"What we consider niche today, sustainable fashion, will gradually become a norm."
What is the concept of your shop?
NILA focuses on sustainable fashion and consciously sourced jewellery, home décor and just about anything else, really! We sell anything from bamboo toothbrushes to designer carpets, as long as we love the product and are convinced of its positive impact.
Why did you decide to found a sustainable fashion store?
I am a lawyer by profession and human rights have always been a subject close to my heart. I wanted to have a fashion and design store, where everything in it ethically produced. When I started five years ago, the selection was much smaller then it is now, I am so happy to see this. It allows us to grow and offer more to our customers each season.
You design one Dress yourself each season - why only one design?
This has been incidental so far. Each season there is something we miss in the ready-to-wear sustainable collections that we would like to have. So we go and ask a local designer to have a go at it and usually then produce the style in more colors. We are planning to expand this further so hopefully there will be more in the future!
Who are your customers?
Our customers are sophisticated people with open minds and hearts. Working for them is what I love most about my job. At the moment, our customers are mostly women, but that is also changing as we expand our mens’ section.
What personal experiences have you had that have made you care about your impact?
Well certainly I have seen enough on my travels that made me care. Visiting places like Uzbekistan with its devastated land and enslaved people I think would change anyone’s perception of the fashion business. It is often enough to open ourselves to information, read up a little bit or at least use common sense when shopping. Less is often more!
What is your favourite part about working with sustainable fashion designers?
I love meeting them at fashion fairs, hearing their stories and seeing them grow over the seasons. And obviously reporting great sales to them!
What do you think will be different in the future for the fashion industry?
I think what we consider niche today, sustainable fashion, will gradually become a norm. Through the slow fashion movement certainly, but also due to greenwashing of fast fashion chains. It will be all the more important for customers to gain confidence to in Vivienne Westwoods’words “buy less, choose well, make it last” to actually make an impact.
What are things to look for when shopping for sustainable pieces?
Certainly quality, because with ever expanding brands that are sustainable or label themselves that way, the quality varies. Study the labels and most importantly, ask and demand simple and honest answers.
What advice can you give to someone else who wants to open a sustainable fashion store?
Know your customers, always ask what they need and be ready to take some risks! It is a road less travelled, but all the more fun.
Interviewed May 2017 by Cherie Birkner