Slow fashion. Ethical fashion. Sustainable fashion. Organic. Socially responsible. Living wage. Transparency. We hear this terminology more often than not these days when it comes to the fashion industry, an industry accountable for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, and responsible for 85% of textile waste ending up in landfills each year.
Along with the environmental costs, fashion has a human cost as well, where women and children in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries are forced to work in horrific conditions for next to nothing.
However the 24 seasons of fast fashion we’ve become all too familiar with are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Many large, known fast fashion brands are beginning to fold, while consumers move towards more conscious, ethical and sustainable clothing options. New brands are emerging, with 2 to 4 season lines that are limited to order, and slow to produce. They’re paying living wages and taking a ‘radical’ approach to being more open and transparent about their materials, working conditions and practices. Buyers are choosing to invest in craftsmanship, they’re asking questions, holding brands accountable, and pursuing a ‘less is more’ approach to their wardrobes.
Cloud9 wants you to meet one innovator in the field – a woman who has spent the past 12 years building relationships in the fashion industry, and the last 5 years establishing a brand based on a commitment to sustainability, integrity and honest relationships – Peruvian-based fashion designer and founder of the label MOZH MOZH, Mozhdeh Matin. Born in the Peruvian Andes to Baha’i parents of Iranian descent, Mozhdeh has dedicated her life and business to the preservation of Peruvian culture and textiles, introducing age-old techniques, craftsmanship, and designs to international audiences through her unique use of textiles and colourful collections, which can be found in more than a dozen boutiques around the world.
We begin our conversation by exploring the spiritual tool of consultation:
… no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation. – Baha’u’llah.
In our interview Mozhdeh reflects on her childhood, visiting the same rural communities she continues to work with to this day. As a child she and her family visited these rural communities in Peru and found ways that she could be of service to them, building communities the best way she knew how, through service, consultation, and sincere friendship. On her childhood visits, she would witness the women weave these incredibly intricate textiles using a unique backstrap technique. Years later, when Mozhdeh entered the fashion industry, she saw an opportunity to work with these friends and artisans in a professional capacity.
Sharing her approach to building her collection, Mozhdeh explains how she first becomes acquainted with the techniques the artisans use, and through consultation, they collectively develop an idea. She applies the same Baha’i principles she has used building community to her practice as a designer. Rather than engaging in the top-down approach predominant in the clothing industry, she prefers to maintain an equal partnership with her artisans, based on trust, love and confidence. Mozhdeh shares how her brand intrinsically links to the values and attributes that she tries to develop in her own spiritual practice as a Baha’i, further emphasizing her idea that “building a brand is like building community.”
Our conversation continues by exploring Mozhdeh’s strong commitment to the preservation of the ancient textile techniques native to her birth country, Peru. The Inca people indigenous to Peru have developed their textile techniques for centuries. When the Spanish first conquered Peru, the Inca were known to hide their textiles and give away their gold. The textiles held the story of their past and their futures – factors which they considered to be far more valuable than gold. Over the years, aspects of colonization and urbanization have contributed to the slow loss of these textile techniques that are so revered by historians and communities.
In the interview, Mozhdeh explains why she feels such a strong sense of social and spiritual responsibility to the mission of preserving these ancient textile techniques. Mozhdeh shares how throughout her life, she has searched for ways she could be of service to the communities that she would visit as a child, and that this mission unites her yearning to serve and her love of fashion, design and textiles. Regarding the preservation of native traditions, Mozhdeh explores the following words of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i community, who encouraged Baha’i communities to:
… give the people pride and self-confidence in their native traditions, of preserving those which are colourful enrichments of social and personal life. – Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual Baha’i, 12 October 1983.
Then we dive into our next topic, exploring Mozhdeh’s innate relationship with sustainability. Mozhdeh has worked tirelessly to build a brand based on honest and transparent values. She makes clear that this wasn’t a business strategy, but an ethos that grew organically as an extension of herself, well before it became ‘on trend’ to do so. We explore the various ways in which she’s learned to apply her sustainable approach, from the materials she uses, to the treatments she applies, to the people – in particular, women – who she has chosen to work with.
Addressing women, Abdu’l-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, said:
Blessed are ye! Blessed are ye! Verily ye are worthy of every gift. Verily ye deserve to adorn your heads with the crown of everlasting glory, because in sciences and arts, in virtues and perfections ye shall become equal to man, and as regards tenderness of heart and the abundance of mercy and sympathy ye are superior. – Paris Talks
Mozhdeh reflects on the great importance the Baha’i writings place on women and their role in building and uplifting communities. Inspired by these teachings, Mozhdeh employs dozens of female artisans from across the country, which enables them to access new opportunities and resources. The virtue of confidence plays a big role in this dynamic. Mozhdeh has great faith and confidence in the ability of these female artisans. Also, by employing them and honoring their work, the women can gain the confidence and independence to break free from their patriarchy-dominanted societies.
We close by learning about some of the exciting projects that Mozhdeh has been up to at home in Lima, Peru, since the pandemic began. She continues to work on her fall collection, while also making protective face masks for her community in Lima. As we ended our interview, Mozhdeh’s spirits were high. She has benefited from the necessity to stop and reflect during these times, and is eager to participate in some of the more positive outcomes slowly evolving out of this lockdown, which include a shift to minimize the fashion calendar and a wide approach to more sustainable production measures.
At Cloud9 we’re eager to see what’s next in store for Mozhdeh and her brand, and wish her all the best in her future pursuits and services to the world!
For more about MOZH MOZH visit mozhmozh.com.