Keep the Skills Alive

“Mozh Mozh is a luxury brand that works with artisans safeguarding Peruvian textiles and techniques while emphasizing form and detail in design. 

Designed and created by Mozhdeh Matin. We had a nice chat about how the brand started and the textiles behind it.

What made you want to work with Peruvian artisans?

I was born in the Peruvian Andes to Iranian parents, we grew up around the mountains and when I was little my mum used to dress us in traditional Peruvian clothing. I was surrounded by Peruvian textiles and it always grabbed my attention, textiles in general actually. Since I’m Persian my house was decorated in Persian carpets and fabrics my mum also had a lot of Indian fabrics too. I studied fine arts and everything I did was somehow related to textiles but in my mind I didn’t think studying textiles was really a thing in Peru. I decided to study fashion at ModArt Peru and entered a contest set up by the Peruvian government – PromPerú. We were asked to work with alpaca and they wanted young and new designers to work with it to develop a culture. It was my first time working with alpaca but I won the contest. The experience was really nice because it allowed me to travel and meet local artisans. I now work with artisans to preserve their techniques in using alpaca. In Peru we have so many traditional techniques for example when the Spanish came to conquer Peru, the Incas hid all their textiles so they could preserve it.  I’m very fascinated by it and there are so many places in Peru where artisans weave and knit. They have different kinds of techniques and stitches. I haven’t been everywhere in Peru but I always find awesome things when I travel. It’s very rich. That’s when I started to make collections with them and after a few years I started a brand. I spend a lot of time with the artisans and learn about their work to see what I can do with it. Now that I have my brand Mozh Mozh the idea is to put what the artisans are making into fashion. I’m not stealing their traditional ways of wearing things because I work directly with them. I visit them to see what they’re doing; sometimes I don’t even tell them what colours to use and how to use them.

Do the artisans consist of women, men and children?

Mostly the people who do the weaving are men. The women normally do weaving where they put a waistband on and attach it to tree to weave. Sometimes I work with these communities.

What’s the longest time they’ve spent making fabric for one of your clothes?

Hours! I used to ask them that too and now with each garment I sell I put the amount of hours it took to make on the tag.

It’s so interesting that that’s what they do for a living. Working as an artisan isn’t such a common job in London.

I have knitters that work around Lima that make crotchet but the ones that make the weavings live far away and I have to travel by plane to reach them. These are people in communities that were born in a household where everybody does this; they’ve learned these skills from childhood. Now the concern is that the new generation don’t want to learn these skills because they want to go to the city and become modernised. It’s a problem and it’s hard to preserve the skills.  

Image from Sincerely Tommy

I guess with the internet and social media they have access to a different view in living.

It’s kind of sad and there are so many things I want to do to keep the skills alive.

Would you go anywhere else outside of Peru for textiles, like Iran?

My dream is to learn to make carpets. I’m of Baha’i faith, a religion that doesn’t allow me to go to Iran because of the situation there but I’d really like to learn more about their textiles. During the revolution in Iran my mum went to live in India with my aunts and grandmother. When she arrived in Peru she was dressed in Indian clothes! I’ve never been to India but I know it’s a place I couldn’t visit for a short time I’d need a few months.

What are some of favourite looks from A/W 16 collection?

It’s funny because when I saw the whole collection together I realised that everything was so red and looked so Peruvian. I love the woven heavy stripes that are naturally dyed made by a family that live in Ayacucho. Normally they will use this as table place mat or carpets. Those are really special to me. My fabrics are made all over Peru and we pattern cut and make the garments in Lima. To begin with the pattern cutters found it difficult to work with the fabric because it was like cutting carpet. We had to find different ways to make the clothes and we didn’t want to waste the material because it’s so precious.

What other things would you like to make?  

In the last collection we made shoes and bags, it was the first time we made accessories and it went very well. The bags were also made of crochet from cotton yarn that was hand dyed and the colours are very natural and pretty. They were inspired by Peruvian ceramics from a culture called Chimu. The sandals were made by a community of artisans from the jungle called Shipibos that work with beads, very similar to South African crafts. I also made chokers.

Where do you stock your clothes?

In Peru it’s not really easy to sell because it’s small and far from the fashion scene. I started to go to trade shows this year in New York and after two trade shows I realised I didn’t wanna do trade shows anymore! The good thing was that everyone I invited came and bought from me. My current collection is stocked in a Brooklyn store Sincerely, Tommy. The owner Kai was really nice and I went directly there to show my work. She was really open and loved the collection. The summer collection was bought by a great buyer from Japan and another from NY.

Have you always known that you wanted to apply the textiles to womenswear?

I guess because from a young age I always wanted dress differently and my aunt from India used to send me sari fabrics. I used to make clothes from it and I like the idea of using something that’s out of context to wear daily.

Like wearing sequins in the daytime.    

Yes! Honestly though, it wasn’t planned. I never knew I’d work with alpaca and knitwear. Before I had Mozh Mozh I was making different types of collections and didn’t consider myself as a brand. Mozhdeh Matin was a phase where I was experimenting and with Mozh Mozh I focus on making the clothes much more wearable and mix more textiles.

Are there any other brands that you admire in terms of textiles?

I think Proenza Schouler and Chanel have really nice textiles.

What do you love most about textiles?

I like the fact that you’re making the fabric and it’s very precious. I don’t go to a company to buy it; I work with artisans that make fabric. I like the fact that with knit you choose the yarn, the colours and thickness of it before making the fabric. It’s special and you know where it comes from.

Shop Mozh Mozh here and follow them on Instagram here.


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