TIME social good

Watch: How Haute Couture Can Use the Marketplace for Social Good

Combining a social agenda with good business produces beautiful results

What happens when a social activist and a fashion-industry executive put their heads together in order to create social good? Maiyet, a New York-based luxury fashion brand working with local artisans in the developing world, aims to find out.

Co-founder Paul van Zyl, who came of age during the fight against apartheid in South Africa, believes the firm’s mission is to make sure that “people at the bottom of the pyramid can lead dignified lives.”

His business partner, Kristy Caylor, a career fashion executive, is troubled by the fact that consumers can buy a “one dollar t-shirt that was made half way across the globe and assume that people’s human rights have been respected and that people are being paid properly.”

Rather than rail against injustice, however, the pair set out to change the conversation among the people at the top of the industry by finding people with world-class skills in local markets without access to design direction or infrastructure and work with them to build a brand that give expression to their “raw talent” while at the same time succeeds commercially.

Judging from the response they got at Paris Fashion Week last month, they are off to a good start.

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