When Madeline Petrow launched her online ethically-minded retailer MAMOQ with business partner Lenny Leemann 18 months ago, they were spurred on by what they saw as the negativity surrounding sustainable fashion. Buoyed by the positive stories they saw around them, they launched their fashion hub and now are about to see their brands come together for a new pop-up in London. Here, Madeline delves deeper into the image problem sustainable fashion can have and why you should hold off clearing out your closet.
Why did you launch MAMOQ?
“My background is in international development so I was learning more about the fashion industry and the shocking statistics about the way that our clothes are made and how much they impact on our environment and the workers who make our garments. I started to research more about high street fashion and launched MAMOQ to bring together a family of brands who are working together to create positive change in the fashion industry, with a greater commitment to transparency, ethics and sustainable production.”
What was the perception of sustainable fashion at the time?
“A lot of the rhetoric was negative. It was, ‘We have to stop buying. We have to become mega eco-warriors. It’s all or nothing, black or white.’ I just felt like there could be room to celebrate the brands who were working to do things in a better way as opposed to just being like, ‘I’m never going to buy anything ever again’ or, ‘The fashion industry’s broken; there’s no point in trying to even fix it.’ I thought that bringing in a positive element was something that could be really beneficial both as an ethical, sustainable fashion space but also in the mainstream fashion space to show that we’re not just trying to push you into trying to change your habits, we’re also showing you the amazing things your clothes can do. Asides from making us look good, we can also feel good and do good at the same time. That is the ethos of MAMOQ and our pop up shop in London.”
What brands should we look out for at the pop up?
“Belo because they’re based in the UK and all of their collections are made from up-cycled materials. They’re working with decommissioned fire hoses and upcycled plastics and creating beautiful bags. On top of that each bag sold goes to feed the homeless in the town where they produce them in Brazil.”
“Another one is Kipepeo who make really fun T-shirts, where the motifs are made by children during their school lessons based on what they’re learning. Not only do they support organic cotton farming in Tanzania where their garments are produced, but they also share back a proportion of their proceeds to schools in Tanzania, so it’s another of these holistic full cycle positive fashion stories.”
“We also have different events and panel discussions where we can talk about things like fashion as a force for good and also the ethics of mining in the jewellery industry. It’s a combination of a celebration and a learning event and I think that’s what’s really exciting. It’s a bit of fresh air instead of always being guilt-ridden and shamed into being more eco conscious and aware of our purchases. Having a positive foot forward is a much more inviting way forward for the fashion industry.”
Do you think that all or nothing approach can put people off buying responsibly?
“Certainly. There’s a combination of one mentality that one person’s actions are just a drop in the bucket and then also the idea of, ‘How and where do I start to buy better?’. I’ve heard people say they really want to be more sustainable but they just don’t have the money to start over. I think that mentality is really doing a disservice as well because it’s not about just chucking everything in your closet away and starting over, it’s about being more mindful as you move forward. I still have a top from ten years ago from Zara. I still wear it because I still like it. I bought it at a time where I hadn’t thought about my impact more. It doesn’t mean I’m going to chuck it and start over, it just means I’m not going to shop there any more.”
How do you start buying better?
“Of course check out MAMOQ! We have over 80 brands and a tonne of different styles. Then take a step to educate yourself. If you have that foundation of knowledge then you can go out and start asking the right questions when you do want to start supporting a brand. Perhaps take a look at your fashion habits in the first place by looking at your spending. How much did you spend in the last month and how much have you actually worn? Your purchasing behaviour, in addition to where you’re buying it from is part of the same goal of being more mindful with the power of our purchases.”
Do you think you’ll do another pop-up?
“Definitely. It’s a dual benefit; we get to bring together and showcase all these incredible brands we work with to the public in a brick and mortar space for the first time and also it’s a wonderful opportunity for this grassroots awareness project.”
Words: Keeley Bolger