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Meet Maydi, the knitwear brand using local Argentinian fibres

Behind each brand is a
mind. Behind handmade knitwear brand, Maydi, is Maria Abdala Zolezzi, an
Argentinian designer with a vision to create fashion processes that respect
both workers and the environment. Maydi uses fibres traditionally found in
Argentina, such as merino and camelids wool to create ageless
contemporary designs.

Before founding her brand in Argentina in 2014, Maydi lived in Europe
for 13 years where she worked for some of the world’s leading companies.
After graduating in Design from the London College of Fashion, Maydi worked
in Paris and Milan for the likes of the Totem Fashion Agency, Hermès,
Maison Sonia Rykiel and the Fédération Française de la Couture.

Today, Maydi’s eponymous brand is available in seven sales outlets in
Tokyo, one in Osaka and from next season will also be in Hiroshima. The
brand is also sold in London, Lyon and Dallas, and in Buenos Aires her
products are available at Tienda Panorama.

The brand is centred around an environmentally friendly and sustainable
approach and has begun using merino wool from the Valdés Peninsula which
has the “Wildlife Friendly Certificate” – a seal awarded by a
United States entity in charge of ensuring that certain standards are met
in the production of fibre.

FashionUnited had the opportunity to chat with Maydi in Buenos Aires
about her story, her brand and her interest in spreading Argentinian
products around the world.

Despite having graduated as a designer, in your early years you were
not exactly working in the creative field. How did you find that?

In Paris I mostly worked in the marketing and business sector, which
brought me closer to the product. For example, at Rykiel, the creative team
worked alongside the marketing team for all product development. This meant
that I could get more experience in that area rather than just in the
purely creative field.

What was it like to go from strictly marketing work to designing for
your own company?

I felt that I had a creative side, and being constantly in contact with
brands, it is impossible to develop something if you do not have an
affinity for it. My boss Robert Dodd always said: “I think you have to
create your own brand.” I enjoyed the marketing side, but I really didn’t
feel it was the way I would be able to send out my message. Patricia Lerat,
who was once the director of the famous exhibition Première Classe and was
a kind of mentor to me, advised me to return to Argentina and try to launch
my own project.

How was your return to Argentina?

I returned at the end of 2012. In the beginning I went for a few
interviews at Buenos Aires fashion companies, but I realised that my
European background would not fit in with people’s way of working over
here. So I started to think about what I could do, I asked myself what was
good about the country, so that I could make use of it, and I started to
research natural fibres. I didn’t have much knowledge about materials,
although in some way I had been in contact with that type of product while
I worked for Rykiel and also for Alberto Marani, who created a line of
knitwear for Balmain.

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How did you start developing your materials?

I became interested in merino wool because Argentina is one of its main
exporters. A supplier put me in touch with weavers in Buenos Aires and in
2013 I started with a very small line in accessories: handmade shawls,
scarves, hats and gloves. In February 2014, Patricia Lerat invited me to
participate in a fair in Milan, and the Italian store bought 50 products
from me. For me it was a real challenge to be able to produce them all and
from that moment, that’s when the brand took off. My vision was always to
reach Europe.

What was it like returning to Paris?

In 2015, I took my brand there for the first time when an Italian
designer who worked in producing accessories and prêt-à-porter garments
asked me to share a showroom during Fashion Week in the Marais district of
Paris. I then had various meetings with buyers, and the store Solsis in
Lyon ordered some products. This year, in addition to accessories, I have
added a line of sweaters that I keep expanding on. I still attend Fashion
Week twice a year to present my collections.

How important is the Japanese market to the brand?

When I went to Paris in 2017, many appointments arose with Japanese
buyers with whom I made deals that were greater than what I was producing.
So I had to add new weavers because I was working with just a few people,
who could not cope with such an order – as everything is done by hand.
Starting to work with the Japanese market gave me great security as a
designer and as a brand because they are very precise and seek
originality.

Why do you think your products are so popular overseas?

Camelids [alpaca, llama, etc.] are kind of exotic and rustic, and so the
Japanese market for example, loves it because it is different and it
represents the latest form of luxury. In Argentina, these fibres are hardly
used, and it is good to introduce it to the world. As a designer, I feel
that I need to tell the world that Argentina has all these fibres to
offer.

Global Fashion Stories shares inspiring stories from fashion entrepreneurs
around the world, as FashionUnited believes fashion professionals can
inspire each other, no matter who they are or where they are.

This article was originally written in Spanish by FashionUnited Argentina
editor Cynthia Ijelman before being translated into English.

Photo credit: Martina Keenan and Maydi

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