Made in America: Norte
"I don’t want to own too many things, I just want to own better things"
In the latest instalment of “Made in America”, a series where we champion our craftsmanship and heritage by spotlighting brands and companies that are “Made in the USA”, we spoke with Inés Vieira, the founder behind clothing brand, Notre. Here she tells Us about the philosophy that underpins the brand.
In Spain there is an expression, ‘perder el norte,’ which means to lose sight of the north, or to be derailed from the original destination. With ‘perder el norte’ at its core comes Norte: a minimalist and enlightened clothing brand, made in the US. Norte was founded and created by Galicia-born Inés Vieira, who draws inspiration from her local culture and dedication to finding sustainable ways of consumption.
With it’s stripped-back and clean-cut aesthetic, it is clear that the values of Norte and of Vieira herself are inextricable. The Spanish native, who is a firm believer in focus and a simplified way of living, rejects the idea that things should be excessive for the sake of it, or to make things more ‘valuable’. “I don’t want to own too many things, I just want to own better things,” says Vieira.
Quality over quantity is a phrase we hear time and time again, but this couldn’t be more true for an industry that is over-saturated with cheap clothes, sweatshops and copycat labels. Norte collections are deliberately not available in the traditional seasons of the fashion calendar, there is a slower release of carefully considered items. It is the opposite to ‘fast fashion,’ and invites better decision-making. With a less toxic approach to making clothes and owning things, a clearer and more sustainable way of living becomes possible. This no-drama approach shouldn’t just be reflected in clothing or sartorial choices, but is even applicable to culling unnecessary people out of our lives and focusing on what’s really important, as Vieira suggests, “if you don’t do it for the environment do it for yourself.”
Doing it for the environment is another issue that the brand tackles and was one of the key reasons (if not the reason) why Vieira started her business. After fossil fuel energy production, fashion is the second biggest industry polluter. From toxic chemicals and dye textiles, to synthetic materials like polyester releasing microfibres that kill aquatic life, our clothes are damaging the environment in ways we couldn’t even imagine. The garments made by Norte are always made from silk or linen, resulting not only in chic looks, but clothes that have happily been made organically. It’s a form of activism for the founder, by creating change and working against a production system that has gone on for too long. This eco-friendly and sustainable ethos translates to the way Vieira wants us to view the clothes, as she states clearly that she doesn’t want to “follow the rules.”
Timelessness and a sense of durability crops up a number of times in conversation, especially when considering the importance of the clothes being made in Florida, or the US. Looking back to the 1980s, when the American textile industry seriously declined, small companies shut down, and a huge increase in foreign competition, it’s a wonder that things ever picked up again. Impressed by the expertise and emphasis on high-quality by the people that make the garments, Vieira recalls how some of the producers have been working before the ‘80s,
“I got to visit different people, different factories, and they all tell you their story...these people I work with used to work in the textile industry in the US and they lost their jobs. I was really inspired by the way they kept going by themselves. So they either started from scratch, or associated with and created a new industry that was more specialised.”
One of the women that sews buttons on Norte clothes is a political refugee, and has motivated Vieira with her ability to make something out of nothing, and doing it well. Picking Florida over New York or LA is a prime example of how everything about Norte is created and watched carefully, with Inés being able to visit the factory almost daily.
The passion for craftsmanship, aesthetics and awareness of sustainability is completely obvious when looking at the brand’s social media channels, the origins of Norte. Concerned with not knowing anyone famous in the fashion industry and not having a foot in the door, Norte was founded on Instagram for it’s consumers, without big endorsements. @norte_thestudio is the sister Instagram account to the commercial wing, providing more inspiration in the form of a highly curated colour palette, artworks (think Agnes Martin and Picasso), pastel interiors, deliciously ripe images of fruit and beautifully diverse models. Scrolling through the feed there seems to be a celebration of femininity, ideas, “highlighting the best parts of ourselves” and presenting the garments as more than just clothes. Looking at this digital mood board it is clear that the colours and the combination of images forms part of a whole concept — it is the embodiment and direct result of a set of values.
As Norte continues to develop there is no doubt that the brand will enhance the foundations it has laid down, making it one of the most original and up-and-coming brands in the US. If not for their stylish, sleek silhouettes and perfectly crafted clothes, Norte will be known for being the Instagram brand that broke the mould with it’s emphasis on sustainability. Having only launched a few months ago, the philosophy that frames the brand is sure to ring true as the collections evolve — “In an increasingly saturated market, the mission is to create the pieces that become the north, or Notre, of your wardrobe – the garments that are always there for you, the ones that stand the test of time and endure beyond fleeting fashion trends.”