Creating a sustainable fashion brand for the 21st century.
Narvan is built on a philosophy of creativity and contribution. Ready-to-wear, fine art fashion that embraces femininity in all its forms. The vision to empower womxn, foster representation and champion artists. To do all this without aggrandizing the impact on our planet. Full circle impact, physically and existentially. But what does it take to make sustainable fashion?
It’s a hot-button term, taking the world by storm. Big fast fashion brands have waded into the optics of sustainable fashion, touting their conscientious alternatives to regular offerings. While many the truth is, most of these high-street houses are talking the talk of sustainability; think digital advertisements with leafy, fauna encrusted models, while neglecting to walk the walk. AKA ‘Greenwashing.’ The bottom line is that for most of these brands, their mammoth reach, popularity and profit margins are prohibitive to compelling them to change.
Norway’s Consumer Authority took note of this when investigating one such retailer for breaching its marketing laws, alleging that “the brand uses symbols, statements and colour to mislead buyers.” The deputy director of Norway’s CA, Bente Øverli, said the fast fashion brand “not being clear or specific enough in explaining how the clothes in the Conscious collection are more ‘sustainable’ than other products they sell.”
Smart. Dreadful. But can’t we all agree that research should be used to help the world, not conceal its misuse better?
Thank goodness the tide is changing; consumers are more educated than ever, and brands built on hard research and responsible decision-making, such as Narvan, are more popular than ever. According to a McKinsey Report, ‘sustainable fashion’ internet searches “tripled between 2016 and 2019”.
When it came to developing a sustainable brand that asked the tough questions, waded through the data, and sourced ethical manufacturers, Narvan’s founder Marjan Kargar had to leave no stone unturned. “I learned to advocate for my vision and growth, to champion my non-negotiables and make sure that every step of the way, we weren’t taking shortcuts. Even when it was harder.”
Marjan, a successful artist and graphic designer with familial roots in design (read more here), started Narvan shortly before the pandemic hit, in January of 2020. She quickly learned that patience would be her strongest asset in the production process. “I released the need for a timeline and embraced research and outreach, so that I could build the brand in the most sustainable and ethical way possible.”
The process developed was grounded in curiosity, with beginning stages in conversations, investigation and lots and lots of reading. When it seemed as though viscose, a man-made material made of wood fibers, would be the way to go, Narvan’s team made outreach to fabric mills.
“It was surprisingly tricky,” she recalled. “Many reps were eager to argue for polyester, which is cheaper and more facile. I had to push back — fairly, of course, to make clear that wasn’t what I wanted.”
Once she’d developed the stunning designs for Narvan’s first collection, the brand confirmed its partnership with a fabric mill that sources viscose only from sustainably-managed forests. The material was then third-party tested in order to confirm its integrity. Further tests were done to ensure the elasticity and quality would stand up following cleaning.
Ethical manufacturing was also an imperative; Narvan chose a production partner that was fully audited with fair wages and breaks for workers. Making sure the unique designs were fulfilled by the team took open, direct communication and a willingness to stand ground. Finally, ocean shipment was prioritized and the packaging itself made biodegradable.
“It’s been a lot of work and investment, but in terms of integrity in what we’ve accomplished, I’ve come away really proud. Every step has been grounded in thoughtfulness, and Narvan’s launch now has that solid foundation. We’ll continue to work to ensure that we embody our vision of a sustainable brand. And I can’t wait to use our platform to bring our artistic peers to a wider audience.”
It’s visionaries like Marjan that are leading the way. Brands that account not only for how their choices impact the planet, but how it will impact their communities. Change won’t happen over night, but with ‘incremental revolutionaries’ changing the face of fashion, hope is ahead. As one study put it when considering the philosophies of Yvon Chouinard, the environmentalist and owner of Patagonia, “one may see the limits of possibilities and still strive towards an ideal.”
Make the sustainable choice here.