Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, with more than half of its population living in extreme poverty, according to the World Health Organization. In addition to a life expectancy of 41 years, an average of 175 out of 1,000 children die before they reach the age of 5. By training and employing local women to cut, sew, and finish the garments, Mayamiko helps promote sustainable livelihoods for the Malawi people.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries on the planet, with over half of its population living in extreme poverty.
Although Ho is known for her clean, fluid lines and geometrically inspired silhouettes, she also wanted the Malawi fabrics to speak for themselves. Working with Mayamiko, she realized that she had to adapt her designs to the skills of the Malawi workers. On the upside, she found room for improvement within her own production process.
“There is so much waste generated through the pattern-cutting process,” Ho tells Ecouterre. Her pattern-cutting technique now incorporates straight-edged pattern pieces and flexible grain lines. “I wanted to come up with designs that aim to eliminate this through the use of tessellation,” she adds.
Ho didn’t set out to be an ethical designer at first. After learning about the ills of the garment industry, she found herself favoring eco-friendlier textiles such as organic cotton, Tencel, hemp, peace silk, and soy.
Despite the challenges, she has never once looked back. Ho knows better than anyone, however, that designers can’t work in a vacuum. “It’s partly down to the consumer changing their shopping habits that will really drive the ethical fashion industry,” she adds.