Excellence Magazine interviews Eileen Akbaraly, a young Italian-Malagasy entrepreneur, founder of the Made For A Woman brand: an innovative luxury fashion project with a sustainable soul based in Madagascar, with a unique Italian taste.
Eileen, how did this project start?
In 2018 I launched Made For A Woman, a brand dedicated to luxury accessories handmade in Madagascar with natural and eco-friendly materials.
I designed this project as a social enterprise: we employ local women – who are often among of the most vulnerable segment of the population – and we are committed to supporting their independence, as well as their personal and professional growth.
Our employees’ wages are 85% higher than the national average; we support their empowerment by providing free services, including schooling, professional training, family planning and health care; we also built a small kindergarten, which allows them to bring their children with them to work.
All this in a country that is among the ten poorest in the world, where the vast majority of the population lives – better yet, survives – on less than $ 2 a day.
Why did you choose to focus on the fashion sector?
I believe that fashion influences us all, whether we know it or not: when we dress up in the morning, we all express ourselves through the clothes we choose to wear. For this reason, I believe it is important for us to be aware of what this choice means, and that we all pay attention to the values that a brand represents.
Unfortunately, we all know that, nowadays, many brands do not respect the dignity of their workers: for this reason, I have chosen to focus my energies on women empowerment, to give our employees the dignity they deserve. I want to give space and voice to the stories that, usually, would remain hidden behind the scenes.
Personally, I was born and raised in Madagascar, so I have always seen and experienced firsthand the poverty of the country and the difficulties that the population has to overcome – I have always thought it unfair, which is why I wanted to find a way to contribute, to provide a real change.
I would love for every single one of the women that work with me to have the opportunity to follow her dreams, to make them come true.
Our products are truly “Made For A Woman”: not only for our customers, but also for the women who create them.
This is our mission.
How much does transparency in the fashion industry matter to you?
I want to be completely transparent in every aspect of my business: for me, it’s all or nothing.
One of my main goals is to create a platform that allows the craftswomen who work for Made For A Woman to make themselves known and to share their stories and their dreams: we started with our labels – made of recycled paper, of course – which show the name of the person who made the product and a QR code that allows our clients, using any smartphone, to access a video in which the artisan introduces herself and shares her story.
Next summer, we will release an exclusive documentary will dedicated to the production chain of our chosen material, raffia, which we followed from the harvest to the actual creation of our products.
Made For A Woman focuses very strongly on environmental sustainability, a key issue for every sector nowadays. Why did you develop this strategy?
For Made For A Woman, transparency is fundamental – especially when it comes to sustainability and respecting the environment.
Having grown up in Madagascar, one of the most biodiverse countries, with its breathtaking natural landscapes, I knew I had to create an eco-friendly brand!
Our pigments are all AZO-free certified, they are non-toxic and respectful of the environment, to protect not only our customers but also our employees and our country.
We choose zero-kilometer raw materials – with the exception of the metallic hardware, which is made in Italy – with very little environmental impact, and our medium-term goal is creating fully vegan products.
We also use recycled products, which we select and buy from local markets: we give new life to old fabrics that we transform into the linings of our bags and into the padding that fills our poufs, cushions and other home décor accessories.
Recently, thanks to our participation to White Milano – where we will be debuting our autumn-winter collection – we obtained the “Give a FOK-us” certification, dedicated to brands and products that focus on sustainability, innovation and circular economy.
How would you define Made For A Woman’s style?
Our style is colorful, lively, ethno-chic, with an Italian aesthetic sensibility.
We create high-quality products: every bag, every hat, every accessory is handmade by skilled artisans using traditional Malagasy techniques, and every detail of our products is perfectly refined taking care of every detail to perfection.
We do not follow trends: we create them, or we put an original spin on them.
What is your goal for the Made For A Woman project?
My goal is to grow the brand internationally in order to be able to provide real change in the life of the women involved in the project.
Ours is not a “fast-fashion” brand: the project focuses on the production of a few high-quality pieces, with fair prices that reflect – and respect – the value of the skilled craftmanship found in each of our products.