Natalija's Designer On Peace Silk And Fair Production

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 year ago | Features

Image: NATALIJA designer, Natalija Bouropoulos.

NATALIJA is a local Sydney label that specialises in silk slip dresses and camis that are “both bedroom and brunch appropriate” – as designer Natalija Bouropoulos so eloquently puts it. This is no mean task either, especially not when the silk from which those special garments have been spun is actually peace silk – meaning that the worms aren’t killed in the process. But more on that conversation later. When we spoke with Bouropoulos, she told us a little bit about how she first came to use peace silk in her collections and why it’s such an important tenet of the business today.

She also discussed Fair production and the process of moving NATALIJA’s manufacturing processes to Sydney. Which has allowed the brand to work with local makers and to minimise waste from oversupply, by switching to a made to order model. This sort of contemplation and desire to improve is critical in an industry that is currently dominated by a culture of disposable fashion. Which means that NATALIJA’s well-made, thoughtful silk pieces are positioned pretty high up on our wish list for party season dressing this year. 

Rosie Dalton: Can you tell us a little bit about how you first established your label, NATALIJA?
Natalija Bouropoulos: The idea for NATALIJA was born in 2014 from my own personal struggle to find nightwear that was understated and contemporary. All that I found available was either too matronly or overly seductive. After 7 years pursuing a corporate career in marketing my passion for this path was fading and this idea was the creative outlet I craved. I began designing a line of silk underpinnings and soon after I had received an overwhelmingly positive response from women who were reaching out to me to say, “Thank you for creating such lovely things… I felt beautiful from the second I put my piece on.” This feedback led me to the realisation that I was onto something special.

Rosie: What are some of your earliest fashion memories, or what was it that initially drew you to working within the field?
Natalija: I believe that a sense of style is innate. I think that some people are intuitively attracted to it, find it and seek it out in whatever environment they grow up in. I am certainly one of these people. Like most girls I was introduced to the concept of personal style by my mother. She instilled in me the value of ‘quality over quantity’ and made me aware of that certain ‘attitude’ a woman can have when wearing beautiful, well-made clothes. Watching how she dressed, I became observant of how an outfit can transform how you feel and subsequently started to develop my own taste and sense of style. I never expected to work in fashion, but my passion for well-designed garments and frustration with the lack quality and innovation in the nightwear space, led me to launch my namesake label.

Rosie: How did you feel that you could make a positive difference to the modern fashion industry?
Natalija: The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more I am convinced that people need to buy less, but buy better. It is my passion to create long-lasting, precious pieces of impeccable quality and strive to do so in the most sustainable way possible.

Rosie: In your own words, what is peace silk and how does it differ from traditional silk?
Natalija: Traditionally, silk is produced by boiling the cocoons of silk worms, unwinding the strand so the silk fibres don’t break – however, this means that the silk worm dies in the process. Meanwhile peace silk is a process that allows the silkworm to emerge from the cocoon and complete its natural life cycle. The empty cocoons are then used to produce silk.

Image: the Silk Slip Dress in Black.

Rosie: How did you first get into using peace silk and why does this remain an important part of your approach?
Natalija: As an extension of our brand philosophy, we place a strong emphasis on improving where we source our materials and the ways in which we manufacture our collections. We’re conscious about the wastefulness that is so prevalent in the fashion industry’s production systems, so it is very important to us that our garments are produced with the lowest possible environmental and human impact. With sustainable fashion being a relatively emerging concept, we wish to seek constant improvements in our practices. Currently our garments are made from the finest silk fabrics that we have traced from the most ethical sources available and ensured that our silks are derived from sustainable cultivation processes.

Rosie: Can you tell us about what ‘Fair’ production means to you and how you apply these principles to NATALIJA?
Natalija: It is not only important for us to have a positive impact on the lives of the NATALIJA woman who wears 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. Our most significant achievement is that we have now moved our manufacturing processes to Sydney, working with local makers to assemble our garments. We love that this not only supports Australian craftsmanship, but also allows us to implement a made to order model and reduce waste from oversupply (which is a common flaw in the current fashion retail chain). This new system also enables us to step out from the traditional fashion calendar and produce season-less, but still highly relevant collections for our customer. We 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. 

Rosie: Why do you believe that it’s so important for people to be aware of how their clothes were made in this day and age?
Natalija: Today, the clothing industry is the second most polluting industry in the world –second only to oil. For me, there is a space to love fashion yet support sustainable practices. As a brand we are hoping to be a part of this movement to shift consumer’s mindsets back to appreciating quality and longevity rather than supporting ‘fast fashion’ ideals – that is, consuming more but paying less for poor quality garments. Knowing where your clothes are made and being more mindful as consumers is key to breaking the chain of trend driven, throwaway fashion. I like consuming. But when I’m buying things, it has to be something very special and what I feel is important. It’s a very thought-out and a carefully considered process. I’d never go out and buy lots of things in one go. I prefer to buy one unique, very good quality product at a time. Whether it’s in my wardrobe or for the home, it is about slowly building and adding to it, so that it becomes a part of you.

Rosie: And what does the journey of a NATALIJA piece look like usually, from concept to creation?
Natalija: Well, there is always a pen and a notebook in my bag. I not only use it to write down fleeting thoughts, but sketches for new designs. It is quite relaxing to let your mind go, put pen to paper and to see what comes out; it just feels real and authentic. I truly understand who comes to me – her life, her wardrobe, and her everyday routine. There’s an emotional connection there. In the end, we’re all the same people, with a shared philosophy. So to put it simply, I design for myself.  I also draw inspiration from the fabrics, their movement and beauty and, to a lesser degree, from books that forecast colour trends in fashion. In the NATALIJA woman’s busy modern routine time is the ultimate luxury, which is why longevity is a significant driver behind our collections. We strongly believe that the contemporary woman’s wardrobe should be built upon easy to wear, well-made pieces that are thoughtfully designed to stand the test of time.

Rosie: How would you describe the most recent collection and what are some of your favourite pieces for the summer months ahead?
Natalija: Every piece is designed to be long lasting and made to transition seamlessly from day through to evenings. Complimented by earthy inspired tones, the colour palette keeps versatility front-of-mind and forms the foundation of an enduring wardrobe. I love the mix of silks we have used in the collection as a whole – the contrasting textures of the glossy satin against the matte of the crepe de chine. One of my favourite pieces is the Draped Short Silk Slip – it is both bedroom and brunch appropriate. 

Rosie: Finally, what does the term ‘ethical fashion’ mean to you personally?
Natalija: Doing more with less and relying on a wardrobe of fewer, more versatile pieces that last.


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