From humble beginnings as a way to teach African women to sew, Mango Rains has evolved into a West End sustainable fashion icon able to engage young and old fashionistas with ease.
Mango Rains owner and creator Virginia Bailey is passionate about sustainable fashion and since the label’s inception in late 2013, has created two sewing schools for women in Kenya. Virginia says, “Teach a woman to sew and you’ll see their whole community benefit.” All profits from her sales go directly to the sewing schools and associated charities. When asked about her thoughts on sustainable fashion in Australia, Virginia says, “I really think there is a bright future for sustainable fashion in Australia and I’m so excited to see it grow.”
Not only does Mango Rains support communities in need, but it’s also giving the market for Australian made products a boost. Through her shop front in West End, Virginia and her two colleagues design and sew all the unique pieces on display and for sale. Virginia, a mining engineer by trade, concedes that she did not attend fashion school, but instead was taught to sew by her mother. The quality of her pieces proves that this is not a problem for Mango Rains. Spending several years working as an engineer in Africa gave Virginia the passion for the bold wax print fabric used in her garments, and the local women gave her the inspiration to create her incredible designs.
The fabric itself is made using the Batik method, which originated mainly from Indonesia but is also practised in many African countries. The Batik method used in Mango Rains designs is a manual wax-resist dyeing technique applied to cotton fabric, which locks in the dye to maintain the vivid colours. Virginia sources her fabric from markets in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi and says, “Ghana is number one for top quality fabric – it’s what they’re known for.”
In less than 12 months, Virginia’s brand has really taken off. Mango Rains was this year’s platinum label at Brisbane’s Undressed Runway show held in early October and featured a range of new pieces, including backless dresses and shorts with new bold prints. Her collection is constantly evolving and she offers a custom fit option for those wanting something to fit their unique body shape or those who are in need of a standout design for a special occasion. Virginia says, “I’d rather see my clothes on someone who is absolutely rocking it, rather than gathering dust in a closet.” Her designs can easily transform from daytime chic, to nighttime glamour just by adding heels and earrings.
The Mango Rains designs are also a quiet nod to the bold colours and shapes of the 80s, but with a modern twist — it really gives women who wear them a confidence that no other brand offers. Not only does the wearer feel safe in the knowledge that their outfits were made sustainably, but they are also contributing to the Australian made fashion industry.
Words by Bianca Scargill
Images by Rosemary Van de Linde & John Colombo