Morvarid Sahafi, founder and designer of ethical womenswear brand Morv London, tells Drapers why establishing a factory in Delhi that employs women who have been victims of trafficking or domestic abuse is helping relay her message of female empowerment.
How did you get into fashion?
My background is largely in contemporary art theory and philosophy, but I studied fashion and art at Parsons School of Design in Paris. I have been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to make clothes for my dolls and then myself. I carried on making outfits for myself and had friends asking me for custom pieces, so it was a natural transition for me from art consulting into design.
Have you worked at other brands before setting out on your own?
No – I initially worked as an art consultant at Rose Issa, a gallery for contemporary Middle Eastern art, for eight years. It was during this time that I finally decided to travel to India to launch my own collection.
How easy or difficult was it setting up your own brand?
It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, as any new designer will know. Designing a collection is one thing, but finding a way to turn that into a reality is a big challenge. It was nearly impossible for me to find a reliable manufacturer with the skillset that I needed for my collection who would be willing to work with me as a small new designer. That’s why I decided to simultaneously set up my own factory. It’s been hard work but it’s now all coming together and it has been so worth it.
The label has a strong message of female empowerment. Why is that important to you?
In my mind, it should go without saying that women’s fashion, which is designed for women, should be something that empowers women. My designs should embolden the client and make them feel special but, above and beyond that, within my business practice I wanted to find a way to allow more fortunate women to bridge the gap to help women who have less power to fight than we do.
Your factory employs women who have been victims for domestic abuse. Why did you decide to do this?
Any abuse and inequality towards is an issue. I have picked this one to concentrate on at this time, because I had a clear avenue to help these women by employing and training them.
You give a percentage of profits to women’s charities – which ones?
We pick a different charity each year and as yet have not established this year’s recipient. At the moment we are looking into potential collaborations with Gulabi Gang, Women for Women and the Sophie Hayes Foundation.
How many stockists do you currently have in the UK and how do you see this growing?
We have been lucky to be picked up by several stockists in the UK, including Selfridges, and independent boutiques around the country. Some, such as Debonnaire, have been supporters of the collection from day one. Resort 17 will be launching in four UK stockists. We have several more stockists internationally including some in Russia, the Middle East and France. We’ve had positive feedback from the buyers so far, so I am excited to see what the next 12 months will bring us. We would love to see our products in department stores all over the world as we grow.
Where do you see the business in five years?
From a design point of view, I would love to expand into different product categories, and add handbags, shoes and other accessories to our ready to wear and bespoke offerings. I would love to see the movement behind the brand blossom and grow so that we can show a demonstrable increase in awareness surrounding these women’s issues.
As for our factory, the goal is to both expand our production and open up our manufacturing sites to other designers who are looking for an ethical and good-quality production set-up. We want to expand from our original factory in Delhi into sites in other developing nations such as Afghanistan and Bangladesh, so that we can help more women in diverse places, bring a positive influence and create jobs. This is all while expanding our wholesale business into key retailers in key markets around the world.