In Japanese, Mayu means ‘gentleness’ and ‘superiority.’ These two contrasting yet complementary qualities are what Mayura Davda-Shah aims to embody in her sustainable lifestyle company MAYU.
The brand caters to a global market with an assortment of handbags, tech accessories, and other leather products, by combining luxury and ecological responsibility. MAYU has its roots in the Nordic tradition of upcycled fish skin leather.
“We believe ‘environmentally friendly’ should look elegant, make a strong fashion statement, and should be functional too,” says the 28-year-old entrepreneur who visualised the idea of sustainable leather products after a trip to Iceland during her college days.
Mayura, who was then pursuing her graduation in Boston, had always been keen on traveling. In fact, her entrepreneurial journey, as she says, has been largely shaped by the people she has met and the adventures she has had over a decade of living in the US and other countries.
“Something that I religiously do whenever I am on a holiday in a new place, is discover the native art and craft of that place,” she says, recalling browsing through the local markets of Iceland, where she came across some unique leather goods. “When I enquired about the material and the craft behind it, I was amazed to learn that they were made from upcycled fish skins that come as a by-product of the fish processing industry.”
The art of making fish leather
The making of fish leather has been a part of the Nordic culture for centuries. Just like traditional leathers, it is made by tanning animal skin and then turned it into works of art. The only difference is the element of sustainability, as fish leather is literally a by-product of the food production process, and hence no animal is harmed for the hide.
In 2015, after Mayura chanced upon this technique, she was motivated to research on this material and explore the possibility of using it more creatively.
This was the beginning of her entrepreneurial venture. After returning to India, to her hometown, Solapur in Maharashtra, she began an extensive research and laid the groundwork for what is today MAYU.
“I formally incorporated the business in December 2017 and launched the first collection named after the scenic route of Iceland, the Golden Circle in November 2018,” she tells MAKERS India. “It is from the stunning landscapes of Iceland that I drew my inspiration for the collection – the mystical dancing Auroras, the black sand beaches, and the mesmerizing moss-clad volcanic mountains served as the canvas for our brand’s inspiration.”
She co-founded MAYU with her husband Karan Shah, who is now CFO and Director of the company, which today has a presence in Amsterdam and New York, besides Solapur.
Achieving all-round sustainability
MAYU’s claim to fame is its ethical supply chain and the efforts towards empowering the vulnerable communities that it empowers with every purchase. “We believe in thoughtfulness and individuality; we’re a modern brand with a traditional core and a commitment to individuality,” says Mayura.
“At MAYU, we evaluate our business performance on three critical pillars, namely People, Planet and Profit.”
Throughout its supply chain, the company claims to use ethical, responsible and sustainable means to create and deliver luxury goods. Apart from using leather made from upcycled Northern Atlantic fish skins, the brand ensures that the leather is tanned using natural vegetable dyes. In addition, all of its products are crafted in a zero-waste facility by skilled artisans in India.
“Over 90 percent of our artisans are women from underprivileged backgrounds,” adds the founder.
Since the pattern of each individual fish is unique – just like fingerprints – no two skins are alike, hence no two products of MAYU are alike, adds Mayura.
On the way to global domination
Traditionally, the luxury fashion industry is not associated with concepts such as sustainability or ecological responsibility. But changing consumer behaviour and moral values of the generation in making purchasing decisions has impacted the way this sector is evolving.
Consumers today hold a brand accountable on social and environmental grounds, with regards to issues including animal welfare, waste management, labour practices, and the overall welfare of the communities involved in the production, manufacturing, and distribution of fashion apparel.
MAYU claims to be at the intersection of aesthetics, high quality, functionality, ethics, sustainability and shared global cultural nuances. It imports raw materials such as leather and vegan textile from Europe and premium quality nickel and lead-free hardware from Hong Kong. The natural silk lining is sourced from India.
Mayura adds, “In the next three years, we wish to diversify horizontally as a brand and make way into different categories of accessories and in different geographies. We will continue to use new and innovative sustainable materials in all that we design and craft while also giving back to the communities we thrive and flourish in.”
(Edited by Athira Nair)