Mari Michel, an elegant sustainable brand, founded in 2020 by Mari Michelson has a unique story to tell the world. Guided by the sense of beauty embedded in natural materials and with a mindset aimed towards sustainability, this brand uses silk from second hand mens ties and turn them into Fair Hair Ties. Today Kazi Purba, the Founder of Fashionnovation, takes the pride to introduce you with one of the most unique brands that we have covered till now! Let’s hear from Mari Michelson’s journey towards sustainability with her brand.
Ms. Mari Michel, you have a very unique story. Please tell us something about yourself.
I was born in the 90s in a small country of a million people in Northern Europe, just a few years after the independence from the Soviet Union. The resources at the time, in Estonia, were scarce – priority was on importing the necessities. The clothes were very basic and there was not much of a choice. If you wanted something special, you had to make it yourself. That scarcity sparked creativity and showed an abundance of materials, which I took advantage of by upcycling them to one-of-a-kind garment pieces.
In our countryside house, we had a cabinet full of old Burda magazines from a grandmother, that I had never met. These were filled with silhouettes and colour combinations, that looked vintage and out of the ordinary. I would trace some of these silhouettes into my fashion folder and exaggerate the form and some of the features in order to play around and make my own designs out of it. It was through books and magazines that I discovered a lady, that perhaps, has influenced my understanding of fashion the most – Vivienne Westwood, of course. For me, I could relate to the rebelliousness, outrageous ideas, inventiveness, and diverging from the norm, that she so much represented.
At 16 and inspired, I moved to England alone to study Fashion Design. It was there, that I saw the mass production side of the business for the first time and became disillusioned about the sustainability factor in the garment business. I started feeling like it was not a place I wanted to contribute to. So I went on to leave fashion behind and enter a new career in business and software.
In 2020, things changed. With pandemic allowing more time to revaluate what I really want to do in this world, I made the decision, to really go for my dream – but this time, on my own terms. I decided not to become a fashion designer, where trends change with every season, but sustainable apparel and accessories designer, where quality matters and not quantity.
What is the story behind your brand?
Mari Michel was born at the end of 2020 in the Netherlands, but the ideas for it had been accumulating for a lifetime.
The first product grew out of an idea of using men’s silk ties as a material to create expressive hair accessories. These accessories are called Fair Hair Ties.
The metaphor for Fair Hair Ties comes from my own personal experience – I came out of the office where I worked as a software engineer, to follow my passion of designing sustainable apparel & accessories that give people a tool to express themselves.
The office environment is very standard, white and concrete, empty of expression – traditionally not a place one would feel free to show one’s true self. We have gradually been moving out of the cooperate style in the business environment, when I look around, I can rarely spot a man wearing a suit and tie for work. Our societal understanding has been changing a lot, especially in the past two pandemic years.
I find it very important, that no matter the environment, you should always be able to express yourself. For me that goes very deep into the core – to my scientific high school, I used to sport a Little Prince costume with a briefcase in hand, where Jimi Hendrix’s face was painted on.
Clothing & accessories is a great way of expressing yourself. Often even therapeutic, because what you put out can sometimes help you to gain confidence inside. Mari Michel is all about giving tools for self-expression! That’s why we even use the phrase ’Express Yourself’ as our slogan.
What motivated you to establish that?
I feel very strongly about already produced high-quality materials that are constantly being discarded in the world of consumerism, f.e. silk, fur, linen, leather. Natural materials that take a lot of resources to produce, but when produced, have a very short lifespan because the item they have been produced into goes out of fashion.
The first material that I chose for my current designs, is silk. I chose silk because I love it. There simply is no other material with comparable beauty & health benefits. I feel it is my mission to design tools for people to express themselves, that are not just aesthetically pleasing, but also sustainable and healthy.
What’s your product range?
At this point, we are focused on silk from men’s ties.
We make Fair Hair Ties, which are both hair accessories and bracelets in three different designs with unlimited colours and patterns, each one unique.
Our most recent product is the Ohov cap – a hat made fully from silk fabric. Each cap is unique. The pattern and colour combination make each a true statement piece.
The design of the Ohov cap is paying homage to the original baker boy cap. Baker boy cap origins go all the way to the 16th century, where Queen Elizabeth I of England sought to stimulate the Irish and English wool trade, by passing an act obliging males over six years of age (except for nobility and persons of degree) to wear caps of wool. This law further established the cap as a staple of Irish/English working-class clothing culture.
By making it from silk, which is a premium fabric, and making it a colourful unisex statement piece, we are contradicting the idea of its origins.
We also offer a style guidance service, where I help people to find their authentic style in one-on-one sessions.
What special do you offer to your customers through your brand?
All the materials that we use, have been transformed from one item to another, but the story stays, the feeling remains, the soul is still in the object.
These items have a sense of character.
Wearing it is special.
You really buy a piece that is just for you.
Every customer is special, and they get their special item.
And I never make anything that is standard. I am always looking for something new, a twist on things. I look for inspiration for the future from the past. Having something old, that has been stitched into the fabric of our culture, is something we have relied on, it is comfortable and gives a certain emotion to people. What I like to do, is to take a part of it and transform it into a new concept.
Does your brand care about environment and sustainability? How are you promoting sustainability with your works?
Before I went to study fashion, I never questioned myself about making sustainable choices. I was lucky to be brought up in a family that had a reasonably sustainable lifestyle and in a culture, where feeling being part of nature was immensely integrated into society. I thought that everybody takes care of nature as it would be of their own family member. When I went abroad for the first time and got to have a closer observation of the global fashion industry, I saw that sustainability in fashion is far from ‘of course’. The leverage was on profit.
I think profit should never be leading to anything we do as people.
The real energy behind projects comes from mission and passion.
Our mission at Mari Michel is to make expressive accessories and apparel with sustainability as an underlying value in everything we do. We re-use high-quality natural materials, that have a long lifespan. Every item we produce is unique, which is one of the most sustainable ways of production. There is no surplus of materials or products that go to waste. Our production is based in Europe, we offer our products at fair prices and hold transparency as a key value in communication.
What are your future plans with your brand?
Expanding on our current concept and adding more products from sustainable silk. Even more so, we want to move onto new materials – there are a lot of other discarded materials, that we have been developing ideas about.
We are curious about modern materials that are fully compostable and are open to collaborations in this area.
The next phase is going from accessories to apparel collections.
It is important for us to interact with the community, which is why are making stories that are relevant in today’s fashion industry and will be continuously giving out new topics to discuss with a humorous undertone.
The goal is to keep creative juices flowing and not to be overly fixated on predicting the future, rather let our values and passion drive us.
You can read more about how Mari Michel addresses sustainability here:
You can read more about silk properties here:
You can read about our style guidance service here: