Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Meet our artisan partner – Thanan

Posted on: July 6th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

Malia Designs was created to provide economic opportunities for vulnerable populations in South East Asia. We accomplish this through partnerships. We link arms with our partners and we believe in them; that they are capable of creating significant changes in the communities where they live and work.

Thanan is a beautiful example of how these partnerships can work. Thanan leads the artisan group that produces our popular cotton canvas screen printed line. She received her educational training at the National Centre of Disabled Persons in Cambodia, and it was there that she discovered that she had true talent, both as a seamstress and as a designer.

thanan in her workshop

Thanan helps us to review and make design choices for our Fall 2015 prints

After she graduated Thanan received a micro-loan and began her own ethical fashion business. Today she employs more than fifty home-based artisans who are also disabled. It is Thanan’s mission and passion to provide secure, consistent employment for these disabled individuals. In Cambodia it’s an unfortunate fact that the disabled are often treated like third class citizens, and their chances for finding gainful employment are very slim. As a whole the disabled population is also more vulnerable to exploitation and to traffickers.

partial rolls of printed fabrics line the walls of a market stall

Reviewing fabric swatches and colors with Thanan’s guidance

Thanan is one of the most compassionate and giving women that we know. Her compassion and dedication to improving the lives of others combined with her design talents truly make her not only a valued partner, but also one of our heroes. Her bright smile, generosity and sharp sense of humor make her one of our dear friends.

Sourcing and Shopping

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

We love working with recycled and repurposed materials. The fact that our products are also eco-friendly goes right along with our fair trade values—being good for people and good for the planet is a double win in our book. One of the coolest things about our cotton canvas screen printed line is that the fabrics we use are often leftover remnants from the garment factories which are so prominent in Cambodia.

partial rolls of printed fabrics line the walls of a market stall

Partial rolls of fabrics line the walls of a market stall

Local markets sell the leftover fabric remnants and rolls. There are several market stalls selling these leftovers and they are all a bit different in what they offer. Some also sell suit fabric and part of their profits are derived from tailoring custom made suits for foreign business travelers.

Reviewing fabric swatches and comparing them to our desired color palette.

Reviewing fabric swatches and comparing them to our desired color palette.

We begin our fabric quest with an idea of the colors that we hope to find at the market. We use paint chips to pick these colors since they offer such a large variety and they are easy to bring along. However, often what we initially had in mind is not available. Although, something great usually is, flexibility is key in this business.

Brightly printed fabrics line the window—next door is a bicycle repair business

Brightly printed fabrics line the window—next door is a bicycle repair business

We rely on our friend and partner, Thanan, to not only help with our color selection, but to also help us to negotiate pricing and to determine if there is more of a specific color available. Thanan leads our partner group that produces our cotton screen print line. Her dream of providing dignified work to disabled populations in Cambodia began with a small micro-loan, and now she employees more than 50 home-based artisans to create our popular designs.

Lucia posing (and sweating)  among the multicolored fabric rolls.

Lucia posing (and sweating) among the multicolored fabric rolls

Once we have landed on the color selections from the available fabrics we will cut swatches so we can create test prints with our new designs. Many times our final selections we be vastly different than what we were initially looking for, and most of the time we will be more satisfied. Kinda like life, many of the best parts are total surprises!

That bag is made out of what?!?

Posted on: March 9th, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

We get this one A LOT, and since our upcycled cement bag collection just keeps growing in both popularity and available styles, we thought it would be fun to show off how the upcycling process works.

The photos below show cement bags lining the streets of Phnom Penh.  Fun Fact: Cement is the most used material in the world! All of the artwork is already printed by the manufacturers onto the bags.  It’s fortunate for us that the cement companies in Southeast Asia create such fun and vibrant packaging.


First, we work with our talented designer to come up with new and original design options for the line.  After concepts and sketches are agreed upon, she creates a detailed pattern that we provide to our artisan partners.


Next,  it’s time for the bags to be thoroughly washed and dried, since well they used to be full of cement!  The cement bag material is lightweight, strong and water resistant which makes it perfect for upcycling.  To upcycle means to “reuse (discarded objects or material) in such a way as to create a product of a higher quality or value than the original.”


Finally, the bags are cut into specific patterns and sewn into an awesome new tote, wallet or messenger bag by our talented artisans. These funky and functional designs work overtime to “Carry a Cause” since they not only provide meaningful work to our artisans, but help our planet by keeping waste out of landfills.


We’d love to hear from you about your favorite upcycled products and to know what styles you would like to see added to our ever growing upcycled cement bag collection!