3 questions for Lucie Bourreau Dutta,
co-designer with Bapan Dutta for Mii
In 2013 the duo launched their accessories collection which included a range of fabulous scarves. Then in 2018 they expanded their offer with ready-to-wear. The foundation of their success is the strength of a couple who knows how to combine their French and Indian origins and are committed to social causes. All of Mii’s collections are produced in India, in the brand’s own atelier and in a village of weavers – an ideal way to help artisans whose livelihood is threatened by fast fashion.
Why did you decide to work between France and India?
Bapan and I met as textile design students at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs de Paris. We fell in love and … Mii was born! In 2009 we travelled together to India, Bapan’s home country, and we met quite a lot of artisans. Many of them spoke to us about how hard it was to make a living with their skills. Most of them could no longer find opportunities for their expertise, mainly because of the explosion of fast fashion which, for example, involves weaving with automatic machines instead of by hand. We wanted to be part of preserving their savoir-faire. Mii was built around this project which was also in line with our creative goals.
Working directly with artisans gives us one-of-a-kind fabrics and means we can customise textiles as much as we want. We also have flexibility for sample production and we’re independent … But that meant we needed our own atelier; and to do that we, of course, had to learn the right practices. That was easier for Bapan, since it’s his home country. But for me, with my French culture, it was more complicated. In India, professional relationships are mixed with personal relationships, which is very different from France. There are several factors to consider when organising working procedures. They’re cultural, economic, and even climate-related – the monsoon period makes weaving more difficult since yarns don’t dry. The early stages forced us to learn so much and it was extremely enriching. This desire to make two cultures coexist influences our design process, making it interrelated. We might start with inspiration from art or literature and translate it through different techniques we develop in our atelier, or we might do the opposite: discover a technique and find ways to use it in our collections.
How do you organise work between India and France?
At the beginning of the Mii adventure, we were always in India. Since we started with nothing, we had to build everything. We tried things out, we corrected our mistakes … until we had our own atelier and could manage our production from A to Z. Today the atelier hires around 100 people: embroiderers, printers, and teams for patternmaking, making up, and collection development. We can also produce knitting and crocheting. There’s a family-like atmosphere, and this closeness is important to us.
For weaving, we chose, from the beginning, to collaborate with an entire village. Traditionally, weavers have two or three looms at home where they work. International demand forced many artisans to leave their villages and go work in large cities. We didn’t want to be part of that trend, we wanted to safeguard the practices that help small communities thrive. And now we can see the results of that choice: our weavers’ homes are becoming bigger and more comfortable. In the beginning we went to India frequently, but now I only go during the collections and Bapan goes once a month. Unfortunately, the health crisis prevented us from travelling. Lockdown in India was very difficult, and we decided to continue paying all our artisans. When we could start production again, we had to work remotely. And the results have been exceptional. The teams are incredibly invested in their work and they created a magnificent collection for us! This kind of difficulty shows the high level of commitment that comes from a collective.
Do you find this same kind of group cohesion in the Talents pop-up store where you’ll show your work?
Yes, indeed! The pop-up store is, of course, a showcase for our latest collection, “Mii à l’école” [Mii goes to school], but it’s also a fun, upbeat experience. We’re there with the other brands who were part of the Talents program, and that’s a real pleasure. We’re all very different, so there’s no competition between us. In fact, the opposite is true. During the program, communication was the norm. Entrepreneurs can feel alone, but with Talents, you can work together to resolve common problems. For the pop-up store, we’ve once again combined our energies to create a fantastic event that expresses the importance of synergy and, obviously, collaboration.