By Brittany Wiley
BAPA Business Liaison
Maggie O’Reilly, a native southsider, is the creative mind behind Mayta Collection, an ethical fashion brand driven by her personal travels and connection to culture. Handcrafted in Peru and Morroco, her one–of–a–kind designs include accessories and home goods. O’Reilly plans to expand into men’s accessories such as leather travel bags and duffels in 2020.
The birth of the brand started before the designing, inspired by O’Reilly’s wanderlust and her desire to immerse herself into country and culture during her travels. While studying in Mexico, she began to explore the markets, which were teeming with local artisans selling their goods. Her intrigue grew. More travels followed: Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. She spoke with the artisans, heard their stories, and purchased handcrafted pieces that she brought back and sold casually.
After marrying Gustavo Gomez, who is Peruvian, her tie to Latin America deepened. A trek up Macchu Picchu and time spent with family in Cusco birthed more intrigue. With the help of her new father in law, who speaks Quechua (an indigenous language), she was able to communicate with and gain the trust of the artisans. She began to work with them to create the unique pieces that make up her brand. Mayta Collection became official in 2016.
For two years, O’Reilly perfected her process, from sketch to shipping. The government in Peru invited her to a tradeshow and sponsored her travels. She increased her connections and ability to find textiles. All the while, following a small production model. O’Reilly doesn’t plan to change that. She is passionate about each piece – the fabrics are hand–picked, and each one is made by one of the five people who work in the workshops. The textiles are extras bought from families or at auctions. Each piece has a story that O’Reilly feels personally connected to.
When it was time to expand, O’Reilly chose Morocco. She visited Marrakesh and was accompanied by Gomez. Together they scavenged the markets of the city. It was a big risk to take with the characteristic prejudice toward women and their lack of connection in that country. The couple would frequently be asked to meet at night, after markets were closed, to see handiwork or they were ferried into alleyways, away from the crowds. With risk came reward when O’Reilly found a genuine, trustworthy young man whose father and uncle had been in the rug business for years. That young man still runs her operations.
Mayta Collection is built on relationships and personal connections. O’Reilly stresses the importance of this in her business, But she also shows tremendous care for the other entrepreneurs in the Beverly/Morgan Park community. She lifts others up and offers advice willingly and with gusto, simply to share her knowledge. She says she gets “pure enjoyment” out of watching our small business community grow, that it is in her nature to help and collaborate. And “the more resources and help and collaboration we have going on, the better,” said O’Reilly. “We are all in this together…and our neighborhood deserves to be highlighted.”
To carry a piece of culture in the form of bold, contemporary fashion, visit O’Reilly’s website, www.maytacollection.com or her Instagram page, @maytacollection. Mayta Collection designs are also carried at Turkey Chicago.