MAYD IN CHYNA – ETHICAL FASHION WITH TERESA PERNA

”We are a political, environmental and social enterprise that has chosen fashion to transform the anthropocentric business model to an ecocentric one.  We create ladies’ and men’s designer clothing that is ethically and certifiably produced so that we can offer you the option of dressing both exquisitely and purposefully.” – MAYD IN CHYNA

The brand portrays the very opposite idea from the one normally associated with the phrase “Made in China”. So firstly, please note the choice of the brand name and its spelling; secondly, please note that the Y is slanted, projects from within the words and has a period at the end of it, doubles as a question mark and represents the Logo; thirdly, please note that the “IN” contains our Y which appears cutting diagonally across the word “IN” to indicate that “IN” is negated.

The brand embraces the concept of social and economic justice, ecological integrity and animal welfare – while giving you, the customer, distinctive design details to give you that edge. Politically sustainable,  the brand will always align the business mandate to genuinely serve the interests of people, animals and our planet. This is its ethos. As well, materially sustainable, the fabrics are and always will be vegan, will always be certified to a manufacturing standard and/or manufactured based entirely on the principles of organic, sustainable, ethical & regenerative production methods. Unique fabrics and design apparel that are not only organic and sustainable but are 100% vegan and sourced entirely in the USA. The fabrics and the designs are sophisticated, timeless and classic, while having exceptional quality and beauty.

”We represent a radical idea – a departure from the ordinary.”

”Our company is wholly run by family members whose professional expertise is on the continuum of fashion design, business management, marketing and environmental sustainability.”

The line is produced based entirely on the principles and practices of organic, sustainable and ethical production methods from our raw organic pima fibre, to our hangtags and notions. Our suppliers are either GOTS certified, Oeko-Tex certified, or adhere to the GOTS and Oeko-Tex standards.

”We also wish to borrow from and incorporate the concept embedded in the management approach of “regenerative agriculture” coined by the Robert Rodale of the Rodale Institute into our business philosophy…meaning that we have to go beyond sustainable when using resources to the idea of improving them with each use.”

The brand is focused on how profits can be used to help our planet rather than destroy and exploit it. This also ties in with its choice of fabrics because once you start on a quest to help the planet, then you naturally gravitate towards searching for what is the least damaging in terms of fibres, processes etc .The brand is differentiated from other fashion brands because the fashion label was designed to be a catalyst for change and not just a fashion statement. In the design of this label the first priority was to create apparel that would produce the least amount of damage to all its surroundings and yet provide the good feeling and beauty that we all seek in a fashion piece. Under the umbrella of the most ethical business model we could create, this direction propelled it into looking for the best possible sustainable textiles, the best and least damaging processes, and designs and colours that would last a lifetime. 

We particularly reach out to a customer who wants to become part of a new global awareness and solution for the issues affecting society, the environment, and animals.

”Specifically our end customer is someone that demands not only fashionable apparel but also quality and high end apparel that is unique and offers environmentally friendly options. Our customers have a strong awareness of social, economic and environmental issues and how they interconnect with lifestyle choices. As a result this customer does not make price the priority, but considers the other values added as the deciding factor to purchase. In research terminology, these customers are referred to as LOHAS – LIFESTYLE OF HEALTH AND SUSTAINABILITY (living a lifestyle that prioritizes health and sustainability). All of the above make for a customer who is forward-thinking, open minded, secure and confident in being who they and in their beliefs and values, and strong enough to follow their own distinctive fashion style regardless of fashion or societal trends.”

A TALK WITH TERESA PERNA, CO-FOUNDER MAYD IN CHYNA

When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?

I’m not sure that I knew that I wanted to become a fashion designer per se, but I did know that I liked to use my hands to create anything be it in landscaping, crafts, food, interior design and of course artistically styling pieces of clothing both new pieces and vintage ones that were my mom’s.  So fashion designing just developed over the years as a result of this artistic creation  and then was fully realized when at one point my son decided we should make a business out of it, which we did.

