Some days ago, Franka Ramia welcomed us into her workshop in Barcelona, where she received us and talked to us about her story, her way of seeing the world, and her work. We rapidly realized that every piece she creates is unique and that she puts a bit (or a lot) of her soul into them. Franka is much more than a dressmaker; she is a cook, designer, scientist, artist, and artisan, a bunch of roles that have resulted in one-of-a-kind products.
In Italy, Franka grew up in the midst of nature surrounded by the countryside and forests. There, she discovered its purity and she had her first encounter with clothes, her mother’s closet, where she found fabrics, shapes, colors, and textures that marked her. Motivated by the dressmaking world, when she was 20 she started sewing. At first, she was self-taught but, step by step, she discovered and tried out more advanced techniques After some time she moved to Barcelona, where she opened a little shop close to the Palau de la Música. By that time she made all kinds of garments, from handkerchiefs to dresses, controlling the whole process, from acquiring the linen fabric to sewing and dyeing it.
Not yet involved in the cycling scene, in August 2016 Franka was given her first cycling kit. As she tried it, it was not what she was expecting, she got overwhelmed and felt trapped, like being cooked. If she was feeling like that, for sure, there would be more people having the same experience. Having worked with high-quality fabric, she had higher standards and she knew how to appreciate good and traditional materials.
This way, she decided to shut down her small shop of Ciutat Vella to create comfortable quality products for cyclists. She wanted to provide a material that would not pollute the environment and that was not harmful and unpleasant for the body. Besides, cycling is fashion, it is based on patterns, shapes, and colors, so she took the chance to create an attractive, as well as functional, design.
Thus, based on what she knew, she focused on the dyeing process. She went out into the woods and fields to recollect all kinds of plants, herbs, and leaves, to later use them in her workshop to create dyes and compositions on different natural fabrics. In this process, she found a way to herself and discovered her true passion. What used to be a game when she was a child was now what filled her spirit. In January 2017 she started MÃÄD, which stands for My Ancient Affairs Dyed, and symbolizes the reconnection with her young self.
Since we could see firsthand the dyeing process, we understood the subtleness of the method and Franka’s dedication to creating every single piece. Everything starts in a family workshop in Poblenou, where the jersey patterns are cut and later taken to Santa Coloma de Gramenet for sewing. After that, the garment is washed, dried, and from that moment on the magic starts.
Franka opens the jersey and lays it down on the workshop table. She has several leaves and branches that she recollected earlier in the morning and precisely places them to achieve the desired eco print. The process might seem random but it is accurate and smart. The composition is finished, she makes a wrap, ties it like salami, and places it in a big pot with the dye. It looks like as we were cooking, the workshop suddenly smells sweet.
Every dye is different, green, yellow, and brown colors are easier than red and blue. Besides, throughout the year, each plant and fruit ripens at its precise moment, which results in several palettes and plants for the ecoprint depending on the season. The plants have properties that can be transmitted to the fabric by means of the dye. Thus, MÃÄD can make you go faster or make you relaxed depending on the plants used in the dyeing process.
After half an hour she takes the jersey out of the soup, wrings it out, and opens the wrap. At first sight, the colors are very strong and the leaf shapes are clearly visible on the fabric. She hangs it out to dry and we can already distinguish the characteristic punk style of MÃÄD. The particular musette shape with the string marks in each one of her creations is there, the imperfection that brings exquisite beauty to the garment. Once it is dry, we can wash it and it will be ready to wear! But first, every single detail counts and ironing becomes an essential part of the process. Besides, since every garment is unique Franka attaches a label with its ‘birth date’ before sending it to the customer.
In MÃÄD, we will be able to find several products: short and long sleeve jerseys, an MTB shirt, or base layers. Currently, these are made out of Merino wool, but Franka also worked with bamboo and she is now experimenting with coffee viscose. The design will be totally unique, there are not two equal pieces, unlike other brands.
We were lucky to try a few garments and the sensations are hard to explain, like trying to describe colors to someone who has never seen them. The wool shirt instantly embraces you and feels like home, whereas the bamboo is fresher and smoother to the touch. Once on the bike, their properties are outstanding. When you climb and start sweating the material is perfectly breathable so that you do not get soaked but feel fresh instead and, as soon as you start descending, you instantly dry up and it brings the necessary warm comfort. Aside from the thermal properties, the fibers are antibacterial, the fabric does not smell and we will avoid adverse skin reactions. An ideal product for bikepacking, which also protects 100% from the UV sunlight in the case of vegetal fibers. Finally, if you crash and rip the fabric, the fibers can be easily patched, which translates into a durable product.
Regarding the final product, the possibilities are infinite, from the colors to the compositions. Since these are natural colors the final palette is always in harmony, everything matches, and nothing feels out of place. We can tell Franka what we want or let her surprise us. Her creations are real masterpieces that reflect her personality but always inspired by the customer. Since it is handmade there is a larger range of available sizes, therefore, we will always find the perfect fit.
The employed fabrics and dyes are natural and eco-friendly. The cut and sewing processes are local (all in Barcelona) and the transport is done by bicycle. All the dyes and materials for the eco print are obtained without any chemical process and directly from plants, vegetal waste, or minerals, which do not result in toxic waste. Thus, the environmental impact is practically non-existing.
As Franka told us, within 60 seconds, 26% of what touches your skin penetrates it. Since these are non-toxic natural fabrics and dyes, we will not have any adverse reaction, but the complete opposite.
In modern life, handmade products are not always appreciated, and the essence of the craftsman is being lost. Franka wants to pass on all her values to the garments choosing quality, local, organic, and eco-friendly products from the beginning to the end of the production of a garment. Living in Barcelona, the furthest product comes from Morocco (Henna), and she counts with a huge variety of local and foreign plants that turn out perfect for dyes and eco prints.
Her main idea is to provide a garment from which the client and the planet can benefit. This takes away from polyester and moves closer to what is natural like wool and the vegetal world. In the end, Franka cares more about the functionality and the ecological impact than the appearance, even though the designs are spectacular.
One of the latest products is a white patch with the word MÃÄD. Her idea is that you place it wherever and that you dye it as you ride. A canvas that reflects your life.
Eclipsed for having the best bicycle with the latest components, sometimes we obsess so much about the bike performance that we forget about ourselves. Feeling comfortable as we ride is more than a right bikefit, it is about the shoes, the helmet, and the cycling kit. Some years ago, Franka realized that and decided to invest all her efforts and knowledge in creating MÃÄD, a natural, eco-friendly, and organic dyeing apparel brand, visually astonishing, and above everything, so comfortable that it adapts to any situation. Because dressing, like eating and breathing, is a basic need that protects you from the outside world.