We could all use a little bit more vitamin sea in our lives right about now but the Parisian founder of cool fashion label Matchali Beachwear tells us you can always feel free and happy in her made-for-the-tropics designs.
Options: Tell us a little more about Matchali Beachwear which, we understand, you started in 2016 to support a charitable organisation in Kolkata, India.
Virginie Dupuis: That’s right. I had met Julie Das, the Kuala Lumpur-based coordinator of a small organisation called Balo, based in Kolkata. Julie is French but supports Balo’s school with all her heart. She lived in Kolkata for two years and is very close to India as her husband and his family are originally from Kolkata.
And what was it about Balo that prompted you to not just support them, but also set up a business in order to do so?
I was very interested in the charity the minute I heard about it. So I followed Julie to India for the first time in December 2015 to see firsthand what they do and immediately fell in love with the organisation. The kids and teachers there do such amazing work that I really wanted to help them. They are so inspiring but let’s also not forget the power of the ladies who established Balo. All are of different educational backgrounds, origins and cultures but all give so much love and have set up such a great educational programme for these slum kids. Being involved as an active sponsor gave me the energy to create Matchali.
It’s an interesting name. It means “fish” in Hindi?
Yes, it does. I had purchased a little fish accessory made entirely with thread by Indian women from a fairtrade shop in Kolkata’s flower market. When Julie pushed me to start up my small business, my first question was what to call it. I really wanted a strong symbol that would link back to my first visit to Kolkata and I thought the fish was the perfect symbol, having bought it just the day before. It also helps that my sign is of the water element, and fish in Asia, according to the science of feng shui, represents wealth and prosperity. The perfect name!
But Matchali Beachwear supports other charitable organisations besides Balo, correct?
I am happy to support organisations that assist talented people who want to create a better future for their children. Three of the tailors I work with are a part of charitable organisations like Lady Ayaz, a sewing centre in Klang; Tanma Women, a cooperative run by and for Burmese refugee women; and Greater Action, a 100% volunteer-driven charitable organisation that focuses on improving the lives of refugees in and around Kuala Lumpur. I was raised by strong women and I truly believe that when women support each other, incredible things happen.
What inspires Matchali’s designs?
Summer. Colour. Handprinted fabric generally inspires me but, as a rule, my dresses are made for women of all shapes and sizes, all in limited quantities, as I believe your clothing should be as unique as you are. Matchali’s accessories line is inspired by my own needs when I am on holiday, such as my favourite Beach Kit, which comes with a relaxing pillow, bikini beach bag, pareo and macramé sunglass straps.
Tell us about your many years of living in Asia, and now, Malaysia.
I found balance here and learnt how nothing is impossible if you learn from others. I love the diversity of the region ... Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China, Thailand, Japan and more. All have different cultures, food and landscapes but the strong Asian sense of family has always captivated and fascinated me.
Matchali Beachwear’s designs truly evoke happy beach memories. Where would you like to go once the world seems safe again?
I am an avid beach lover and diver. Two years ago, we explored North Sulawesi and think diving there is one of the best ever, together with Sipadan in Malaysia. So now, I am dreaming of Raja Ampat in Indonesia.
Do you have a list of favourite beaches, though?
There are too many fabulous paradises but some of my best memories include Turtle Beach in Pulau Perhentian, Redang, Lankayan and Datai Bay in Langkawi. Slightly further are the beaches of the Maldives, the Seychelles and Thailand.
What about the beaches of your home country?
The best and largest beaches in France are on the west coast. It is wild and beautiful. But personally, I love the beaches of the French Riviera. They are smaller but the weather is beautiful all year long. But to experience the Riviera at its best, visit in May, June and September.
What book would you bring with you?
Theo’s Odyssey by Catherine Clement. This book opens up a world of spirituality and I love reading about the fabulous relationship between Theo and his aunt Martha.
You live in Damansara Heights, KL. What’s the perfect weekend like for you?
It’s lovely here, surrounded by greenery, birdsong and flowers. I love being in the jungle or waking up early, having a two-hour walk and simply taking my time. I love time with family and friends. Oh, and riding our Vespa around the city to discover hidden gems!
This article first appeared on May 10, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.