When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?

I never did a formal internship, I learned all from my mom and my aunts.  They designed and constructed all of our family’s clothes; I was exposed to all of this from the time I was born so it was kind of an osmosis for me that I took in everything that was around me.  I didn’t even realize that I was learning it until one day, I did it.

The most valuable thing I learned was to pay reverence to what you are doing, by this I mean respecting all the you come in contact with when you start designing or anything for that matter….it would be the loving way you would choose a style and fabric, the happiness you feel when handling that fabric and painstakingly sewing it so it can become that masterpiece that you envision.

What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?

I initially wanted to be a lawyer so that I could make all things right; but, later i decided to get my paralegal diploma instead and it was this job that I did right out of College;  I applied; had to undergo 3 interviews each one being more intensive than the previous one and after which I was hired.

Define sustainable concept nowadays in fashion industry in five words .

Misused; catchphrase; misunderstood; innovative; critical.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be? 

Surround yourself with the right and supportive people from the get go..

What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?

Thinking we could reach our goal in a few years.

What is one thing you look at the models for your campaigns?

They have to ooze authenticity.

What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?

A very big role; but of course, you will get the good and bad with this….so it is critical for the consumer to be informed and know the truth from the hype.

What is your favorite and NON-favorite part about being part of the fashion industry?

My favorite would be that I can help shine the spotlight on how fashion can be done so it has the most minimal impact our environment, people and animals.

My non favorite is the deceit and lies and lack of accountability and transparency that is rampant and exists today in the day to day fashion industry including the manufacturing processes.   

How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?

I want to feel that they are very definitely part of making a difference and of course, i want them to feel  the best they can feel about how they look without being conscious that they are wearing clothes, so I want them to feel free and comfortable as if they are wearing nothing at all.

Can you tell us how your brand makes a difference in fashion industry?

First and foremost, it is a means to an end and this end is not profits for the sake of profits, but profits for the sake of philanthropic work geared toward animal welfare, people welfare and planet welfare.  So our business model is truly unique.

Secondly, it is as strongly ethical as it is vegan and sustainable so this tri-focus guides our every decision.

Our Brand is first and foremost an entrepreneurial venture that is using fashion to address the social, environmental and political issues of our time.  It is not a fashion brand for fashion sake and it is not focused on profits for profits sake but on how profits can be used to do good and help our planet rather than destroy it.  So our business model is truly unique.  This means that our business decisions will always take into account what is beneficial not only for our Brand but what is equally beneficial for society, the planet and all animals. 

News on the way regarding your next collection?

We are looking into doing a children’s line and also only using deadstock fabrics.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for a fashion designer?

Designing so that people can see themselves in your clothes from the moment they see them.

There is one important person, in your life, who pushes and motivates you to believe in yourself?

Don’t want to seem arrogant, but it’s me, myself and I 🙂 after all you have to believe in yourself in order to achieve your dreams.

How do you think a big brand should motivate their collaborators and team members?

You motivate your collaborators and team members by doing things collectively; by allowing each and everyone to be part of the decision making process; by allowing everyone to be an actual functional part of the whole.

How do you think sustainable can play an important role in fashion industry?

Sustainable can only play an important role if it is NOT used as an industry buzzword just to promote business;  My idea of the three pillars of sustainability which are regenerative, connection to the whole and environmental limits have to truly be recognized and adhered to in order for this concept to really have an impact on the present fashion industry issues facing humanity.

Describe us you as a designer and how your feelings influence the creativity process?

