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Q&A: Nadya von Stein designs with a deep respect for the natural world

by | Jun 11, 2021

Nadya von Stein’s work reflects her South African upbringing and European heritage. Her home merged the creative influence of her mother, who comes from a line of Italian dressmakers, with the precise influence of a medical engineer father who is of German descent.  Nadya studied fashion at Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design and at Saint Martin’s University in London, where she developed a keen eye for construction and a love for colour. After a long and successful collaboration with PICHULIK, Nadya launched her eponymous brand, NADYA VON STEIN Resort and Bridal for sustainable luxury hemp linen womenswear last year. During this transition – and during hard lockdown – Kristen McClarty, an artist and eco-printer contacted Nadya to consider collaborating on a capsule of clothing.

The collaboration fitted seamlessly into an existing process designing a new collection. We caught up with Nadya about the new collection and collaboration.

What is your inspiration?

I am passionate about working sustainably. More garments are bought and discarded than ever, taking up precious landfill space. If we do not make a considered effort as a new brand and be an example to others we will never make a ripple or change in the industry. We believe in quality over quantity and in clothing that is timeless and can be handed down from generation to generation.

This is why I primarily work with hemp linen. As an agricultural crop, hemp has high yields, grows well without pesticides and chemical fertilisers, while simultaneously regenerating the soil. Stronger than other natural fibres, such as cotton, hemp linen is a perfect fabric for designing garments with longevity in mind.

I enjoy the challenge of transforming a fabric that has traditionally been used for casual dressing into garments that are sophisticated yet playful. Each item in my collections has a versatility that makes it ideal for a variety of settings.

Every collection starts with a signature piece that informs the rest of the collection. It creates an anchor around which you can build your wardrobe. Each garment is beautifully constructed and tailored to ensure it will last season after season.

What is your business model?

Besides choosing to work with fabric that has a lower environmental impact than other fabrics, we manufacture quality garments to ensure longevity. In order to reduce overproduction and the waste of materials, we operate on a made-to-order system. This means that only garments wanted and purchased by consumers will be produced. In this way, we challenge the traditional problems of linear manufacturing: the make, take and dispose or in this case the make, sale, overconsumption and frequent replacement of garments, and finally the waste of clothing. Using production ingenuity, we want to make a difference to the industry and our environment.⁠

We also offer a repair, customisation and alteration service. People struggle with store fits, and also want favourite styles remade.

What materials do you use and from where are they sourced?

Hemp linen from Hemporium and eco-printed hemp linen from INYONI

Tell us about your natural organic dye.

We worked with INYONI fabric which is personally eco-printed by Kristen McClarty with the pigments in foliage – no ink, dye or chemicals. Kristen uses plants foraged near her home studio in Kommetjie, Cape Town.  The process is entirely natural and seasonal, yielding dramatically different results based on the conditions.  The imprint of each plant will depend on its stage in bud or bloom, its location and even the weather on the day.

Tell us more about your new Bloom SS21 collection.

Inspired by the diverse and abundant Cape floral kingdom of their homes, we collaborated with Kirsten to create a collection of beautiful, bespoke resort wear designed to tread lightly and produce minimal waste.  It embraces hand craft, with a textile surface eco-printed directly from nature.  The garments are cut to celebrate the feminine form and the place we occupy in nature. We used the resilient bloom, the blombos as our symbol.

The collection, conceptualised during COVID-19, is about dreaming of travel and adventure, a collection designed to support a woman in stepping out of the ordinary and taking her place in the world. Built around a selection of staple, easy to wear hemp linen garments, the collection is enhanced by more formal items and exquisite eco-printed pieces made from one-off hand printed textiles.

The collection has been designed to allow the wearer to mix between a variety of achromatic garments – ranging from classic white or black hemp linen to eco-printed hemp linen or dupioni silk, featuring natural eco prints on a white base cloth.  The prints are one-off imprints from foraged foliage, in a range of natural greys.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

Business and financial knowledge were a big challenge for me as a new business owner. I have a great support system of friends and family who own small businesses and who are always happy to advise and recommend a book or podcast to follow.

With which three local brands would you love to collaborate?

  • Espadril Spain
  • NAAK Botanical Studio
  • We All Share Roots

Who are your changemaker heroes?

  • Jackie King – aquatic ecologist who was a researcher, lecturer and supervisor of postgraduates at the University of Cape Town for almost four decades
  • Elise Tempelhoff – award-winning environmental journalist
  • Jackie May – founder and editor of Twyg

What one word best describes your work?

Magical

Credits

  • Creative Direction: Amy Keevy @amy_keevy
  • Photographer: Katinka Bester @katinkabester
  • Model: Nkosazana Sibobosi @zana__niko, Munnike Geldenhuys @munnike
  • H & M: Amori Birch @amoribirch
  • VONSTEIN x INYONI: @inyoni_art
  • Ceramic Vessels: Munnike Geldenhuys @munnike
  • Silk Scarf for hat: @inyoni_art
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