This post is a something a little different, and a first for the blog. I was recently introduced to Ala Mairi, a luxury ethical fashion brand which combines a fusion of traditional Scottish and Pakistani artisan techniques to produce beautifully handcrafted clothing and scarves. Ala Mairi is also a social enterprise which supports the artisans who produce the clothing, and actively encourages female entrepreneurship in both countries. These are things that are very important to me, and practices that I wish more designers and companies would take on board. So I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to do a wee short interview with the brand's founder and creative director Fatima Mahmood, to find out a bit more.
First of all, how important do you think is it to encourage female entrepreneurship?
Absolutely essential, as Hilary Clinton said 'women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world'. We need women entrepreneurs to feel the need to improve the lives of others. We need to find the gap and teach skills ,educate the communities and focus on the outcome of the training. Make a way of sustainable income from the skills so they feel the sense of achievement, earning their own livelihood and self respect.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own business or social enterprise?
Spend time with the community. Feel their need, feel what they are capable of, and find ways to help them. Living among the unfortunate will make your passion to set up your SE stronger, and when you start making the difference in their lives the satisfaction you will get is something money can't buy! Be strong, persistent and believe in yourself.
How has the Women Development Project improved the lives of the artisans you work with?
The women can buy their own clothes and books for their children. They have sense of self worth and confidence now. The positive mental change is wonderful to experience, they have smiles on their faces and they don't feel victims of circumstances anymore.
What inspired you combine the fusion of Scottish and Pakistani culture in your designs, and how important is ethical manufacturing in both these countries?
Meeting artisans from both countries and loving their work of art, the intricate craftsmanship is the inspiration. Ethical manufacturing is core of Ala Mairi. Hand woven fabrics by Scottish Artisans mixed with hand embroider, hand embellishments, hand dyed 100% silks.
And finally, if you had to pick a favorite piece from your collection, what would it be and why?
The Ayla snood as I love the subtlety of the unique grey colour - in order to achieve such unusual colours we hand dye all of our fabrics. I think the handmade weave panel works really well with the hand embroidered motifs with contrasting hand dyed yarns. I love the Motif pattern as It was from my inspirations from fair isle motifs. I transferred the fair isle designs in wooden blocks in order to get the motifs for embroidery.