Designing has been part of my life every since I was able to take whatever I had to work with and put together some sort of design with it….the result was not necessarily a sewn garment, but just a creation…of art, interior design, landscape etc.  I believe this desire to create has its roots in the way I saw my family’s, specifically my mother’s interaction with her environment in particular with textiles and the construction of clothing. My mom was a versatile and resourceful woman who taught me to recycle and upcycle ad nauseum; she was also a talented seamstress and had an impeccable eye for quality and design.  She not only designed but did the sewing for all our clothing… mine, my dad’s, her sisters and hers.  She made sure that they were not just perfectly constructed but when taken care of, lasted forever (well nearly).  From her, I learned the basic skills of sewing and styling and how to respect and create a design so that you wear it and it does not wear you.  While living in Italy, she always purchased quality and local textiles that were of superior endurance and she carried this through with her when we immigrated to Canada, where she continued to sew with only quality, long lasting and local fabrics. As I grew older I became a connoisseur of well made, long lasting and unique designs that transcended seasons and time.  To this day, I only make purchases that speak to these criteria and of course, I now also only make purchases that are vegan. Since I love to create, love to design and was witness to apparel making since I was a very small child, I thought why not incorporate the values and lessons that went along with this childhood experience into starting a fashion business that can apply this strategy while serving to benefit the world and the people in it….why not design textiles and apparel that keep my mother’s spirit alive….it was a natural transition and fit for me.

Additionally, along my journey, I became acutely aware that there was a definite lack of clothing that met not only my mom’s criteria, but also very much my own. There is a lack of quality, well made clothing in North America, but also a severe shortage of environmentally and socially conscious clothing and I am going to do my part to change this.  The concepts that drive me are justice and compassion. I do not want to seem overly self righteous, but I am truly of the belief that you should be just and kind in your life dealings. By this I mean, that whatever your endeavours in this life may be, you must consider the impact and the effects that they will have on all….give great consideration to the consequences of all that you choose to do, either in business or personally, and make sure that what you do is fair and true and does not harm.  I have incorporated this belief in the way that we have set up our company.  We promise to always be transparent, truthful and aware in all that we do and with all of whom we come in contact with from our farmers, to our suppliers, to our customers, to our environment, to our fellow humans and our animal friends.

Would you like to involve other accessories designers in your future projects?

ABSOLUTELY!!! I would love to involve all categories of sustainable and ethical designers in my future projects; I always look out for any opportunity to collaborate with like minded individuals; and if you know anyone, just tell them to email me and we can do some lovely brainstorming sessions together 🙂

What do you think is the main mission of the CO-BRANDING concept ?

The main mission of the Co-Branding concept is to use the strengths of each brand to build a better and more market focused product .

How fashion PR agencies can help more the brands and what skills a good fashion PR should have in your opinion?

Fashion PR agencies can help brands by not only doing the general promoting services they do, but by getting client products into the hands of powerful influencers such as celebrities and other widely recognized people; additionally they should also create a unique story for each of their clients so each brand stands apart and stands out from the others.

A good PR agency should be trustworthy; experienced and have a proven track record.  They also must be affordable.  Additionally, they also must share with their clients about how they will be measuring  success regarding their client’s ROI. 

What designers inspire you and why?

I am not really inspired by any designer per se, but I do love the Chanel look, it’s classic and timeless and she was a very revolutionary type of person given the time that she started designing so perhaps she is the closest to being an inspiration for me as a designer.  However, the one person who truly inspired and influenced me was my mom; looking back now, which i didn’t realize then, was that she was the epitome of a great and sustainable designer.

There is anyone special who would like to meet in person?

For me it would be some of the great environmental philosophers such as Arne Naess, (the deep ecology concept) David Henry Thoreau (the forest was his office), and Peter Singer (Animal Liberation activist). 

What do you think about the opportunity of selling your collections online nowadays?

Actually I am an old fashioned kinda of gal and really like selling personally and directly to the consumer through a shop.  But I must admit that selling online has one major benefit because it allows designers to reach a very broad global audience instead of just a local one which is the key to educating and informing people and thus changing the ways things are done.  If you can reach out to thousands it is much more likely that your story and values get heard and that people will start to listen and that’s when things really begin to change. There is power in numbers!