We caught up with Berlin-born fashion brand Maqu to discuss how sustainability is built into its foundations, from the garments through to its ethos and future plans.
Tell us about your brand
Maqu, directly inspired by my nickname, was founded in 2016 in Berlin, Germany. We focus on classical and practical shapes using the finest organic fabrics. We keep traditional techniques alive through our limited alpaca collections. Additionally, upcycled pieces and limited editions form a particularly important part of the Maqu label. All garments are made in Germany and Peru. Our design and practicability are combined with social, ecological and sustainable vision.
What drives you?
Growing up in Peru, I have seen injustices. Since I was very young I had the idea of creating a project that would help me to combine fashion with social issues. With this motivation while growing up surrounded by nature, I have always been committed to spreading the importance of caring for and protecting our ecosystems and people.
Describe your design style
Maqu's style is minimal, but over time it gradually becomes more 'experimental' or playful in our way. I can describe it as “minimal with an edge”.
What and who are you designing for?
Since Maqu’s creation, I have always thought about designing pieces that my friends and I would wear, so a free woman or man in mind, with a classic yet experimental style. Interestingly, I always find myself proud and pleasantly surprised when the pieces fall on different audiences.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration when creating?
I usually have the idea of what material I would like to work with. We try to use materials we already have, with the goal to minimise waste. My inspiration comes from various sources. I have a liking for curious and absurd shapes I see day-to-day on the street. Otherwise I like to feed my mind with classic music, nature, books and dreams. Even my nightmares lend some insight.
What are you most proud of and why?
My first project, Avant Trash. I made shoes with leftover leather and fabrics. Without any knowledge on shoe making, I taught myself through videos. The result was satisfactory, although there are some techniques that I still don’t know yet.
I am also proud of the Arequipa project, where we developed sweaters 100% hand-knitted and dyed with plants. For every purchase, 5% is collected to help children in a school in the Andes. We aim to continuously support social projects. Over time, I am feeling more and more committed whilst a lack of educational development in Peru persists.
Share with us the sustainable steps that you are taking as a brand
From the beginning, we have been committed to selecting materials that are eco-friendly. This also means taking care of things and people around us, and making sure that they feel valued. Apart from introducing a leather alternative called Shiringa – a plant-based latex for our shoes – we have been implementing 3D design for our winter campaign. This way we can also visualise ideas before prototyping, thus saving energy and transport.
The shipment of all Maqu pieces is plastic-free with recycled paper cartons via GoGreen to offset the CO2 transport emissions. The Maqu store and studio runs exclusively on Greenpeace Energy. Our goal is to generate awareness and develop products that further contribute to the development of vulnerable people through work and education. Our next step is to calculate the emissions produced from the production and distribution of our garments.
What do you hope to achieve with the brand in the next 3-5 years?
Maqu’s mission is to replace fast fashion with conscious fashion that is both affordable and aesthetically pleasing for women. I see the brand leading with new sustainable materials. With this we will create conscious campaigns in the hopes of reaching a wider audience to help achieve the goal of education for poor children in the Andes of Peru. On a smaller level, I envisage the brand in wholesale while spreading the world of South American and sustainable fashion.
What are the biggest challenges you face?
Marketing is the main challenge we face, such as using SEO for the website. We are a small team that grows organically without the constant help of a PR or big investments, which I think is necessary to stand out. I can see us working more efficiently with effective marketing. In this aspect we still need help. During the pandemic we have had time to slow down a bit and be more critical of ourselves, which has helped us to continue doing what we like to do without debt or problems. Now the big challenge is how to reach a wider audience.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I want to thank WGSN for choosing me as a Future Designer. We learn everyday while we continue working together for a better and sustainable world.
Catch up with our first Future Designers Q&A with CAALO and stay tuned for the next in our series.