When I went to the Ethical Fashion Show in Berlin I got to know a lot of new sustainable brands, not just clothing brands but also accessories brands. One of the brands that caught my attention was Najha, a Portuguese brand that is designing complements made of cork. I was very curious about their history and why they came with this idea. So, I managed to set an interview with Daniela the CEO of the brand and I found out that it is never to late to reach your dream if you work hard and never give up. She explained me step by step how she build what is now her brand Najha.
1.What is the story behind the brand?
The story behind the bran is GREAT
I was born in a Business family, so I should followed the Management thing… And that’s what I did although I knew that I wasn’t following my heart… At the end of 5 years working in the family Shoe company (in the Financial Department) I started to work a little bit with the Commercial Department for new creations and at the same time I was studying Fashion at night during 2 more years … In these two years of preparation, I was studying how the brand was going to be:
The registration was the first thing that I did (2006)
Materials research… I was vegetarian at the moment and to use leather was not good..In this 2 years I had studied a lot of design, I had read many books from high fashion brands, GREAT Work! My friends started to talk about cork and I started researching it, and I had never let it go! GREAT Learnings!
And at the end of 7 years I just quitted the job and went to Italy to study Design and Bags Patterns in ARS Sutoria International School, this was in 2010. After one month of intensive classes I came back to Portugal. At this point I already had:
The concept and philosophy of the brand;
The design was defined; But the strategy was missing…So I just sited in front of the computer and the first thing that I wrote was the Marketing Plan for the brand, the other things just came in a natural and fluid way. I went to Photoshop and Illustrator courses to work on my own photos and I attended a web design course to make the first Najha Website!
By this time: I designed, I made patterns, I cut the material. It was all made by my hand, going to the little ateliers for stitching, and first commercial contacts in Portugal and Germany through GDS Design area. Always happily running a lot. Over time the brand was growing and I started to work with more people directly with me. I bought the new NAJHA Website and I started subcontracting new services for new developments.
2.What is the Philosophy of the brand?
So the Philosophy of the brand: First of all, a new way of seeing fashion. A new Fashion for the World with nice looks, but also with emotions (I wanted to give emotions to people), aaannnddd! Natural materials with GREAT look, because I am Vegan and I love Fashion, so it’s about being detailed dressed with different and nice clothing.
So That’s the Philosophy: Fashion/Design, bring emotions and a new wait to see fashion and life, natural Materials (Cork for outside and organic cotton for lining) – VEGAN
With these points I created the Brand mission and Motto: Change the world! (Bringing new fashion consciousness)
3. How did you come with the idea of working with that material?
Natural, soft, high quality materials, very Portuguese and also it contributes to the environment balance with the cork. It contributes to offer the organic cotton farmers a better way of living using the organic cotton for lining! Then I decided to try it for an exhibition in Contacto Holistico (Aveiro). I made a special collection for this exhibition, from then I never used another material … I just loved it and I studied the best way to give it a better and more fashionable support! From then I never stopped..
4.Do you thing consumers (finally) show interest in sustainable products?
In my case, I focus the consumer’s attention in the fashion style that I am creating with NAJHA, with different looks! And they loved it. I focus the attention in the Sustainability subject, and it’s really a high add value for the brand. It gives consumers a new vision in which they can choose to be in fashion and contribute for a better Planet and a better way of living in other countries. And when I explain them that the cork is used to create energy for the factories themselves, it is when they got totally impressed.
5.What brand do you most admire that are doing interesting things in sustainability?
I don’t have one specific brand that I like the most, I think there are a group of fashion brands with the same sustainable consciousness and that are working their vision, dreams and values in the same way than me! Some work more the environment part, others the fair trade part! And the most important of all is that big brands like Prada are starting to use sustainable materials and I think this is amazing.
6.What makes your brand different?
Is the all mixed concept already explained above: Fashion/Design, bring emotions and a new way to see fashion and life and Natural Materials (Cork for outside and organic cotton for lining) – VEGAN
Each collection has a special theme, in which through it I try to bring emotions to consumers, always related with my own life experiences and the specific moments that I am living, each collection is related with life, with my own soul. For example, the “World Forests” Collection came when I went for several walks to Santiago de Compostela Way. At that time, I needed to be alone with myself and discover the magic of the connection with the Nature.
7.Where did you get the idea and inspiration for your product?
The inspirations come from my life experiences, from my emotions, from my inner struggles, from my moments of freedom, from my connection with Nature and the Universe! They are my inspirations, the ideas with the bags or shoes concepts just come naturally with all these and at the end everything is like a puzzle. Always keeping in mind the most crazy and expansive ways of creating the New Fashion!
All pictures courtesy of Nahja accessories