I met Magalie at the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin 2016. She has her stand very close to the main entrance and I couldn’t help to step by and get amazed by the beautiful set of handmade jewelry, bags and other colorful accessories that there were exposed. She explained me the story of Monduni and their philosophy. Her brand is the balance between nature and culture, the encounter with the artisan market, cultural identities and traditional knowledge. I wanted to know more about her so I decided to create a blogpost to this fantastic initiative.
1.How did MondUni start?
I’ve discovered fair trade during internships in 2004 (Boutic Ethic, France) and 2005 (Intermon Oxfam, Spain). Since then, I’ve always wanted to be “part of it”. My first experience in “the South” was in 2007 when I’ve been 3 months to Argentina in order to work voluntarily for 2 fair trade associations committed with indigenous communities.
MondUni started in my head over the last months of 2009 between Barcelona where I was living at this time and Britanny (la Bretagne) from where I am in France. So in 20010 and 2011, I took my backpack and did a world tour during 7 months in order to discover fair trade from “the South” and so to meet different craftswomen and men. I’ve met about 50 people working into/for fair trade crafts. I’ve been to South East Asia (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia), South America (Argentina, Uruguay, Chile) and to Africa (South Africa, Swaziland, Kenya and Tanzania).
I came back “over motivated” to launch my project in Barcelona but it was not an appropriate moment to start a (fair trade) business in Spain. So I even came back to France and I had to do “normal” jobs!!! It’s only when I’ve been “free” again and with some economies that I’ve launched MondUni!
I first started into an incubator (in Paris) in February 2015. So in March and April of this year, I was back to Southern Africa and to Argentina in order to select the partner crafters and the products. Then I’ve started to sell in France (and in Belgium) to some shops and to final customers at the time.
And MondUni officially started as a limited company in February 2016, as a social and solidarity-based economy company. So in March, I’ve been back to South Africa, Namibia and Swaziland and went to discover Mozambique. As usual, my goal was to meet my current partners and find new ones and new products. At the moment, MondUni is selling to about 30 shops in France, Belgium, Spain and soon in Germany and Austria thanks to the Ethical Fashion Show of Berlin and to Monduni’s website available in English! Moreover, MondUni continues selling directly to final customers via its website, on markets, during private sales or establishing an “ephemeral” shop.
2.What is the main concept?
Monduni, an invitation to travel and sharing, a balance between nature and culture specialised in fashion jewelry handmade with natural raw materials and in recycled raw materials, the fair trade brand MondUni also offers authentic bags, purses, scarves and little decorative objects. Handmade in fair trade organizations in Southern Africa, these contemporary and original items are steeped in cultural identities, traditional knowledge and eco-friendly fabrication processes. Let’s discover a fair fashion, respectful of the Human and the Planet, that fits perfectly to your own fashion and which is accessible to all the purses even the most humble ones.
3.What makes this brand ethical?
MondUni is ethical because it’s a fair trade brand that has commitments towards its suppliers, its customers, all its partners and towards the environment. MondUni creates a direct link between the final customer and the craftswoman or man. There is no intermediary and a total information. MondUni has regular and strong relations with its partners suppliers based mostly in Swaziland and South Africa. We share by mail, by phone, by whatsapp and the best is when I go personally visit them once a year, share their daily life and do interviews to managers and to crafters.
Morevoer, MondUni selects the best handicrafts according to the following features :
- Natural environmental materials (ex: sisal, ostrich eggshells, seeds) and/or materials recycled locally (fabrics, cow horns and bones)
- Eco-friendly methods of production (ex: ecological dyes, no use of glue…)
- Respect of Humans and of the environment (ex: the packaging sent by our suppliers is re-used for our deliveries to customers)
There is to add that MondUni created in its articles of association a ESS (social and solidarity-based economy) board that includes the founding partner of MondUni, 1 employee (when there will be one!), suppliers and customers. In total, up to 13 persons can be in the board. The main missions of this ESS board are :
- Social objective of MondUni such as employment (maintaining it or creating some) and empowerment of disadvantaged people
- Environmental objective by controlling and reducing the impact of MondUni’s activities on the environment (ex: the products are coming by plane to France so we will have to think about a compensation plan..)
All images courtesy of Monduni
4.What is the biggest myth/misconception about sustainable fashion/decoration?
I think one of the biggest myth is on the prices. Many people think that sustainable fashion or decoration is expensive or at least more expensive than the “conventional” ones. Maybe it can be true on clothes but it is for good reasons: to invest on eco-materials and to pay fairly the workers are 2 of them. But we all know that those clothes will last longer so it can be a little more to pay but it will be a better “investment”! On fashion jewellery, we can say that prices and margins are similar in fair trade as in the conventional one. For example, in MondUni, we offer very original and unique fashion jewellery at small prices (the final prices are between 2,5 and 59€) and the margins offered to the shops are between 2,5 and 3 (same levels as in the “conventional” trade).
5.Do you think that eco-fashion is still a niche market? If so, why?
In a way, yes but in another, not at all! Eco-fashion is still a niche market as we don’t find the offers so easily into the fashion shops. But it is also growing more and more and we find more and more ethical brands, as we have public and professional events dedicated to it (like the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin) and also as we know that the consumers are willing more and more this type of products.
5.Do you think that eco-fashion is still a niche market? If so, why?
In a way, yes; but in another way, not at all! Eco-fashion is still a niche market as we don’t find the offers so easily into the fashion shops. But it is also growing more and more and we find more and more ethical brands, as we have public and professional events dedicated to it (like the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin) and also as we know that the consumers are willing more and more this type of products.
7.How do you think the slow fashion concept can help biodiversity?
The slow fashion concept is helping biodiversity as environment concerns are in the centre of the concept. The slow fashion concept is listening to the nature, not to the markets nor to the financial worries.