MaliMali: Textiles and clothing from Mali: contemporary design using traditional methods.

Djenné, MaliWorcester, South Africa
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

MaliMali is a textile and clothing company based in Djenné in war-torn Mali. We make contemporary designs using the wholly natural and organic West African method of dyeing called 'bogolan' or 'painting with mud'. We provide one of the few work opportunities in this once flourishing tourist city.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could continue and expand to give the local poulation a real possibility to work and survive by engaging with the international market place rather than just hoping the tourists will return?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The textile and clothing studio is run by myself Sophie Sarin, designer, with a group of 6-8 local people who dye, paint, weave, cut out the fabrics and sew the garments. We used to sell our garments in a shop at my hotel when there was plenty of tourists. After the Jihadist Occupation of the north of Mali and the French intervention in 2013 tourism dwindled. The hotel is still open, but our focus needs to be MaliMali.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We need to expand MaliMali to continue to provide work opportunities. This requires marketing to reach out to a much wider international clientele. We also need provide proper professional training for the local staff in sewing and pattern cutting so that l we can produce goods of a high competitive standard. Our studio needs further machinery: we need new sewing machines, an over-locker etc. MaliMali would also like to expand our working relationship with other local artisans, who are often illiterate. We are already working with local women making jewellery from recycled flip-flops.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Malimali has trained four local women to weave on our hand looms, although weaving is traditionally reserved for men. We use only Malian grown organic cotton. The hand woven fabric is used for furnishing fabric once it has been hand dyed and painted with mud by the dyeing team. For clothing we also use a lighter weight cotton. After the dyed fabric has been painted with mud it is washed in a large body of water- we use the river. The process is age old but the result is a modern and desirable product. Meanwhile our women associates are busy melting down plastic shoes and flip-flops which they transform into colourful and funky jewellery which is finding many outlets but could be greatly expanded to create work opportunities.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The major impact of the work is that MaliMali has provided livelihood for not only the core studio staff but also for the hotel staff which has been retrained to work in the textile studio since the hotel activities have been greatly reduced because of the political crisis. Therefore no one has been dismissed. We have expanded the business by creating an online shop and we have opened a shop in Bamako, the capital. We are intending to expand and refine our products to be able to reach a much wider market place.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Refinement and further training of staff; developing of marketing strategy with professional assistance; upgrading of studio equipment ; realizing the potential of the Bamako shop outlet- there is a large and affluent customer base made up of UN workers, diplomats and NGO employees to be reached. A fashion show should be held in a boutique hotel. But the ambition is to reach a larger international market through the upgrading of our website. Within ten years to have created a well-functioning small industry in Djenné, with capable local people able to continue without my help.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

MaliMali has already gained a reputation among the local people as a viable business. We are the only one in Djenné to reach an international audience through our website. We therefore have the human resources available to expand and the plan is to involve many other local artisans . We will achieve our goal of expansion and financial sustainability by emphasis on three areas: technical training; refinement of merchandise and marketing.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Malian Bogolan, or mud painting, is available in its traditional form through many internet outlets. It is usually made with handwoven narrow strips of cotton which are always produced by men in the villages but normally painted by women. The clothing produced is relatively heavy and unsuitable for summer clothing. Traditional mudcloth is often painted with designs of symbolic meaning. Although MaliMali is actively engaged in trying to preserve the authentic village bogolan our own work is very different both in design and use. We make wearable modern light weight clothing.

Founding Story

I went to Djenné as a tourist in 2005. I loved the mud architecture and became fascinated by the Bogolan technique. I returned a couple of months later to investigate whether I could start a new life in Djenné: the result was that I built my mud hotel and at the same time I learned the bogolan technique through Dembele, a young man who trained as an accountant but who has worked as the manager of MaliMali ever since. After small beginnings when we produced bedspreads and other textiles for the hotel we became registered as an Association in 2007 when we opened our little shop at the hotel. Malimali also has a 'project' side which engages in health and education matters in Djenné.


Sophie Sarin, Designer and Director on the of Board the MaliMali Association. Royal College of Art Fashion School. Dembele: Manager, Bogolan expert and painter; Secretary of the MaliMali Association; diploma accountancy. Book keeper for the studio. Petite Baji: Bogolan painter and dyer, secondary school (wife of Dembele- they met at the studio!) Grande Baji and Niamoye: Weavers. Illiterate. Alpha: Tailor. No formal training. Mamane: Bogolan painter, indigo dyer, sample cutter; liaison person with Niaber: artisan woman creating plastic recycled necklaces working from home. Baba and Papa, dyers, painters, all-round workers. Part time. Papa is the chef at the hotel, and Baba is the waiter. They work at studio when there are no hotel guests.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]


Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Brand Representative, Designer, Factory Owner.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Factory Workers, Women.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Environmentally Sustainable Practices, Physical Working Conditions, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Capacity Building, Training.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?
● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

Partnerships with local artisans enables them to reach a larger audience which gives us a wider choice of products to offer..

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