Juggling two very distinct careers across sustainable fashion and social work, Mazzprints founder Marie-Jeanne Tuyisenge has made waves over the past couple of years with her unique styles of African prints that are bound to make a statement as soon as you put them on. With a range of crop tops, mini skirts, maxi skirts, dresses, and power suits, Mazzprints has quickly made a notable impression on myself personally, with their ethos around encouraging slow fashion in ethically-conscious style. She also adores seeing her rich and bold prints on people from all backgrounds of life donning her creation with a sense of poise and confidence that makes it versatile and diverse to enjoy in any social scenario.
Having met Marie less than a year ago, we got chatting about her brand and after (multiple) purchases of her beautiful prints, I wanted to share with you the essence of Mazzprints and why it should be on your radar of modern African clothing that is designed for the everyday woman. Most recently, she has introduced a range of her iconic prints in the form of Mazzsks, which, while not being surgical-grade, aim to offer her customers with a reminder to prevent touching their faces and offer some form of protection while being out and about for essential activities.
Here’s Marie’s story of how MazzPrints was born:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Marie?
Marie: Well, where do I start? My name is Marie-Jeanne, I am 23, turning 24 years soon (in May)! I was born to Rwandan parents in Tanzania, as they were escaping the Rwandan genocide. We were essentially refugees in Tanzania and lived there for 4 years, before moving to Kenya where we lived till November 2012, and then ending up in Australia in December 2012. I haven’t gone back since, but travelling is one of my many passions and I was planning to go in 2021. However, with the recent COVID-19 outbreak, I’m unsure if I’ll be able to go ahead with this plan, but once everything settles I definitely plan to visit the three countries that define who I am.
Tema: How did you decide to set up your business Mazzprints?
Marie: I decided to set up Mazzprints because there was a gap for actual African-printed clothing. There are several brands that utilise prints that I adore – Gorman and Tiff Manuell. However, the prints are nothing like the distinct African prints that I yearn for. Therefore, I wanted to offer something different and imported that holds an amazing significance. A piece that tells a story. I started saving my own coin from my jobs, while I was also completing my Psychological Science and Business degree at the University of Adelaide. In 2016, I decided to set up an Instagram account and everything kicked off from there!
Tema: How did you decide on the name of your business?
Marie: Actually, the name Mazzprints is meant to be one word. I think my email address confuses people (I will need to rectify that). I’ve always loved fashion for as long as I can remember! It was influenced by both my mum and my culture as both an African woman and the cultures I lived in around East Africa. In East Africa, the vitenge (African print) is a sign of identity, wealth, culture etc. I have always had this hunger to pursue something in fashion. After having several years of experience in retail here in Australia, I decided to start making clothes that I would wear. The name Mazz came from my name (Marie) because one of my nicknames was Mazz. I decided to add prints on the end of Mazz, because I wanted to specifically focus on everything made from vitenge.
Tema: What do you hope that the name Mazzprints will represent?
Marie: I want it to represent confidence and vibrancy in the person wearing my prints. I mean, like people do infer a LOT from a person by the way they dress. As for me, confidence is key to everything. Self belief and all the good stuff comes from looking confident and approachable. That is what I want Mazzprints to represent.
Tema: How long has Mazz Prints been in business for and how have you found the journey so far?
Marie: I launched in 2016 on Instagram with a very small capital behind the brand. I started off with T-shirts embedded with my brand name, which was a successful process. Then I started establishing relationships with African print sellers in East Africa via Instagram as well and that turned out to be a great way of networking and creating. However, there were issues faced around getting my designs made – I wanted them to be locally made but because of their complexity, it was a very expensive process per piece. However, I went through with it as it is a big passion I have here, and I ended up having no savings whatsoever. Everything I made from my job would be put back into my business. I generated a little profit from doing pop-up stalls around SA hotspots and getting my name out there. In 2018, as I saw that this process would not be feasible, so I decided to start learning how to sew myself by learning from Youtube tutorials and other courses online. That is how the Ari sets were born, and they’ve been super popular! It is slowly growing, but there is still so much to learn and improve on and while the journey is challenging at times, it is what keeps me going. After all, I love a good challenge.
