By: Hillary LeBlanc , August 9 2022
– Photographer – Tiago Pinheira –
Though many international brands are produced in Portugal, just 5 years ago none were environmentally conscious – until the birth of Näz. B-Corp. certified brand Näz started out as a project to fill a gap in the fashion industry offering a sustainable approach.
Marta Ferreira, the Marketing Specialist for Näz explains how Näz was conceptualized by founder Christiana Costa, “Näz started out as a University project in 2016 during Costa’s Master’s Degree, but the company was officially born in 2017. While studying textiles and fashion design, Costa had the opportunity to meet and work with the industry in Covilhã, an area known for its textile industry; there he realized that even though a lot of international brands are produced in Portugal, there were no Portuguese brands creating social and environmentally conscious products made in Portugal. So, together with our first and oldest partner, JGomes, we created our first collection of recycled knits. This collection was made within a 50km radius, in the Serra da Estrela region.”
Ferreira explains that while Costa was studying, “sustainability and eco-friendly materials were still something new that Universities in Portugal didn’t teach much about, but Christiana was already passionate and curious about new cellulosic man-made materials and fabrics with lower impact.” Christiana also found it interesting to understand how much of an impact recycling had within the industry. Aligned with this curiosity, she was faced with the opportunity to meet and engage directly with the textile industry in Portugal, but noticed that the factories were not applying these new processes, or even thinking about them. According to Ferreira, this gap in the market within the Portuguese brands caused Christiana to take the opportunity at shaking things up from within the industry.
With this passion for sustainability and seeing the gap in the market, Costa built Näz. Sustainability is at the heart of everything Näz creates, Ferreira notes, “we look at sustainability at a balance between creating something new, while doing it with a positive social impact, and a reduced environmental impact”. When Näz brand was created, iCosta wanted to to enhance the social aspects, like where the clothes were made, and the people who made them. “We always looked for eco-friendly materials, but when we started we had to work more with deadstock and that means you have limited control over every aspect of the material – if it is organic or certified for example. As we grew, we were able to choose more materials and gladly for us, there is a lot of fabric weaving in Portugal!”
The textile industry is one of the most important industries in Portugal, Ferreira explains, “making more than 3% of the country’s total Gross National Product, however, it is an industry marked by poor working conditions, low salaries, and inequalities between employers and employees.” The Näz team wanted to work against these typical unacceptable working standards. As a sustainable fashion brand with such a small supply chain, when Näz was looking for partners, they hoped to find factories that were aligned with values respecting the health, security and well-being of factory employees, as well as the environment. To ensure these values are currently upheld, Ferreira tells us that the Näz team visits these factories regularly and that they commit to a Code of Conduct set by Näz. “Sometimes we are faced with the decision between working with a big factory that doesn’t disclosure their methods, or allow us to visit the premises, but has a lot of certifications, and a small factory, family owned, with 7 workers, with no certifications, but that is transparent on the way they work, and are committed to become more sustainable – we always choose the latter.”
A lot of the information regarding their factories, textiles, and partners are readily available on their website as a means of keeping their garment creation a transparent process, “As a brand working in a such controversial industry, we believe it’s important to make available to all stakeholders resources that will help them be more informed consumers, like the origin of materials and their impact or the journey a garment makes before ending up in a person’s wardrobe. Working towards transparency is a continuous goal for us, as we still have so much to learn about our own production too!”
With the high importance put on the textile industry in Portugal, despite using newer technologies, the Näz team has continued to honour the traditional ways in which the fashion industry was working in their country. They have been able to work side by side with the industry to develop better products while maintaining the heritage and know-how of the industry in Portugal. The Näz team feels they understand that the path to a more sustainable world is forged by joining “artisanal know-how” with the latest technology, which involves maintaining multi-generational attention to craftsmanship while casting off old techniques that aren’t sustainable. Ferreira shares the example, “When we discovered our recycled yarn partner, JGomes, we were recycling pre-consumer waste to create yarns for socks. Together with them, we started developing the yarn for our recycled knits, which allowed them to expand their business as well.”
Seeing as Portugal has such a rich textile market, Ferreira explains that all garments are able to stay locally sourced, “from the yarn to the final piece, everything is made here. During Summer we work a lot with linen from our partner RCS Linhos, and for the Winter collection, all our recycled yarns come from JGomes. The remaining fabrics – organic cotton and Tencel for example – come from factories in Portugal that produced more fabric quantities than they needed to sell, and we always check with our partners what they’ve been producing.”
Making sustainable garments transcends more than the textiles for Näz, whose designs are created to be minimalistic, comfortable, and easy to wear. Their objective is to create garments that you can wear in different stages and occasions of your life, with high-quality natural fibers. “As a small brand, we learn a lot from trial and error and thus have been perfecting the fitting of our pieces over the seasons. We decided in 2019 that we would reduce the number of styles, and perfect the ones that work so we can have the same styles over the seasons, but in different colors.”
In an effort help reduce waste, Näz has partnered with a Portuguese Start-up – https://www.white-stamp.com/en/ to allow customers to trade garments for vouchers used towards purchasing new items in a program called Sell 1 Buy 1. The garments you trade we’ll be sold later in second-hand markets. One of Näz‘s goals is to implement something similar within our brand in the future.
Just this year Näz became a certified B-Corp, meaning they are meeting a high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. Ferreira notes how important this is for Näz, “We’re always working to become more transparent, and sustainable. This year we became certified B-Corp, a huge recognition for our brand. We still have a lot to learn about the origin of our materials – the farms for example – and are eager to work towards becoming a more circular brand.”
Published: August 9 2022 | Author: Hillary LeBlanc | Tagged: None