African fabrics / Italian design – MAGO’ East Africa – Designer PROFILE

Posted on October 29, 2011


African fabrics and Italian design is the synthesis of MAGO’ East Africa a clothing line and brand created in Zanzibar in 2006. It was an idea in the mind of Margherita Marvasi’s who developed it in cooperation with a Tanzanian professional team and it was her focus to follow strictly ethical principals. The business idea of MAGO’ is to produce unique clothing and accessories of the highest quality in Zanzibar. And the production is fair with an aim to make as little environmental impact as possible.

The fashionable fashion doesn’t interest me much, it hasn’t responsibility … It has neither soul nor love. We point to Elegance. With handmade limited productions and unique pieces, as it used in the past.

says Margherita, designer and Magò label creator.

MAGO’ produces in small and limited numbers and each piece is entirely hand made, followed, cut and sewn by a single
tailor with great attention given to details. The result is a collection of shirts, dresses, skirts and accessories tailor made with high quality standards in colorful and unpredictable patterns which accentuates the female body, with an underlining European taste.

Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

Margherita Marvasi was born in Bologna and since 2004 is living in Zanzibar. When last in Italy she resided in Rome, where she worked as a fashion journalist for Gruppo Espresso. Margherita is a self made designer. Everything she knows she learnt by a direct experience, listening and following passionate sartorialists. She started to breath the love for clothing since she was a baby in her grandmother’s house who was a tailor.

Margherita has always been inspired by the numerous possibilities of handmade design. In Zanzibar she descovered the pleasure of creating a very personal afro-chic inspired deluxe style, not forgetting her italian design skills. Thus MAGO’ brings a perfect balance of African vibrance and Italian vigour thus presenting a global style – In a word: afromix. And is described to be:

An elegant and sophisticated clean style reflecting the beauty of indigenous cultures from across the globe, from Maasai Steppe to Japan.

MAGO’ doesn’t follow the trend and has a simple goal: to be a classic. Mixing fashion and style with the human and enviroment respect. The company believes that “The future of luxury is an Age of sustainability”.

MAGO’ first arrived on the fashion scene in 2007 with its cool classic style. Its first release saw an extremely unique brand bring an awe inspiring spring/summer collection to Italian fashion. It made his debut in Italy with the S/S collection in 2008, and can be found selling in high-end boutiques. From 2010 the brand is also sold in Rio de Janeiro and Sweden. In 2011 opened the second brand store in Stone Town, Zanzibar (Magò Boutique and Magò Studio).

workshop - Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

shop-Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa


shop-Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

shop-Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

shop-Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

In September 2009 took part in the “WHITE Fashion Trade Show” in Milan, in the section reserved to up-and-coming designers, INSIDE WHITE, and again in February 2010 with its first winter collection.

MAGO’ does a constant research on materials coming exclusevly from East Africa. Close to plain colours cottons (black, white and ecrù) there are the traditional local fabrics:  KANGA, KITENGE, WAX and BATIK dyed with natural pigments. The kanga is a rectangle of pure cotton cloth with a border all around it, printed in bold designs and bright colours, It has always the same measures 115×170 cm Kangas are usually bought and worn ar a pair called “doti”. They are extremely popular throughout East Africa, starting from the mid 19-century.

Image courtesy of MAGO' East Africa

The story starts when some stylish ladies in Zanzibar or Mombasa got the idea of buying printed kerchiefs in lengths of six. Then they cut the six into two lengths of three and sewn together along one side to make a 3 by 2 sheet. The East African buyers quickly come to call these cloth “kanga”.

Kanga designs have evolved over the years, from simple spots on borders to a huge variety of elaborate patterns of every conceivable motif colour. For a century, kanga were mostly designed and printed in India, the Far East and Europe. But since the 1950’s, more and more of them have been designed and printed in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries of Africa.

Early this century, Swahili saying (aphorism or slogans) were added to kangas. New kanga designs keep appearing in great variety, simple or intricate abstract patterns; it’s a valuable medium for personal political, social and religious expression. The kitenge is the other typical East African fabric and is made of a densely woven cotton cloth, without the rectangular pattern units of kanga cloth. It is used by the Swahili people to make clothes, curtain or cushions.

MAGO’ promotes and works on rigorous ethical principals. 100% of proceeds from sales in the last 3 years were used to pay the salaries and to create a residence where the tailors live with their families and where English and computer lessons are organized.

The salaries are two times the average ones and the tailors are stimulated to save their income in order to afford the purchase of a house and to organize and start their own business.

“At the moment the project is still small, 6/8 families. But we believe, and verify it every day, that to change things is possible only starting from a small dimention, armed with good will, passion for the project and great dreams.

One of them is to produce in Africa a product able to compete with  the European brands. And thanks to this beeing able to give to our children the best education possible, maybe in one of the best European schools”.

MAGO’ prides itself in using as much locally made material that can be sourced, in order to support the local economy. The employment of local tailors and retail assistants is also of huge importance as it provides jobs and helps discover and highlight local skills.

This locally found talent ensures that MAGO’ presents a unique style and keeps with the feeling of unity between both Tanzanian and Italian design.

Margherita Marvasi
t. IT +39 335 6092839
t. ZNZ +255 777 457795

MAGO’ Boutique – Cathedral street, Stone Town – Zanzibar
MAGO’ STUDIO – Gizenga street, Stone Town – Zanzibar

Posted in: Fashion