Tema: What do you think helps Mazzprints one-of-a-kind?
Marie: I think I am the drive behind the brand. I tend to be impulsive, which can equal to fun (most times, anyway)! But I am also approachable and (I hope) relatable. I design things I would wear every day of my life. The prints themselves are to die for (at least in my eyes, they are). I want people to not be scared of wearing colourful clothes. They really are heaven-sent on those days you don’t feel like doing anything. They improve your mood in a flash!
Tema: What can customers of Mazzprints expect, when purchasing one of your pieces of clothing?
Marie: I’d love for my customers to expect that I will personally message them, and if they live in local Adelaide suburbs, I will want to meet them and hand them their purchase in person. I might urge them to try on their outfit while I am there to make sure it is exactly what they ordered. I love seeing them love the outfit instantly. That means they will repeat it multiple times and that will also show me how I was able to successfully create something that screams pristine quality.
Tema: What is the creative process like? How long does it (on average) take you to create a collection?
Marie: A very long time! Firstly, I sew them myself. Also, as I don’t yet have a manufacturing team, it takes me months to decide the prints I will use, followed by the styles, all the while while taking into consideration the wearability and demand in the market. While my brand is still small and very colourful (which people see it as a special occasion kind of clothing), I intend to create everyday wear this year. Let’s hope it comes through by Spring 20/21.
Tema: What are some key components that you look for, when deciding on the patterns and fabric of your beautiful sets?
Marie: I love choosing continuous patterns in a print. It makes the overall look appear to be simple and elegant.
Tema: I also hear that you are at university and are juggling another job alongside Mazz Prints – how do you do it?!
Marie: It’s simple, I love doing it and I hold the belief of doing it all. Having the privilege of choice makes me want to fulfill all my desires.
Tema: Do you primarily offer your clothing online or do you have a shopfront / markets where you make regular appearances?
Marie: I only sell online. I think pop-ups are something hot and exciting at the moment and I think that they serve as great footsteps towards building your brand on a wider scale, so I will be approaching that avenue slowly in the coming years, as I grow as a business myself.
Tema: What is something that you are hoping for your business to achieve through your clothing and fashion ethics that are offered via Mazzprints?
Marie: I hope that as a slow fashion brand, my customers love their one-off pieces and learn to re-wear them. As I am a small business owner and have no desire to mass produce, I want the customers to love and take care of the one-off prints they buy and give it the love it deserves.
Tema: What do you hope for your customers to experience, through Mazz Prints?
Marie: Joy and the feeling of fabulousness because the prints you’re wearing are as unique as you. As we don’t or rarely restock, no one will look like you.
You are one of a kind.
Tema: Would you like to tell us a bit about what you are offering to your customers in the midst of the recent COVID-19 outbreak?
Marie: In late March 2020, I started making masks to combat the shortages of the medical masks. I was critically thinking that no one really cares about beautiful skirts or crops at the moment. So what could my brand offer to give hope to the people? I thought of fabric masks, made out of our famous Mazzprints’ prints! While no mask in the world can really protect you from COVID-19, I thought that to prevent severe cross-contamination (especially since we do not see this virus instantly in those who may have been infected with it), Mazzks could potentially protect you from those people/ or yourself , when you’re not aware that you might be suffering from it.
Tema: Why is it important for you to offer this range in particular to your customer base?
Marie: It is important to deliver hope. When we could not buy anything like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, people got scared. Giving an option of something that would not only prevent you from touching your face but also serve as a fashionable statement during these challenging times, the utility masks aim to serve as a gesture of delivering hope.
Tema: Is there anything else that you’d like us to know about you and Mazz Prints?
Marie: I would like to let all my customers know that I genuinely appreciate the support. It is what keeps me going in moments of doubt. I see all of you, I love all of you, and I appreciate all of you. Thank you for believing in me and my designs.