Street-wear: A first-generation Kiwi launches Mallu

(caption for the above picture: Clive with Jess and Megan (right) in front of the famous Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, India on a recent trip to Sonagacchi to see first-hand how Freeset factory is helping the victims of sex trade)

- a fairtrade street-wear clothing label was recently launched in Christchurch by a first generation Kiwi whose parents came from Kerala [in India]; the initiative is also aimed at helping the sex trade workers living in the largest and most infamous sex district in India, called Sonagacchi (in Kolkata)

Clive Antony is a man on a mission. The young University of Canterbury business management student, whose parents immigrated to New Zealand from Kerala in India 25 years ago, is taking the established street wear brands such as Huffur and RTM, in his bid to provide the Kiwi youth what he calls “the ethical alternative”.

Mallu – yes, that's the name of a new street-wear clothing label that Antony has launched early this year with his fellow students – Megan Gerrard, who looks after logistics and operations, and Jess Langtry who is the Creative Design Lead. “While I was fortunate enough to be brought up with a great balance of Indian and Western culture, we decided to name the brand Mallu as a testimony to my Kerala heritage,” noted Antony, whose concern for the society saw him unsuccessfully contesting the just-concluded local government elections in Christchurch where he stood as a candidate for the Riccarton Ward of the Halswell-Hornby-Riccarton Community Board and secured 708 votes.  

On the question of why a new clothing label, he explained, “Two things fused together which led to the launch of Mallu. Firstly, while clothing is a basic necessity of life, it needn't be an just an action to make us look great. It can and must have a societal angle to it. That's why we only source high quality fair-trade and organic cotton tees from India and combined them with our original designs. We only partner with suppliers who have credible ethical certifications – such as Fair Trade International Certification, FairWear Certification and Global Organic Textile Standard Certification.”

“Secondly, and importantly, since we were already going to source clothing material from India, we decided to partner with Freeset, a fair-trade factory located in Sonagacchi, the largest, most infamous sex district in Kolkata, India. Freeset employs women who have been taken out of the local sex trade. And with every 1000 tees we sell, it supports three-month wages for at least 20 women working in the Freeset factory. Moreover, $2 from every Mallu t-shirt sold is donated directly to The Gateway Campaign set up by Freeset to build a second factory in Sonagacchi. This is our way of helping women come out of the clutches of sex-trafficking.”  

Future plans

As all three business partners are still students, the company is still based in the University of Canterbury's incubation programme, UC Centre for Entrepreneurship. “But as all of us complete our courses, the next logical step is to have our own space and open Mallu outlets. We are also looking for existing boutique retailers to house the Mallu brand for display. Meanwhile, we continue to sell online, and hope to build our brand through that,” Antony concluded.

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