The more I wear high-quality fabrics, the more I stray away from polyester. It’s amazing how you can actually feel the craftsmanship of a piece when it’s made of sturdy fabric. Now, as I begin to break down my closet into a more minimal experience, I realized that the key to a minimal closet is not all about the idea of only having like 10 things to wear. It’s about buying with intention. Of course, we also want our stuff to last long.
Life isn’t all about the stuff we buy. But we don’t have to give up our love of fashion just because the minimal gurus online told us to. “But I should only have like 30 pieces of clothing and that’s it! This book on how to create a capsule closet said so.” Certainly, there are piece that can really last us for life, regardless if we go through style changes. Things like jeans, dresses, jewelry, outerwear, and some shoes can stay with us for years. It just depends on how classic the style is and what it’s made out of. So when we think about what something is made out of, our mindset begins to shift to buying our clothes with the intention that we’d like to use the piece to its fullest potential.
On this issue of Shop Well, I interview Natalie Florence, founder of sustainable fashion brand Arraei Collective to learn more about the brand and how she focuses on using all-natural, recycled, and high-quality fabrics.
ISM: What motivated you to start Arraei Collective and what was the inspiration behind the name?
Natalie: Arraei pronounced “array” is a word that I created that draws on an evolved definition of the English word “array”- a diverse collection of creations arranged harmoniously. It a word inspired by the idea of all things functioning together in a collective, in harmony, which links to our vision of harmonising humanity and with the planet. Arraei Collective’s journey began 2017 in a profound moment of discovery while I was on a bus travelling through India with allot of time to think. I had been on a life quest to identify and manifest a way to effect positive change in the world, while at the same time trying to unify two definitive aspects of my life: my deep devotion to our mother earth and my passion to create, I had also been really inspired and obsessed with hemp’s multitude of uses and how naturally/beautifully sustainable it was. It was on that bus in India where it all came together and so Arraei became a sustainable hemp project- the fusion of hemp + fashion, and a mission to promote mindful living.
ISM: You place a great emphasis on the transparency behind where and how you source your fabrics. Can you tell us more about the philosophy behind using natural fabrics?
Natalie: Arraei is rooted in sustainability and therefore our goal is be 100% natural to minimise our impact on the earth as much as possible. Hemp is our primary focus which means all our fabrics are natural so the next step in furthering our sustainability commitment is to use fabrics that are organic and certified – by choosing organic we support responsible farming and production, as well as ethical and conscious corporate behaviour in all stages of production. This is so important for the green revolution. The certification is important as it provides an honest and transparent environment for our customers, allowing them to know with confidence what they are wearing & supporting. We want to help our customers make good choices and be able to shop their values so we are fully transparent.
ISM: How do you envision Arraei Collective in the future? Are there any projects, designs, or initiatives you’d like to implement moving forward?
Natalie: I visualise a great future for Arraei, sometimes I fantasise too much as I have so many ideas for projects. Right now the eco fashion industry is growing exponentially as more and more people become conscious and informed, choosing to live a more sustainable lifestyle putting us in a privileged position where we have the opportunity to truly affect change. One thing I’ve been focused on for the past few months is developing an initiative to rework Arraei into supporting local artisans from my home country (South Africa). I would like to give back to my community, and support people who have started their own small projects.
ISM: What do you think is the most important lesson you’ve learned through founding Arraei Collective?
Natalie: Don’t rush, be intentional, trust myself. Things can quickly become intense and overwhelming when you are on your own trying to start and run a business and often I find myself constantly affirming these three things. Go slow is something that I’ve had to learn, to give myself time to think and then make decisions.
ISM: In a perfect world, all people would aim to eliminate material waste. What do you think the biggest causes of this wasteful mindset are? Do you think it can ever be rectified before we do irreversible damage to our planet?
Natalie: There are so many contributing factors to the way we operate as a “waste-making” society. Convenience and commercially sold ideas of consumption have fundamentally shaped the way we behave as consumers. People buy products unaware of where they have come from and their social or environmental impact on the planet. Its too easy to walk into a store and purchase something on impulse without thinking about its origin or the hands that made it. Things are cheap and replaceable and therefore easily become waste. Its a mindset that is so ingrained in the way we live that its hard to act otherwise, but conscious consumerism is evolving to promote new mindset of eco-living and thoughtful action. I believe we are on a path to making changes as a society and as an eco-conscious community we are responsible to accelerate this movement. I would say that the first step is focusing on education. 🌱
Follow Arraei Collective:
I’m personally in love with the clean and minimal designs that Natalie creates. I went ahead and purchased my own Arraei Collective piece to see (and feel) the fabric for myself!
I was extremely impressed about 2 main things:
- The FABRIC quality. Amazing. Opaque, heavy-weight, yet still light because of the silhouette of the dress.
- Easy to style. You can wrap it like a dress or keep it open, and the tie is optional. I love that there’s a tie detail inside to keep it closed.
One other thing is that I love that it came in recyclable packaging. There was also a free hemp tote; I love any reusable items, so that’s great! All in all, I love everything about this kimono. I’m a fan of wrap dresses and never dared to purchase something so neutral, but there’s something beautiful about the hemp fabric in its natural state. Can’t wait to wear this more often in spring!
I ended up styling this look with a layered necklace, asymmetrical earrings, and chunky clear mineral ring.