.

Because of the unique fabric, I think of this skirt as a piece of wearable art, rather than an every-day skirt. Treat it with care, like you would for a hand-woven fabric wall hanging. (Wearing the skirt does feel a bit like you're wearing a beautiful carpet or tapestry!) Even though the skirt can be easily styled for office-appropriate outfits, it's probably not the kind of piece you would wear to death every day at work and then just toss in the washing machine a couple of times a week. 

If anything, I would encourage owners of this skirt to wash it as little as possible! It's like having a quality suit or raw denim - basically you would spot clean it where necessary and avoid washing when it's not dirty. For the occasional clean, do a cold hand wash with very mild fabric wash. Since this is a hand-dyed piece and has not been treated for colour-fastness, I would expect some fading over time, and would always wash it separately to other clothes to avoid any colour transfer.

It takes a little bit of extra care, but I think it's worth it for such an interesting garment! This is a piece to treasure for many years.

The warmth and thickness of the cotton, and the long length, also make this a great skirt for autumn and winter outfits. Here I've worn it with a cosy jumper and boots.

Since we are quite a small-scale project, we only made a total of eight of these Bogolan Skirts. Perhaps one of them can find a home in your wardrobe.

photos by me, Steph and Carlo

Wax Prints with Sarah

This week Steph came over to my place to photograph some wax print outfits. We combined the wax print pieces with other things from my wardrobe and took some shots around the local backstreets.

First outfit is double wax print! This looks a bit like a dress, but it's actually a separate pencil skirt and top worn together, with a high-waisted gold belt and a simple pump shoe.

I love how this print looks like just a zig-zag pattern from further away, but when you look closely the zig-zags are little staircases and hand-railings.

The back of the top has a gold zip to make it easier to take on and off.

You can also wear the top and skirt as separates. Here is the skirt with a black cape-like singlet top. The minimal black balances out the busy print... it's still a colourful outfit but slightly more subtle that head-to-toe wax print.

Next we paired the top with some long navy shorts. This top can be dressed down as an easy casual piece. It's great for when the weather is really hot since the wax print cotton feels lightweight and airy.

pottering around the garden pretending to prune things

The wax print pencil skirt again, this time in a different print.

Here we've thrown a slouchy relaxed jacket over the top. By keeping everything else a neutral black the wax print stands out as the feature of the outfit.

I think wax print would also work well with crisp white separates, perhaps the skirt with a plain white t-shirt.

photos by Steph

Friday, 15 January 2016

Madame Tây at The Garden, Dakar

We're excited to share these photos of our new garments with you! 

When Cara was in Dakar last year overseeing production, she gathered together some friends to take snaps of our clothes with the help of photographer and Dakar native Malick Welli.

 A big thank you to Becky Hughes, Dulcie Abrahams Altass, Sarah Sagan and Seynabou Sarr for being such willing models and of course to Malick for the photos. 

A special thanks also to our friends at The Garden - Andrew, David, Dulcie and Josh. The Garden was once a rundown house in the bustling neighbourhood of Ouakam in Dakar, and is now home to a flourishing garden full of bougainvillea and hanging vines and we were lucky enough to use their beautiful space as our setting.

These photos feature our Bogolan Skirt (above) as well as dresses, a skirt, and tops in various wax prints.