People of Impact: Meet the Creators of Mia Mélange
If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jeanneke and Simon of homeware and accessories brand, Mia Melange, you’re in for the biggest treat!
Their brand is a visual feast for the eyes, not to mention, all products are ethically and sustainably handcrafted right here in Cape Town, South Africa. Once you’ve seen their products… you can’t really stop the incessant addiction. It’s a problem…but the kind you don’t want to quit! Plus, your new obsession will be supporting a team of artisan women who came from traumatic or volatile backgrounds- now happy family members of the Mia Melange family with a restored sense of community and belonging.
Matsidiso has hand the pleasure of being the neighbour of their gorgeous shop in Stellenbosch- and have since fallen more in love with their products, the community-centric model that their business exudes each and every day, and their deep compassion and care of their team.
1. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of coming across your brand, how in the world did it start? When? And why did it appeal to you?
Mia Mélange was founded by Mia Danieli in 2014. Mia was born into a multicultural family, to a Swiss mother and an Israeli father. Her family travelled often and lived in many different countries, giving Mia her love for diverse cultures. In 2013, Mia graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Textile Design from the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel. She relocated to South Africa and established the brand Mia Mélange shortly thereafter. Mélange means ‘mixture’ or ‘blend’ in French. It also refers to a type of yarn that is commonly used in the textile and fashion industries.
Mia Mélange basically means ‘Mia's Mix’. Mia started the business with almost no capital, and built it from the ground up. At the end of 2017, Mia moved back home, first to Switzerland and then to Israel. Before she left, Mia sold the business to South African entrepreneur Jeanneke Malan. Jeanneke was born and bred in South Africa and has a keen interest in design and entrepreneurship. Jeanneke holds two master's degrees, one in architecture and one in urban design. Given the declining economy and increasing unemployment rate in South Africa, Jeanneke endeavors to contribute to the local economy and to create employment opportunties, especially for women in her community. Since taking over Mia Mélange, Jeanneke has grown the business as well as the product range, and she has increased the number of jobs within the business.
2. One of the many things I love about your brand is that you really care about and support your team. What is your leadership style and what do you think creates a business of trust?
My biggest inspiration for leadership is Nelson Mandela. I really admire his leadership style and how he led from behind and always with respect. I try as hard as possible to always look to Madiba’s leadership principles. In my opinion, his book, Long Walk to Freedom, is the best business and leadership book around. The other important thing about leadership (and business) is to make sure to have a ‘why’. For me, my team is my ‘why’. I went into this business with the goal of creating employment opportunities for people (especially women) in my community. And I have been blessed with the most incredible team. Even when I am having a rough day (they seem to be a bit more prevalent during this time of COVID-19), I just think about my ‘why’. I think about how brilliant, hardworking, deserving and grateful my team is. They keep me motivated
3.What is your big WHY for existing? What keeps you passionate about your business?
Haha I did not read this question before answering the previous one! Okay, so the answer is obviously my team! :)
4. How very different the world looks now compared to just a few months ago. How are you coping with the changes given lockdown during COVID-19 and the many obstacles required to keep afloat?
In a time of such uncertainty, I think it is important to take it one day at a time. No one knows what the future of this pandemic looks like, so there’s not much sense in stressing about it. It’s important to try one’s best each day. We’ve pivoted to making masks, but it’s also important for us not to lose focus of our core products.
5. What does ethical fashion mean to you and why is it more important than ever to support small, local businesses?
For me, ethical fashion (and homeware, and every other possible product) is firstly about the individuals manufacturing the products. Are they treated well, are they paid fairly? And secondly, is that business also supporting local businesses? Are they buying local materials, using local services? I love the quote by Anna Lappe: “Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want”. It is obviously so important to support local. With our awful unemployment rate, we need to buy locally manufactured products as far as possible.
6. How do you think fashion / trends will changes in 2021 and in the future?
I think people are definitely become more conscious and supporting local and ethically produced goods.
7. What are the ways that you believe we can stay connected and support small brands?
I think it is important for small brands to tell their stories. And then for customers to share those stories. And it would be great if the media could also do more for small, local and ethical brands.
8. What tip, hobby or bit of advice do you have to remain upbeat and optimistic during these crazy times?
I think it’s always great to look for new opportunities, new ideas, and to keep inspired. Look back at your ‘why’. I will never forget the quote by Koos Bekker at Davos in 2016: “A sense of crisis is a valuable thing. We mustn’t waste it.” – I guess this is more relevant now than ever before in our lifetimes!
9. Where can we follow, like, and support Mia Melange?
Visit our website https://miamelange.com/ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/miamelange/ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/miamelange/ Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com/miamelangesa/ and Youtube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO-
And of course, visit us in store in Stellenbosch, or visit our stockists worldwide!
10. And our last question we ask all our guests: Our brand slogan is ‘Shoes for the Liberated’ – because our brand was built on the belief that true freedom inevitably equals true happiness. When we are not chained to circumstance, judgement, and are innately free, we are truly in our bliss. What does freedom / liberation mean to you?
I will have to answer this with a Madiba quote! “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Mandela. Madiba saying that with freedom come responsibilities inspires me. For those of us who are free, however you define that for yourself, we have the responsibility to use our freedom to free others and to make the world a better place.
Thank you, Jeanneke for sharing your journey as a brand and as a creative with us!
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