Look at the dress or shirt that you are wearing right now. Do you ever wonder where it came from? Or who made it? Imagine if that piece of clothing helped put someone through university, or helped alleviate them from living a life of sex-trafficking and poverty.
You’d feel good right? Like, you helped the world in some way. But some of you may be sitting there thinking, sceptically, ‘I doubt my choice in clothing is helping anyone.’
You&Mei is here to change that way of thinking. Launching its Spring/Summer 2017 collection at Phoenix Studio in Melbourne on Sunday December 10, the global and ethical fashion label demonstrated how even the smallest gesture can go a long way.
In 2015, Tanika Mei Anderson was part of children’s entertainment group HiFive and travelled to Myanmar as part of her role as an ambassador. There she met a 14yr old girl who was living in the dirt underneath a thatch house. The girl loved learning to sew and would sell the garments she made at the markets for only a few dollars. This sparked an immediate call for action within Anderson, and so You&Mei was born. Since then, Anderson has established an education program for the women of Myanmar that not only provides income (with 100% of the profits going directly to the girls), but empowers them with skills and knowledge that they can achieve their dreams.
With delicate hand-woven patterns and traditional ‘longi’ material, the first thing that is apparent is the Spring/Summer 2018 collection is gorgeously unique. From the soft Midnight Blue Jumpsuit, to the vibrant Green Dress (my personal favourite) and the delicate Dragon Maxi (that took four months to embroider), each piece has its own signature detail.
Each garment comes with a label that shows the picture of the girl who made that particular item. With a smiling face looking back at you, you can read about their back story and what making this dress has done for them. One girl in particular is 18 year old Shwe, who lives in a tree house with her family. Shwe used her first pay check from You&Mei to enrol at University to study law.
For this collection Andreson recently travelled back to Myanmar and worked directly with the girls to help design the second range. She also sourced local materials, ensuring that each completed garment has a direct connection between the maker and the wearer.
Since first launching the range in Sydney earlier this year, You&Mei has seen immediate success, with most styles selling out within months. Now that the second range is up and running, Anderson hopes to expand the program to other Myanmar villages in 2018 and employee 5-10 more girls.
Talking to the crowded space at Phoenix Studio on Sunday, Anderson shone light on the environmental and cultural destruction caused by “fast fashion” and the real life horrors that these girls face every day. But she also demonstrated how easy it is to make a difference. Individually you might not be able to save the world, but you can change the life of one person, such as Shwe, even if it is doing something as simple as buying a dress.
You&Mei’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection is now available online. Visit www.youmeilabel.com to view the collection and find out more about the brand.