Paul van Zyl

South African-born, London-based Paul van Zyl is passionate about entrepreneurship as a vehicle for positive social and environmental change. He is the co-founder of Mayfair’s The Conduit, an exclusive members’ club serving social entrepreneurs, and he also started The Maiyet Collective, a platform for artisanal brands producing premium ethical products across fashion, accessories, beauty and jewellery.

The Maiyet Collective is popping up at Bicester Village through to 23 December 2019 and on Saturday 14 December, Maiyet will be donating 10 per cent of sales to Smart Works. We asked Paul more about the concept for Maiyet and what kind of ethical treasures that visitors to Bicester can expect to find.

The Maiyet Collective
The Maiyet Collective pop-up at Bicester Village

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and how it’s informed what you do now?

I grew up in South Africa and served as Executive Secretary of SA’s post-apartheid Truth And Reconciliation Commission. As a Human Rights Lawyer, I advised countries around the world on how to facilitate transitions to peace and democracy following periods of mass atrocity and human rights abuses and co-founded the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in 2001. The ICTJ works with victims, civil society groups, national and international organisations to ensure redress for victims and to prevent atrocities from happening again.

Having won the Skoll Award for Social Justice and then chosen as Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008, I started to encounter a lot of people using entrepreneurship to try and achieve important social goals and positive impact – and so the idea began to grow.

With a rapidly growing luxury market, we ultimately created a covetable brand through Maiyet by partnering with artisans in developing economies, sourcing materials ethically and, in doing so, promoting entrepreneurship, prosperity and dignity in places that needed it most, whilst being able to create collections with transparency, meaning and integrity.

What prompted you to set up The Maiyet Collective? 

The principle of ethical fashion is combined in community and collaboration and so Maiyet evolved into the Collective; ie brands do well when they collaborate and people look for a community. Our collective voice then aims to educate, inspire and change the way we think about the creation and consumption of fashion. We wanted to create a space which would showcase fashion, jewellery, lifestyle and beauty: it would focus on storytelling, and create immersive inspirational experiences.

How do you choose the brands that are featured via The Maiyet Collective? Is there a set of criteria?

All brands must have a blend of ethics and desire but equally design and sustainability. We are lucky that we have so many great designers to choose from, so selection thereafter is governed by the venue we are popping up in and what suits the demographic for that venue. It’s important that customers are drawn firstly, to the brand, in order to then engage them in the amazing stories they have to tell. Retail is always more exciting, though, when you give a customer what they didn’t know they wanted as much as that which they did. We, therefore, have an element of surprise and delight in every curation.

Precious jewels from GFG at The Maiyet Collective pop-up at Bicester Village
Precious jewels from GFG at The Maiyet Collective pop-up at Bicester Village

How did the pop-up at Bicester Village eventuate?

Bicester has such a huge demographic and offers an amazing experience to both international and domestic guests. It was an obvious venue beyond London to showcase our concept and support ethical brands against a backdrop of the world’s most fashionable designers.

What are some of the brands and products that visitors can expect to encounter at Bicester Village? 

We have 40 brands on rotation for the six-week event across fashion, lifestyle, jewellery and beauty. There are GFG’s handset precious gemstones and metals, cut to bespoke specifications, encapsulating timeless beauty and described by the designer as ‘A Gift from the Gods’! There’s low-carbon-fabric, ready-to-wear pieces from the fabulous S-Dress – no buttons, zips, labels or hooks, just immaculate tailoring for all sizes! Clothes Doctor’s eco-friendly clothing care products are also available, which prolong your garments and help to reduce fashion pollution – amazing fragrance AND value! They also have very cool packaging, which will make unique Xmas gifts that you’ll really be thanked for!

Clothes Doctor products on display at The Maiyet Collective pop-up at Bicester Village

What do you hope to achieve with The Maiyet Collective? 

We want to basically achieve two things:

1. Provide a platform to champion new brands with amazing stories and concepts, plus bind them with established brands and really start to push boundaries by being a centre of excellence within all elements of retail.

2. Provoke thought in the shopping habits of our customers. Entice them with amazing, beautiful products and then captivate them further with the unique, positive impact story behind each brand. Hopefully, that will then give them a different outlook on what defines the true value of luxury fashion.