What is Mahala?
Mahala is a shop opened by designer and maker, Emily Griffin. Her childhood dream has always been to have a shop that sells pretty little things.
Emily first moved to East london in 1999 to study accessories and footwear design in cordwainers college. After working in the industry for several years, she became disillusioned with the “wear it for one season and throw it away” approach of mainstream fashion. Since then her colourful resume has included interior design and buying.
In October 2015 Emily began trading under the name of Mahala and opened her first shop on Hackney’s vibrant Well Street.
The name Mahala holds particular significance for Emily because it was the name of her great grandmother – Ada Mahala.
What about Roomi Apparel?
Redwan worked in a fabric shop which Emily used to buy her linen for her upholsteries. They soon became friends when Emily asked if Redwan would be apart of a photoshoot featuring her bags. “ could you not find anyone else out of all people” he said. Feeling bad for saying no, “I’m going to cyprus tomorrow though, so let me know if i can get you anything instead” he offered. Hamam towels! she said and Redwan was on the first of many of his buying trips. They connected so well that 6 weeks later they got married in around the coffee table in Redwans mum kitchen!
During these early days, Redwan, who had been working in the fabric trade for 2 years decided he wanted to start making clothes for his Sufi community using top quality natural fibre fabrics. This was something that was unavailable to the Sufi community. A lot of the garments were cheap mass produced synthetic garments that were preferred by the mass because they’d come out of the washing machine dry and never needed ironing!
Redwan’s always had a deep love for natural fibres and him having the first hands emptying a freshly received container, he always had best dibs on the fabrics.
Redwan had no previous experience in Design or even knew how to sew on a button. His friend introduced him to a good tailor with 40 years of experience, Mr Kamali. Redwan took one of his fathers old sufi coats and under his instructions, took it apart to get the pattern. Kamali then made a sample coat out of a wonderful Italian wool, silky viscose lining and glorious large vintage buttons
Emily was in love with the coat and asked to display it in her shop window. The coat was a success and soon Kamali started working on another 40 pieces.
Roomi apparel was born! Emily cleaver play on words with how spacious the design was combined with the sufi background of the design and the sufi saint Rumi.
Year after year Redwan found other old classic timeless designs which he’d use the patterns again and again using different fabrics each time. The fabrics are all end of lines which means sometimes there is only 1 garment ever made in the fabric. The idea is that if something works, why change it?
Every fabric gives the garment a different feel depending on it’s character.
Surely, Roomi apparel isn’t something for everyone but for those who love it, it will always be there, unchanged. Only improvements in the little detail and fabric choices.
Roomi apparel is the uniform for those who do not want to conform in to a society where you just have to fit in and be uncomfortable just incase you might make other people uncomfortable. The garments talk what they are and you can just see it and feel it. Relaxed clothing made for people who want to be comfortable and appreciate good fabric and tailoring.
7 years later, everything is still made in very small runs in a one man factory in east London. Redwan and Kamali lay and cut the cloth together and Kamali gets on with this sewing. All the love and care put in to it, when the garments reach the shop, they look and feel alive. This is what’s keeping us going.