Industry innovator Natalia Allen takes a minimalist approach to designing her eponymous line, which is robot made, sustainable and completely original.
For every busy woman wrestling with the paradox of an overstuffed closet and yet still “nothing to wear,” a capsule wardrobe of essential items that fit and flatter is the style equivalent of Shangri-La.
As the founder of Design Futurist, a design consultancy that has created innovative and sustainable textiles and clothing lines for brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, designer Natalia Allen’s ultimate quest was to find design solutions to environmental challenges. Defined by her core philosophies of modernity, luxury, sustainability and function, her latest venture, an eponymous capsule collection, tackles this most elusive of conundrums: How does one narrow down a closet to create a dream wardrobe?
Natalia’s solution? One modern, lightweight dress in a high-performance stretch fiber designed for every shape and as Allen describes, “made seamlessly and sustainably by a robot in the USA.”
We caught up with Natalia recently to take a look at the collection, hear what she thinks about the future of fashion and find out a little more about those robots…
Rowena Ritchie: You received Parsons’ prestigious Designer of the Year award when you graduated, was chosen by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and Fast Company named your consultancy one of the country’s 100 Most Creative Small Businesses. Clearly you’re inspired by what you do; what keeps you passionate about the fashion business?
Natalia Allen: I think design can be a beautiful process; I love its combination of art and science. I enjoy bringing a concept to life in a manner that is both intelligent and aesthetic. I’m curious by nature, so I love the constant discovery.
RR: Tell me, what was behind the decision to launch such a minimalist collection?
NA: I started with the question: “Are clothes modern?” I had a vision for oneness, wholeness and continuity by making the designs seamlessly. My goal was to design one dress that can be worn in a thousand ways, which I think is the perfect approach to dressing for modern women’s lives.
RR: What was most important part of trying to create sustainable clothing?
NA: We are a design company, first and foremost. We believe that great design is sustainable at its core. We focus on making beautiful products in a beautiful way. Our philosophy is to design the process, product and experience.
RR: I read this from stylist Anna Schiffel, “As a stylist I see so much fashion that I get fed up with it, and I just want to return to classics, like Levi’s 501s.” Do you think we’ve reached a point of saturation with fashion and that maybe people are ready for a simpler sense of dressing?
NA: In my opinion, fashion is no longer one directional. The industry is far too global and diverse. That said, I do think many women have busy lives, therefore their time is very valuable. As a result, they are interested in timeless, impeccably made and attractive pieces – rather than the fast-turning trend items.
RR: You describe the line as being made “seamlessly by a robot.” Can you tell us more about this and how the production of your line is different from others?
NA: We use robots to make our dresses, seamlessly. The robots are programmed by skilled technicians. They save a significant amount of textile waste, energy and fuel because they consolidate the manufacturing process into fewer steps. The robots also make it possible for me to manufacture high quality clothing close to home. Our factory looks a bit like a lab as opposed to a sweatshop, and we like that.
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All Images: Natalia Allen