Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Arena night club was dimly lit with an underground vibe at the RAW Brisbane Showcase on Friday night. Nonetheless, vivid prints sparked on the runway in the final fashion show. Mango Rains was responsible for the colour mayhem as they launched their new collection and their first menswear line!
For the girls, flamboyant cropped tops were paired with flirty mini-skirts or cigarette pants. The boys were bold in printed blazers and matching Bermuda shorts. I first saw the Mango Rains stall lighting up the Young Designer Markets at the beginning of the year, and have been curious to know more about the non-for-profit label ever since.
Carly Shearman and I were lucky enough to go backstage before the show, and meet Virginia Bailey, the founder of Mango Rains.
Virginia Bailey worked and travelled throughout Africa for almost 2 years. She met countless beautiful and inspirational women. Not only were they fearless fashion print clashers, they had an amazing work ethic and strong family values. They worked incredibly hard every day, to provide their family with food and water, something so simple which we take for granted in Australia.
At the same time, she experienced the poverty first hand. She saw the inadequate education and lack of opportunities available, especially for women. One of the most shocking realisations for her was that Female Genital Mutilation was still the norm. Women would have their daughters circumcised without question. She witnessed a young girl die from infection after her circumcision. Seemingly unshaken, her mother returned to work the next day, and continued with the daily struggle.
Death is the norm in Africa. Virginia knew she had to make a change.
On her return to Australia, she left her career in mining engineering, to create Mango Rains, fashion with a twist and a conscience! The vision is to give independence and empowerment to women in developing nations.
The colourful garments are designed and made in Australia, but are made from African wax print fabric. The net profit from every sale is reinvested in educating and training women in developing nations, to help them support themselves and their families.
After selling through numerous markets and their online store, Mango Rains has already raised enough money to start a sewing school in Western Mombasa, Kenya. The school’s is teaching the local women sewing skills and basic business knowledge so they can start their own seamstress business or gain employment as a tailor. Giving these women independence, is giving them freedom.
And this is only the first Mango Rains project. Mango Rains will also be supporting its other charities 28 too Many, Orphans and Widow Care. Charity will always remain at the heart of Mango Rains, and this is truly reflected in its name. I asked Virginia how she chose the name Mango Rains, and it’s meaning had so much more beauty and symbolism than I could have anticipated.
“In West Africa, during the middle of dry season when everything is almost desert, there are two days of rain. This rain, known as the Mango Rains, ripens all the mango trees, so throughout a desert landscape you can see all the pops of colour from the mangoes. I thought it represented the fabric colours within a city landscape, also it represented hope and prosperity which is what I hope for the brand and the people that it helps.”
Not many people would choose to give up a flourishing career to start a non-for profit business, aimed at helping people on the other side of the world. For many of us, it is an unfortunate case of out of sight, out of mind. Upon returning to her comfortable home, Virginia Bailey didn’t forget about all the inspirational women she met in Africa who were living a daily struggle. Now, her small act of bravery has created a positive, new direction for countless lives.
For the rest of us, the path less travelled doesn’t seem so scary if we get to wear a loud and festive, suit set along the way.