We caught up with Yue Jiang, founder of Má + Lin. Born and raised in Chongqing – a charming city in China – Yue has worked as a fashion buyer in Paris then in London for the past 10 years. While continuing her experience at a British luxury label, the idea emerged of creating her own brand that was zero waste, fully transparent regarding the supply chain, used only European certified linen and at the same time represented the aesthetics of her ideal wardrobe for contemporary women.
Yue was frustrated at the lack of supply chain transparency. She felt consumers barely knew where the fabric was produced and could never trace it back to the yarn mill, let alone the farm where the raw materials were cultivated.
After witnessing so many highly negative environmental impacts in the fashion industry, Yue knew it was her moment to do something.
Má + Lin
Q: Why and When did you decide to launch your own brand?
I’ve spent over 10 years working as a fashion buyer, firstly in Paris then in London. Throughout my experiences working with various brands, I gradually became acutely aware of the lack of transparency and sustainability within the fashion supply chain. It was common for us to overlook the origins of the fabrics we used or the conditions under which our garments were produced, let alone where the raw materials were grown. Even the “Made in…” label could sometimes be proved to be deceiving!
Additionally, I noticed a significant issue with the excessive number of collections released by traditional fashion brands. For instance, the luxury British brand I worked for had a staggering total of eight collections each year, with four collections for both women and men! With each new collection the designers would demand different fabrics and they wouldn’t use the ones of the previous seasons. Therefore, we had tons of leftover “outdated” fabrics sitting in our warehouse, and sadly many of them ended up at the shredding stations.
When Covid started the time suddenly seemed to stop. I had a chance for the first time in my life to really think what I wanted for my career. Do I want to continue to contribute to this unsustainable traditional fashion industry which is the second most polluting industry after the oil and gas sector? Or do I want to create something of my own that is all the contrary of the game and represent my ideal wardrobe for women? I wanted to show that a Fashion brand can be different and it doesn’t have to harm the planet. I also wanted to educate people that “who made my clothes ” is the most important thing to know when buying clothes. With all these in mind, Má + Lin was born in late September 2021.
Q: Where did the inspiration come from to create Má + Lin?
First all, with all my previous working experiences in the fashion industry, I wanted to create something new, something different to the traditional fashion brands. To achieve this, we are not following the fashion seasonal calendar, and every piece we designed is part of our permanent collection. We are fully transparent on our supply chain, from the farm that our raw materials are grown to the warehouse where we stock our final products. We provide a comprehensive supply chain map on each product’s page.
Having lived in Paris for 10 years, I’m very much inspired by the chic French style. That has been reflected in the styles I’ve created for Má + Lin. We started with some French-inspired linen blouses, with the details such as the Peter Pan collars, wooden buttons and ruffled sleeves. I believe we never should comprise style with comfort. Therefore, our blouses are comfortable to wear, with a slightly oversized design, and suitable for all body shapes.
Last but not least, our brand name Má + Lin [ma-lain] is where Chinese and French cultures meet to celebrate Linen, with “Má(麻)” and “Lin” both meaning linen in Chinese & French, plus a fun wordplay “Malin” meaning clever in French. We are on a mission to make linen, one of the oldest and most sustainable natural fabrics in the world, the new black.
Q: How has your time working for high fashion houses shaped your career?
I’m grateful for all my experiences at various fashion houses. From premium French brands, to high street labels, and to luxury British brand, I’ve learned so much from each one of them. I’ve always worked in buying/ production. Therefore, instead of being on the glamorous side of fashion which is design and marketing, I’ve been behind the scenes the whole time, and that gave me the insight of how the fashion industry really works. The idea of Má + Lin is to bring the “behind the scene” story onto the front stage, so customers will not only see the beautiful branding/ imagery, but also see the process of how the fabrics are woven and how the garments are made.
Q: What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability has become a “fancy” word in recent years. Almost every fashion brand has its own “sustainability statement”. However, some of the statements are rather broad and vague without going into details on what really makes them sustainable, which brings me the impression of the “greenwashing” that is omnipresent in the current fashion industry.
For me, sustainability needs to combine several things: the environmental impact on the raw materials and garments production process, the welfare of the workers and the end life of the product, if it’s biodegradable or not.
Being sustainable is the only way that the fashion industry can survive in the long run. There are no alternatives.
Q: What are your best tips to live / buy / dress consciously?
I think the biggest challenge for living consciously is how to cope with this desire of over consumption. It is not easy when we are in a fast-paced society where the attractions to buy are everywhere.
I have slowed down my consumption since several years ago, trying to live a minimal life, starting with the clothes. My rule is- all clothes have to be able to fit into my double wardrobe. This is an efficient way to see if I have excessive items.
When I purchase, I always make sure the products are made consciously. Of course, I sometimes get tired of the articles that I own. When that happens, I’d give the item to the local charity shop to make sure it gets its second life.
Q: Where does inspiration come from for you?
I get many of my inspirations from the street looks, especially when I’m traveling to Paris. The Parisian style is such a huge inspiration for me.
Pinterest is also a good resource for me. I can spend hours and hours scrolling on Pinterest…
Q: What’s next for Má + Lin?
We now have our iconic linen blouses and we just launched our first linen short. For our next move, we will launch our first trousers next year to complete the full linen set look. We will continue to use only European certified linen, and shout out for linen.