Upcycling: A new talent in Madagascar

21 June 2023
ITC News

For Micro-, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day 2023, we celebrate small entrepreneurs from all over the world. Small businesses account for 90% of the world's businesses, 60 to 70% of employment, and 50% of the global economy. They contribute to local and national economies and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. For MSME Day, we have interviewed Sofiane Bouhali, founder of Azala, a 100% upcycled Malagasy clothing brand for children and babies.

Tell us about your company.

My name is Sofiane Bouhali, I grew up in Madagascar. I created Azala, a clothing brand for children and babies, and soon, for adults that uses 100% upcycled materials, made from fabric scraps and textile waste. Azala is Malagasy and is the equivalent to Oh la la in French.

Our DNA is unique: We are creative and industrial, and our goal is to democratize upcycling. We have built a sustainable and responsible ecosystem to manufacture our products and to find innovative techniques for recycling and upcycling fabric scraps. We work hand-in-hand with textile mills to optimize the quality of usable scraps and accessories. Our quilting is made from shredded cotton transformed into wadding panels. The rest of our garments are made from small offcuts recovered from large mills' fabric mattresses - after cutting and obsolete, dormant fabrics and accessories.

We launched the brand in November 2022, with a single product: the quilted vest. A few months later, we are well on the way to launching a more complete collection on the theme of quilting and upcycling.

What are your needs to further grow?

Our first and probably most important challenge is to get the word out. We chose to start out exclusively online, with a limited budget, and we have spent a substantial part of our time looking for relays for the visibility of our brand. Our needs entirely correlated with our challenges.

The success of a brand, particularly in the high-end segment, depends on the visibility of the project and its message. And, like any young company, we are looking to forge a variety of partnerships, whether commercial, industrial or financial.

We also have a more intrinsic challenge; we are ambassadors for Made-in-Madagascar, and we spend a lot of time spreading an authentic message about the ultra-positive social and environmental impact of our project.

What has been your greatest success?

Our latest crowdfunding campaign was a real trigger for the brand. We raised over €10,000 in pre-sales and support, and our launch video garnered almost 20,000 views. We felt Azala's first change, we were very proud!

What message do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Be patient. Which doesn't mean waiting around with your arms crossed, but rather that there are efforts you make a thousand times in a vacuum, and then one day, without really knowing why, it happens. Your dream comes true!