Sustainable Spotlight featuring Nisa
Sustainable Spotlight is a place where we feature other sustainable and ethical brands doing their part to build a greener future within our fashion industry. Our first interview is with Nisa who impacts through intimates.
Nisa is a Wellington based brand that focuses on organic cotton underwear, swimwear and clothing. Nisa garments are made with love by women from refugee and migrant backgrounds in their Wellington workshop. They are truly setting an example for our industry, a brand we could all learn something from.
Nisa was founded by Elisha Watson in 2017, when she was working as a lawyer and volunteering with the Red Cross' refugee resettlement programme. She shared a love of sewing with many of the women in the former refugee community, and the idea of setting up a sewing workshop to provide employment opportunities took form. Elisha quit her job, set up a crowdfunding campaign, and then went about the process of hiring her first employees, buying machines and looking for a sunny space to base the workshop (all with no fashion or industrial sewing experience, gulp!).
Nisa's talented seamstresses could have sewn anything, but in the end underwear came out top for a number of reasons:
- There is already enough clothing in the world, whereas underwear is something we humans genuinely need.
- Underwear is small and compact - perfect for a small workshop.
- It is universal. We all love different clothes and have different styles, but at the end of the day most of us want cotton underwear for the simple snuggle factor.
Stef from Nisa answers our questions around sustainability.
What does sustainability mean to your brand?
To us, sustainability means consideration and care for the people involved in making our products, as well as the impact that our production process has on the environment. We believe that providing transparent information about our materials and production builds trust with our customers, encouraging them to ask questions and prioritise sustainability even when they’re shopping elsewhere!
How have you/do you improve on your sustainability as the sustainability movement shifts and grows?
Our carbon emissions created in shipping garments was definitely a place to look - we are now offsetting these emissions, with funds going to the Jari Pará Forest Conservation Project in the Amazon Rainforest. We use organic cotton, which minimises water and pesticide use. The dyes for our materials are certified (GOTS for our cotton and Bluesign and Oeko-Tex for our elastics) since textile dyeing is the world's second-largest polluter of water.
What inspired you to build a sustainable brand?
One of the reasons we decided to make underwear is because they’re an essential garment - everyone needs a new pair once in a while. Our customers purchase from Nisa for a number of different reasons: this can stem from needing underwear that will last for a long period of time or wanting to support our employment mission. Either way, we want our customers to feel that their purchase is an experience made up of mutual care: our underwear is made to take long-term care of our customers, minimising the need to purchase short-living products, while their purchases support our team and acknowledge our journey to continue producing as sustainably as we can.
What are some misconceptions around sustainability you practise?
A common misconception is that purchasing an abundance of eco-friendly items is more sustainable than just sticking with what is already around the house. Focus first on using up what you have before switching to other alternatives.
What is the most challenging thing about running a sustainable business?
We sometimes receive questions asking why our products are more expensive than what is mass-produced - we produce in small batches to minimise waste, and produce locally in Wellington, and that costs money to achieve.
Has the pandemic accelerated or shifted your sustainability goals? If so, how?
The pandemic hasn’t really shifted our sustainability practices or goals - these have been in motion since we first started.
Do you think the niche of sustainability will break through as being mainstream? Will this affect your brand?
We hope that sustainability becomes a mainstream element of the fashion industry - the goal is that sustainability practices will be a mandatory aspect of production! We don’t think that this will affect our brand because we’ve been passionate about sustainability since our first day. We’re always looking for ways in which we can continue on our sustainability journey, and would love to lead the way for other companies as well. Because ultimately sustainability is a road to travel, not a destination.
Visit https://nisa.co.nz/ for more information and to buy your own pair of ethically made and sustainably sourced underwear.