On February 3rd, in a private room filled with blue light glowing from the walls of the Hotel Mondrian Soho, the murmur of an excited crowd came to stillness. The hush signified the opening of the evening’s panel discussion, “Common Threads: Social Justice & the Runway”, moderated by Alliance Director, Peggy Clark with featured speakers Paul Van Zyl, Co-Founder and CEO of Maiyet and Rebecca van Bergen, Founder and Executive Director of nest. In true Aspen Form, the audience consisted of an eclectic mix of highly informed, civic-minded individuals interested in elevating the importance of the artisan sector.
Known as a pioneer of creating new approaches to human rights protection and promoting peace, Van Zyl launched Maiyet, a modern artisanal luxury fashion brand, in 2011. Maiyet works in conjunction with nest, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to training and developing artisan businesses. Van Bergen launched nest in 2006 after completing a Masters of Social Work. She was twenty four years old. When Clark asked Van Zyl and Van Bergen about Maiyet and nest’s partnership, Van Zyl shared his belief that “market success can’t solve all problems” and that the philanthropic sector should be respected in what it can do in “solving certain sets of problems that the market can’t solve.”
As the discussion opened to the audience, pressing questions surrounding the challenges of the artisan sector were raised. One issue brought to light was the difficulty that artisan enterprises face in creating products that can be sold at an accessible price point. “Let’s value skill” responded Van Zyl as he explained the possibility and proven success of giving artisans the responsibility of crafting luxury fashion. He urged the necessity in communicating the inherent correlation between value and skill− that products of high quality made with an expert skill set and precision to detail, simply can’t be sold for less than they’re worth.
Drawing the evening’s meaningful conversation to a close, Alliance Deputy Director, Katie Drasser, made a call to action, asking for the audience to “find one other person in the room and ask how you can help them”.
“Common Threads: Social Justice & the Runway” is part of the Alliance’s salon series that promote a collaborative community within the artisan sector. For more information about Alliance events, please visit our events page.