Stationed in the Village Market Mall, shop No. 284, is a minimalistic-chic store, with tastefully positioned silver jewellery and accessories. Looking through its glass windows, you can easily spot animal-inspired pieces that have a high street feel; that you almost forget that this brand started in Zimbabwe by chance. Patrick Mavros, who grew up in the Matabeleland Province of Zimbabwe, is a 4th-generation Zimbabwean artist with a background as a baker and soldier. However, he has always had a passion for nature’s wild creatures. It started with sketches of animals, plants and in particular birds of prey to understand their form. It wasn’t until much later that the African Luxury brand came to fruition. Carving a pair of elegant earrings in the form of Catja, his wife’s, favourite flower (the rose) has been popularly attributed to the beginning of this impressive craftsmanship… a skill that has seen all four sons follow him into the same profession.
They pride themselves with the fact that although they’ve had great commercial success for over three decades, their jewellery, sculptures, homestead artefacts and objets d’art continue to be a handmade, in-house affair. As explained on their website, ‘Each item is handmade, his sliver sculptures are created with the lost wax casting technique, as favoured by great artists such as Rodin. This is a long and involving process working from beautifully crafted wax model, to liquid rubber cast, to wax negative, to plaster of Paris cast into which molten silver is poured, ultimately reproducing the sculpture in silver’. The attention to detail has paid off, with celebrities such as JK Rowling to the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, being avid supporters of Mavros’ creations.
Nevertheless, behind all the beauty this brand brings is a notion of conservation. The Mavros family have been highly involved with different organisations – from the Uganda Conservation Fund (UCF) to The Cheetah Conservation Fund UK – spreading awareness about the plight of the animals featured in their collections. The most recent being the Tikki Hywood Trust. For the last five years, they’ve worked with this organisation that specialises in Africa’s lesser-known endangered species, such as serpents, civets and pangolins. The latter being one of the most highly endangered species in the world.
They also tap into different avenues to help change consumer perceptions about wildlife; something as simple as giving the story of each animal on the website to educate the consumer a little more. Take for example the ‘Magical Zozo’ collection, which you can learn a little more about here. In addition, they also give 10% of proceeds from sales to organisations trying to save these very animals. “You’ve got to give back,” he says in an interview with Billionaire.com. “You take a tree, you plant two. It’s got to be sustainable. Locally we have a big effect on the community with education programmes and wildlife and forestation awareness. We help fund a host of different conservation initiatives.”
TDS caught up with one of the most renowned silversmiths in the World, with five international outlets, to find out more about this brand that proves luxury and conservation can co-exist.
When did you start the brand?
PM: I never started the brand. In 1978 I started by doing my best to make beautiful, comfortable, animal inspired jewellery. The brand evolved as our reputation grew. [It] has grown steadily one step at a time like a great safari filled with excitement, determination and unforgettable experiences. Reputation is the basis for a good brand. However, above all of that, hard work.What inspired you to leave the life of a baker and solider to pursue this field?
PM: I made a gift for my bride, excitement and my belief that this business would never stop growing.
There’s quite a variety of products that can be found under the Mavros banner…Why the mix of jewellery and household items?
PM: I never received any form of training in my work and I enjoyed the freedom to make what I wanted and how I wanted to. The result was I swung back and forth through Africa’s magnificent archives making adornment and usable objects.
We’ve seen some other metals appearing in the collections such as gold, but it always comes down to silver…
PM: I love silver. It is the greatest adornment metal and the most reflective metal in the world. It’s young, it’s old and it’s fun. It looks great everywhere you see it.
We’re curious, why did you choose Nairobi to be a part of your international outlets?
PM: Kenya, its people, its animals and its spectacular landscape invented “Safari”. The establishment of our shop in Nairobi is both a tribute to Kenya and a well-placed landmark for our family business.
How do you choose the theme of each collection?
PM: As a family of designers and makers we work quickly to put our designs into metal and that stimulates more ideas and more pieces and a collection is born. Sometimes in particular situations, like the plight of the pangolin, Patrick Junior’s collection is built from inspiration, passion and commitment to a cause.
Is that why you chose the Pangolin for the current collection?
We did not choose the pangolin for our current collection. We chose to support the conservation of the world’s most trafficked mammal and designed an awareness collection around it.
The collections must be limited editions then?
PM: We do not produce limited editions. The concept of limited editions is a relatively new practice and is mainly found with bronze sculptures.
Are they all linked to conservation efforts?
PM: Some of our designs are specifically linked to the conservation of selected species, such as the pangolin range of jewellery. However, the Patrick Mavros range is associated in hundreds of ways with chosen conservation exercises around the world.
PM: We contribute through donations of sculptures and jewellery for fund raising. We also contribute through direct involvement, education and social media. And those are just some of the ways we contribute.
It doesn’t hurt that royalty and celebrities like the brand…
PM: The endorsement of conservation by celebrities is always a great encouragement for the common man to be a member of the same cause.
Why is wildlife conservation so important to the brand?
PM: Our family has lived in Africa for generations. Wildlife has played an integral part of our lives. We place value on wildlife and believe that if it has no value it would have no place on this continent.
In your opinion what is the current state of wildlife in Africa?
PM: That’s a big, big question and the answer varies from country to country and species to species. My two big, big answers are firstly to incorporate the citizens of each country as stakeholders in the conservation programs. Secondly, to introduce conservation as a serious and formal subject in primary and secondary schools.
Why do you think fashion needs to get involved with the ethical fight?
PM: Fashion is not compulsory, it thrives on popularity and because of that, it has a responsibility to pursue ethical practice and preach ethical and sustainable values.
What’s next for the Mavros brand?
PM: Improvement in all areas of our family business. Design and comfort of our jewellery, increased “animal family” collections, enthusiastic staff in the workshops and studios, a cleaner environment and better service to our customers and collectors.
What’s most commendable about this family business is their genuine approach to it all. It’s a brand that celebrates the wildlife of every shape and size, and plays an active role in trying to ensure that their work isn’t what’s left of the vibrant animal kingdom. And joining their family is as simple as buying a Mavros piece.
PS: This post comes on the tailcoat of bad news in the Pangolin conservation efforts (which you can read more about on here). The clock is definitely ticking and it’s the actions we do in this short time frame that will make the difference on whether this species goes extinct or not. Learn more about how you can help save the Pangolin by heading over to the Tikki Hywood Trust.