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Q+A: Mayd in Chyna - Maria-Teresa Perna

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where the desire to design came from?

I really loved Barbie dolls and I would spend endless hours with leftover fabric from my mom's sewing room trying to make my Barbies their new outfits.  I was probably 7 or so when I started doing this, so I didn't sew these clothes, but I remember just using these different fabrics with these lovely and different textures and wrapping them around my barbies to make some very pretty new clothes.  So designing has been part of my life ever since I was able to take whatever I had to work with and put together some sort of creation with it....the result was not necessarily a sewn garment, but just a creation...and I continued to do this later on in my life by creating poetry, creating interior designs and some landscaping. I believe this desire to create has its roots in the way I saw 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 everything. 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 family when we immigrated to Canada from Italy back in the 1960s... mine, my dad's, her sisters and their families.  She made sure that they were not just perfectly constructed but, when taken care of these masterpieces would last forever (well nearly).  To this day, I still have and wear some of her clothes and I still have clothes that she constructed 45 years ago.  From mom, 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.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I would say that generally, my personal style has the 1960s and 70s core mixed with the addition of a little bohemian flair that adds interesting textures, layering etc that aren't normally associated with those time periods: additionally I only use colour complimentary accessories vs matching ones.

All Mayd in Chyna items are vegan and certifiably sustainable and ethically produced, what does the process look like to have each item certified?

To be clear certification is very complex.  So what we have is not an item certification for each piece but process certifications and adherence to certified textile manufacturing standards.  What this means is that the processes we use are controlled by and come under the following global standards:  GOTS, Oeko-tex and Blue Sign.  These standards guarantee that the only substances that are used through our supply chain from growing of the fibre to the spinning to the weaving to the knitting and finally to the dyeing are substances that are not harmful to the environment or living beings.

In keeping with this strict adherence to minimize harm and toxicity, we decided to manufacture our own fabrics and labels; to strictly use quality and premium fibre that is organic and certified to a global standard, to strictly use USA made and the most sustainable and eco-friendly notions, trims etc. that we could find, (from our organic thread, to our recycled buttons, to our no heavy metals and recycled zippers, to our recycled hang tags and to our personally designed and manufactured labels) to have a supply chain that we have personally chosen and met, to create and use designs and colours that are timeless, classic and forever fashionable, to source a supply chain that is entirely USA based starting with our ELS (extra-long staple) organic pima and upland cottons to our New York-based sewing contractor.  

What wardrobe item should every woman or man invest in?

A simple but elegant dress made ethically and sustainably in a colour of your choice (doesn't have to be black) that is superbly constructed and that can be easily dressed down or up by simply adding the right accessories; I would choose it to be monochromatic so that accessory choices are a lot less limited and also because I feel that a monochromatic piece has more possibilities to morph into different variations that can be used for many occasions thus making the piece very long-lasting.

What’s your biggest achievement with the brand so far?

We were approached by the Fashion Exchange at Toronto's George Brown College, a pioneer in sustainability innovation and small-batch manufacturing, about collaborating on a Research Project on the “Integration of an On-Demand Manufacturing/Made-to-Measure Model and a 3D Body Measurement in Small Batch Production”, we were elated, to say the least! 

GB is one of a few educational institutions in Canada offering a small batch production model to its students and faculty and to its community.

As soon as we learned about this opportunity, we contacted them about doing some sewing services for us. After learning about our Brand, we were so pleased when they presented us with an offer to participate in a Research Project that integrated small-batch manufacturing and our made to measure production model. Through this collaboration, we designed 2 pieces that were sewn by GB FX and specifically used for this project.

This event also features an option for “made to order” customization of two of MAYD IN CHYNA'S newest collection pieces which will be launched exclusively at the POP UP. 

We were ready to address the challenge of producing great fitting, customized clothing for our customers regardless of where they lived, while maintaining the freedom to remain creative, sustainable and purpose-driven as we could.

We were indeed so happy to be part of this collaboration which lasted from October of last year to February 2020.

From this partnership, we have now been offered a further collaboration with PASSENfit to fully integrate their innovative technology platform with our super sustainable Brand. 

Why is it important for you to have all of your products 100% sourced and manufactured in the US?

We wanted to manufacture in one particular area and as close to home as possible so that our production would be local and sustainable and so that travelling time and shipping time would emit the lowest CO2 emissions as possible and thus be the least harmful to the planet.  We initially had hoped to manufacture in Canada, which is where we live, but we soon found that the Canadian manufacturing infrastructure that was needed for doing a sustainable Brand had all been moved overseas.  So we decided to look to the country that was closest to us which was of course, our neighbour, the USA.  We were lucky enough to find the entire supply chain in the southeastern USA and that is where our fabrics are made and where our pieces are sewn. 

In fact, in choosing to do our manufacturing in a developed country such as the USA, we can count on employment standard laws that best protect working people by offering decent work and wages, good working conditions, freedom to form unions, limited working hours and employee benefits.  It also ensures that all on our the supply chain are paid fair and living wages 

What’s the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?

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

Your collections are beautiful, how would you describe the people who wear your designs?

I think I have to repeat what I wrote on our website which is that the people who wear our designs are people who are hell-bent on purchasing only when they are 100% satisfied that the Brand is truly authentic and walks the talk, and of course, people who love clothing that is not only aesthetically beautiful but also soulfully beautiful!

What does being sustainable mean to you?

To me, sustainability is a lifestyle.  It is recognizing the deep and unalienable connection between each and every one of us, our surroundings and other living beings and the consequences of our daily actions as they affect to people, planet and animals.  It encompasses all my actions in my everyday life.  I think and examine everything before I eat it, do it or buy it in terms of how it's made, how it's grown, how do my action affect my environment and its surroundings, how do my actions affect the suffering and treatment of humans and animals etc. 

What is one thing our readers can do on an everyday scale to minimize their carbon footprint?

Shop less.

Lastly, What advice would you give to a young designer wanting to start their own Brand

Financially, I would tell them to set a budget for themselves that is realistic and break it down to a budget for launching your Brand and a budget for marketing your brand.

Emotionally, I would tell them that if it is their passion and if they are doing it to do some good in this world, then it is all worth it, no matter what happens.