NATHALIA JMAG INTERVIEW
ARTWORK AND WRITING BY GUEN DUNSTAN
MAY 25, 2020
Dressed in a leopard print vintage coat, black fur bucket hat, and her own hand-sewn patchwork Levi’s jeans, Nathalia JMag clearly was a creative. In conversation with the sustainable fashion designer at the MFA, we discuss her Colombian heritage, experience on Project Runway, as well as her creative process. Passionate about conserving the environment and protecting animals, Nathalia demonstrates through her brand that fashion does not have to hurt our climate.
Born in Colombia, Nathalia immigrated to Framingham, Massachusetts at the age of seven. She attended Framingham State University, where she studied Fashion Design and Merchandising, before going on to receive her Master’s in Nature, Culture, and Sustainability from the Rhode Island School of Design this past December.
Nathalia’s background in fashion includes her experience as a contestant on the 15th season of Project Runway. “I learned so much about myself through the show. Through each challenge, I learned more about the direction I wanted to take my brand,” says Nathalia. For her, being on the show was like attending school all over again. While the competitive atmosphere and pressure to create was traumatic at times, it gave her the skill set she needed as a designer.
“I have a unique point of view since I am Colombian American, so I draw inspiration from both sides of the spectrum,” says Nathalia. Traditional Colombian culture has a subtle influence on her designs, yet she still maintains a contemporary and wearable style, whether it’s through the silhouettes or colors she uses. In addition to her heritage, she draws lots of inspiration from travel, which she tries to do a few times a year.
“Streetwear, ethereal, and repurposed” are three words Nathalia uses to describe her brand’s aesthetic. While creating pieces in her studio, she enjoys upcycling clothes from thrift stores like Savers or Goodwill. She also turns to the clothing that she already owns for inspiration and even raids her husband’s closet in search of garments to repurpose. Deadstock and leftover fabrics from places like Fabscrap also provide Nathalia with unique sustainable materials. “How could I repurpose this before I donate it?” is the general rule that Nathalia lives by when it comes to redesigning, upcycling, and repurposing clothing.
Some role models she has looked to while starting her sustainable fashion brand include Stella McCartney, for her innovation in the industry and unique aesthetic; Eileen Fisher, for her successful sustainable brand; and Reformation, for their transparency about the carbon emissions that go into each specific garment.
Nathalia expresses her desire to bring a breath of fresh air to Boston, a city that can often lack creativity. “The fact that the city tends to be dull has inspired me to bring some color here,” says Nathalia. This need for originality has motivated Nathalia to break out and do something different from the norm. From serving as a creative luminary for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to helping organize Boston Fashion Week, Nathalia has encouraged creatives to connect throughout Boston.
In the future, Nathalia hopes that fashion corporations will implement sustainable practices in what can often seem like a tone-deaf industry. “Companies and CEOs all know the importance of sustainability and the implementation in their supply chain, but they just don’t do it,” she says. She was quick to point out that this past year was the hottest year to date, yet fashion weeks still went on, creating a massive carbon footprint due to the number of people flying around the world to attend.
There are simple habits consumers can change in their everyday lives to help reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry. Slowing down and controlling yourself as a consumer is the first step that you can take when shopping. Oftentimes we see things online or in-store that we think we want, but in the end, do not wear them enough. It’s important to spend time making decisions about what to buy, which is a habit that can also save you money in the long run.
While corporations need to change their habits, it is equally important for consumers to educate themselves and change consumer culture. “Change needs to come from the top-down but also from the bottom up in terms of consumers demanding that things are made sustainably,” says Nathalia. Nathalia hopes that her brand can show consumers and fellow designers that the future of fashion is sustainability.