Hello! I am Maaike Elise Stofferis, the founder and designer of Maison M’Elise, a Netherlands-based sustainable bridal brand. Working in the fashion and bridal industry, I continually notice that most established bridal brands do not produce wedding gowns that are made sustainably and with thought and care for the environment. The bridal industry is an industry just like any other, and increasingly it has expanded even more into the realm of how “fast-fashion” is manufactured, greatly increasing stress and pollution on our planet, not to mention the exploitation of textile factory workers around the world.
We are also striving for Maison M’Elise to be a brand that employs and empowers female talents of diverse ethnicities and cultural backgrounds. We aspire to one day build our own production facility to offer and provide steady work opportunities and career growth to the talented artisans who collaborate with us on our pieces. Women who excel at the traditional handicrafts and techniques used to create our custom designs. Fair and equal wages, working honestly and transparently so our customers can feel good knowing exactly where their gown is made and how.
Making a change in how products in the garment industry, and more specifically bridal wear is produced, is something that I have been focusing on for quite some time now. Bridal gowns are a purchase you make that tend to be one of the least sustainable in the world as they are only worn once! You might think that the production of wedding gowns doesn’t make a huge impact environmentally because of this very thing, as a wedding dress isn’t something you would buy every season for yourself, but the bridal industry is BIG business just like any other facet of the garment industry. And the world is full of couples wanting to marry! It adds up to a whole lot of dresses being made every year.
We work with European fabric and lace manufacturers that produce sustainably, and all of our garments are made in Europe. We employ skilled artisans locally to create the intricate beaded and embroidered embellishments that will adorn a garment. This is an art that needs to be protected and utilised or it might sadly disappear altogether in time. Our brides can choose there perfect gown with customised finishing touches. Details like ‘storytelling’ lace incorporating the wedding couple’s initials, or a special motif or floral design that is custom-made to the bride’s wishes, or hand-embroidered or beaded trims on a veil or gown.
The dream is that Maison M’Elise could evolve into the first sustainable bridal dutch fashion brand. Known for its for integrity, artistic design and the ethically responsible creation of bridal wear. Providing an empowering work environment for skilled women where we can share ideas and help minimise the impact that the bridal wear industry has on the planet. In order to create our first sustainable collection of 16 bridal designs, we need a sum of €30,000 euros this will help us towards:
We plan to launch four different styles of gowns from the new collection each month in different locales spots around the Netherlands in February, March, April and May. These various styles and silhouettes from the Maison M’Elise collection will be released accumulating with a virtual fashion show in spring 2021 in Rotterdam that will encompass all 16 styles. This show will be live-streamed in collaboration with Rotterdam Wereldmuseum.
We hope to one day be an integral part of the ‘Slow-Fashion’ movement and really be able to make a difference in how we buy and produce clothing. Maison M’Elise works together with Spanish and Turkish textile factories that produce sustainable and natural fabrics with a low-impact on the environment, such as silks, bamboo, and organic cotton. The finishing touches on our dresses, the embroideries and hand beadwork, are all crafted here in the Netherlands. We also use recycled paper stock and environmentally-friendly inks for our tags, and do not use plastic packaging in the delivery of our gowns.
Looking at it from a glass-half-full perspective, it is quite exciting to start a business with unique attributes such as this from the ground up in a field that is already well-established regarding manufacturing processes. We have the advantage of starting out with a clear and ethical goal that we intend to stick to, whereas it can be much harder for a huge conglomerate to make the necessary changes after working and producing in a different and easier way for their entire existence. We can say ‘no’ to fast-fashion with the hopes that clients will also be happy to finally have another option, an ethical one, when choosing their wedding gown.
All of these attributes are extremely important to me and to our team as a whole, as we all strive to help change the way the garment industry functions. To create pieces made with care and respect for the planet, the people, and the desire to help preserve age-old artisan handicrafts and techniques that are dying out. Making a difference and producing ethical fashion, specifically bridal wear, is something that is extremely close to our hearts. There is only one planet and one human race, but there will always be people falling in love and celebrating that by getting married and having a celebration! We just hope to be able to offer an alternative to brides and to dress them beautifully in a sustainable and ethical way.