Interview: NATALIJA Founder
I discovered NATALIJA during a trip to Sydney last year and was instantly captivated by the gorgeous silhouettes and luxurious fabrics. If I hadn't only had carry-on luggage I might have gone nuts in there. As a female-owned Australian small business, NATALIJA has undergone a sustainable transformation this year and now offers made-to-order garments and bespoke designs. They offer sizes 4-18 and all garments use natural materials. They also donate on your behalf to a charity of your choice whenever you make a purchase.
NATALIJA has received praise and attention from several Australian and International publications, including Vogue Australia, Harpers Bazaar, Elle and InStyle. I decided to send through some questions to the brand's namesake founder and I was delighted to receive such thorough responses. Have a read of the interview below.
Can you tell me a bit about NATALIJA the brand?
I started NATALIJA in 2014, leaving a decade-long career in marketing. My original intention was to break free from the 9 to 5 grind and pursue a career toward greater creative expression. Though the more I learnt about the fashion business, the more I was upset to know that the problems of our global human and environmental challenges were created by the apparel industry.
Becoming a mother has made me even more aware that my present actions will affect my daughter, her generation, and all those to follow. I felt responsible, and a need to do things differently, build a brand with sincerity, producing ethical fashion whilst contributing to the world in a more positive way.
How do you define sustainable, ethical fashion?
It’s quite hard for companies to be completely flawless when it comes to sustainability and ethics. You need to decide what it means to you, and honour that.
For us, it is not only important to have a positive impact on the lives of the NATALIJA woman who wear our garments, but also that we work to minimise any negative impacts of our manufacturing process on the environment and the wider community as well.
We also believe in creating beautiful, wearable garments that the NATALIJA woman can wear all year round and for many years to come, therefore our emphasis is on producing fewer, highly considered collections rather than abiding by the industry’s conventional seasons.
Where are NATALIJA clothes made and by whom?
Each NATALIJA piece is proudly 100% Australian made. This allows our brand to support the growth and livelihood of our local industry, and ensure each of our partners are treated with dignity and respect.
We see our suppliers as partners and they are either individual or small, family-run businesses. They share our values of fair conditions, are paid living wages, treat others with dignity, and work in safe and comfortable environments. Our relationship with each person is built on a mutual respect for one another. We're in constant contact and visit them regularly. They're so much a part of our lives, as I’m sure we are to theirs.
We keep our supply chain as short as possible by working with partners that are in close proximity to one another. By consciously making in Australia, we hope to reinvigorate the local industry and keep these wonderful people in jobs doing what they love.
Who wears NATALIJA clothes?
She walks with an air of confidence and effortless grace. Exuding modern femininity, a certain softness contradicted by an inherent strength. She is always true to her own style, classic and timeless yet always current. Her clothes move with her yet do not wear her. She is effortlessly cool, you’ll know her when you see her. She is the NATALIJA woman.
Why did you decide to reinvent your brand as a made-to-order business model?
I have lived the unsustainable pace of fashion, and wished to shift out of a relentless growth model into a more responsible one. It was apparent that that way of working was stuck in the past, rather than focused on the future. Becoming a mother has made me even more aware that my present actions will affect my daughter, her generation, and all those to follow. I felt responsible and needed to do things differently.
So I decided to realign NATALIJA to work with, not against, the large-scale shifts
in the industry in an attempt to reduce our waste as a fashion brand,
and eliminate overproduction and excess, without compromising on style.
It took 6 months but I have completely reinvented how the business runs. We are early adopters of what should be “fashion’s new normal”, advocating a slower, more mindful model of consumerism. Operating as a made-to-order business means NATALIJA only produces garments from environmentally-friendly fabrics when someone places an order online, and delivers to them within 2 weeks. By also selling directly to our customers, we are able to provide quality, responsibly made clothing at a lower price point.
Most of the sustainable fashion options out there are limited to women, have you considered designing a men’s range?
No, not really. As empowering women through their wardrobes has always been my aim and I’ll continue to do so. For me, it is more about the woman who wears my garments, not about the garments that adorn the woman. I believe in designing to make women feel beautiful in their own skin. Every piece is intentionally designed to flatter all figures and invite the confidence within intended to empower and make them confident.
How do you think the future of fashion can be more inclusive?
It is about ensuring that inclusion is embedded in all aspects of your business - from the design table, to voices of influence and the women in your campaigns.
As a brand, we feel it is our responsibility to reflect our women’s needs and amplify their voices, especially when it comes to celebrating diversity. We are here to listen and work alongside the women who wear and love our clothes; celebrating women as they are.
What are some of your favourite Aussie brands?
Bassike, Viktoria & Woods; and while Zimmerman is not my style, I have appreciation for the brand and what the women have built.
What does the future hold for Natalija?
As a small business, we see value in taking time to pause, look back and appreciate just how far we’ve come. Finding this time to reflect is essential if we want to look forward to the future. We are so looking forward to what the new year has in store for NATALIJA. Without giving too much away, you’ll see beautiful additions to our collection, an exciting collaboration, a possible pop-up store (with hope), and that’s just the beginning.