The Portuguese Brand Näz: Meet the Maker
As next on the line of our partner interviews, we invited Cristiana Costa, the joyful founder and CEO of one of our most acclaimed portuguese brands - Näz, to share with us the details of the brand´s past, present and future.
From the brand philosophy to the unplanned future of Näz, Cristiana opened the game and shared with us all the details. Find the interview below.
Q: How did you had this business idea? And what does “Näz” mean?
A: I had the idea of starting Näz during my Master's Degree. I was studying and needed some extra money so I started Näz with that purpose - it was sort of my part-time job. At first, I just did markets and didn't even had the brand soul defined. I just knew that being socially responsible was a core value since the beginning (because I spent a lot of time in textile factories and heard a lot of bad stories of workers conditions to which I was absolutely sure I didn't wanted to be a part of ); and that I wanted the production to be made in Portugal.
While starting the project we realized that we couldn't fulfill the minimum textile quantities of factories for production so we began knocking on factories doors asking if they had leftovers from previous productions that we could buy. And we did this without understanding / thinking about the ecological component that this implied! With the brand´s development I started to understand how positive the decisions I had made were on the environment.
Näz means being proud in being loved independently of what we do.
Q: What is the philosophy and values behind Näz?
A: Näz is a very balanced brand. We don´t look at sustainability as one thing only, we see sustainability as a balance of everything around us. Aesthetically, we are a mix between fashion design (tendencies) and democratization. In terms of business, we always seek to have the least environmental footprint with the biggest positive social impact. And always try to get the best equilibrium between these four components.
Q: What are the differentiation factors of Näz?
A: We are really proud of being able to know where all our pieces are produced. Being close to our production is really important for us.. We believe to be a more human-oriented brand, side by side with our workers. And also, the democratization of Näz - we actually try to create a democratic style, made for all kinds of people (different ages and styles) that is noticeable. Our prices are also an advantage. They are lower than usual because we design easy to work pieces which turn the production cheaper towards other comparable brands.
Q: The beginning of a business is usually difficult, and it takes some time for a brand to be recognized by the market. How was the beginning of Näz?
A: Näz had two beginnings. The first one was when I was in my Master's Degree. There, the brand started in a more immature way and, as I said before, we spent all our time in street markets which helped us learn how important the fitting is to be able to sell. If the fit of a product is bad, people won't buy it. And this was the first year of the brand - to try to sell and get feedback on the products. It was very difficult because everything that we gained was invested again.
The second beginning was when I started dedicating 100% to Näz and developed it to what it is today. We got a working space and invested some money on it. We started selling in some stores and gained some clients, nevertheless, the production costs are always very high, which makes it almost impossible to have profit. It was a very big effort but we learned a lot. Even though it's really hard to start a Fashion brand, I didn't quit.
Q: Each designer develops their own creation process. Can you describe us how is yours?
A: First, we see what fabric leftovers are available from our suppliers and based on this, we create our collection. If there is something missing, we design the pieces and the seek the fabrics afterwards.
Besides this, in some cases we also create our own fabrics and knitwear. We buy the thread, develop the mix of colours and threads in the factory and use them of the collection. In this case, we really do the whole process.
Q: How do you choose the factories to produce your products?
A: We had a lot of luck. The factory for our recycled pieces is literally 10 minutes walking distance from our atelier, so we went there and ended up making a long-term partnership with them. We became acquainted with the owner of this factory and he introduced us to someone that produced threads. We got along well and partnered up with him too. And luckily, we continued to meet interesting people, people that weaves others that knit. All of our producers were met like this - through contacts and lots of luck.
Q: Do you have a close relationship with the factory workers?
A: Yes, we spend a lot of time with them. Sometimes we even help them with the work whilst talking to them! We have a very good relationship with all the suppliers which makes the whole process a lot easier.
Q: How do you control the spendings of energy, water and transportation across the supply chain?
A: In the production we use mainly renewable energy and its spending is extremely controlled because the production of the clothing pieces are extremely efficient to take the least time possible.
In terms of water, the dying factory has a lot of ecological certifications that insure us that the water is clean during this process; besides our tencel producer always reuses the same water to produce the material so that there is absolutely no waste.
Transportation wise, I deliver the pieces to the stores I work with myself across Portugal. To send Näz products from the website we use Chronopost which has the regular environmental concerns as most transportation companies do. Our polly bags are recycled and we are about to change them to biodegradable ones (made of PLA which is corn), reducing our plastic usage by a lot. We also want to create a partnership with the stores we work with so that they keep all of the poly bags and send us back; this way we use the same ones as much as possible.
Additionally, the fact that we use fabrics that were already produced and would otherwise go to waste, reduces our ecological footprint by a lot. We are also making an effort to increase the amount of recycled fabrics in our Näz collections. They are awesome because, unless we want to dye them, there are not chemicals or water involved in the production process - its all mechanical.
Q: Is there any part of Näz that you feel needs some improvements sustainability wise?
A: Definitely the packaging as I previously said. The improvements come as we grow, its the only possible way. Another thing we would love to do is to have factory certificates regarding the salaries of workers and to figure a way to increase them. We also want to make more products with recycled materials.
Q: What is the origin of the raw materials used in your pieces?
A: The pieces are all produced in Portugal in Beira Interior, an area which used to be strong in textile production but now lost a lot of market towards competition. The linen we use comes from China but the weaving is made in Portugal. Besides, almost all the other raw products come from China or India. And this happens because there is no production of these raw materials in Europe.
Q: What are the Fair Bazaar criteria that you believe the comply with?
A: We are eco-friendly, organic, recycled, small-scale and vegan (we have pieces certified by PETA). I don´t say Fair Trade because we don´t have the official certification but we consider Näz to be since we control the factories and know what the workers conditions are there - and they are fair.