STYLE
03/15/2012 04:56 pm ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Maiyet, Brand Founded By Human Rights Lawyer, Encourages Entrepreneurship (VIDEO)

At first glance, Maiyet appears like any other luxury label available at Barneys - chic, fresh and with a price tag to match the high-level aesthetic. However, the intention behind the new brand, which just showed at Paris Fashion Week for the second time this past month, differs greatly from other labels.

Paul van Zyl, who co-founded the brand, explained at a breakfast at Barneys on Wednesday, at a breakfast hosted by the store's now-former fashion director Amanda Brooks to celebrate their exclusive sale of Maiyet.

And it is an unusual story. Van Zyl is a respected human rights lawyer who worked at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. "I came to the United States and I opened a non-profit organization here in New York," he explained. With a need to continue to give back to the international community, van Zyl and co-founder Daniel Lubetzky founded Maiyet to encourage artisans to produce high-level goods and promote local entrepreneurship in developing countries such as Colombia, India, Italy and Kenya.

Does any of this sound like the origin of any other luxury label? Of course not. Thus, the industrious duo needed assistance from someone with a design background and in stepped Kristy Caylor, who previously ran Gap's Product (Red) campaign and was president of Band of Outsiders. With around 200 workers at the moment, Maiyet and their non-profit sister organization, NEST, plan to keep growing.

Below, watch artisans in Varanasi, India weave silks by hand that are used in the linings and exteriors of Maiyet's line. And, check out some of Maiyet's pieces that are available exclusively at Barneys.

MAIYET | India Hand Weaving from M A I Y E T on Vimeo.

PHOTO GALLERIES

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