Mina has just hit the one year mark, and we spoke with designer Natalie Procter about how it all began and where Mina is heading.
Good: Mina’s designs are beautiful, and they’re created via conscious and ethical decisions. Can you explain how your desire to ensure Mina was an ethical brand started?
Natalie Procter: I think a few things in my life have influenced my ethos around Mina. I am half South African, so as a child I’ve spent a lot time over there and seen how happy people can be with so little. When I left high school I went and worked in an orphanage in Cambodia for two months, which really was a life changing experience for me. For the next three years I went and volunteered each year, and with these experiences I have really gained an understanding of needs versus wants and found an appreciation for memories versus materials.
I was lucky to be granted a scholarship through Massey University and went on a six week trip to India where we followed seed to garment, and [I] was introduced to both ethical and sustainable businesses throughout India. It was on this trip I was so inspired and motivated to take part in an industry known for its unethical practices and commit to supporting our local industry whilst keeping the people and the relationships [with] these people central to my business model.
These experiences have given me an appreciation for people, their stories and a simpler approach to living.
Can you describe the plan for Mina in terms of your collections? What about international plans?
Mina has just hit one year in business and we have come so far in such a short amount of time. Right now we produce two seasons a year, a summer and winter range. This is mostly due to the demand from consumers and retailers. I would like to see Mina move away from the traditional fashion system and move towards ranges that market to both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres so they’re not confined to a season. This means producing a range that can cater to both hemispheres for opposite seasons all within one collection. This is obviously challenging, so it’s an ongoing journey for us. As for right now, we are focusing on Mina’s brand awareness by becoming more accessible to consumers through more stockists in New Zealand.
Do you think New Zealand consumers are becoming more aware of what and how they purchase things? What about when it comes to fashion?
I definitely believe consumers are starting to make more conscious decisions when it comes to buying. A lot more people are on board with buying organic and whole foods as they become more educated about what is actually in our food, how it’s produced and the effects of this on our health and wellbeing. I think fashion is the next industry that consumers are beginning to become more aware about where and how their clothes are made, but it is only just the start! It blows my mind that a large proportion of people think our clothes are made using large industrial machines with no human involvement. I think there is a lack of knowledge around the effects on our body, environment and waterways when we wear synthetic fabrics. Many consumers also don’t quite understand the full story of a garment and how many people are involved in the making of that single garment. Ethically, we should stop and consider the flow-on effect of purchasing a $10 garment [and how it affects] all those people involved. In saying that, there are definitely brands and consumers in New Zealand leading the way, and without those people Mina would not be growing as it is.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Auckland and went to school where I took as many art and design classes as I could. With my South African heritage my childhood consisted of a number of trips to South Africa to visit our family still living there. I have been lucky to travel to some very culture-rich countries growing up, and my parents brought me up to immerse myself in these cultures, which is reflected in Mina. I have always loved clothes, and from a young age my creative mother taught me the basics of sewing and other creative skills including how to mosaic and jewellery making. We have always had a creative space downstairs in our home which has developed into the Mina studio where our designing, pattern making and sampling takes place. My creative interests were refined during my four-year design degree at Massey where I majored in fashion design.
When did your interest in the fashion world begin?
From a young age mum created a lot of my own clothes and taught me the basics of sewing. I have always been very creative, I took every art, photography and design paper at school and knew I would either be in the design industry in the future or I would be working for a not-for-profit organisation in the middle of nowhere. Both very different paths! I took the practical and realistic path and moved to Wellington. The original plan was to study fashion photography, but I landed myself in fashion design and haven’t looked back.
How does your interest in fashion work with Mina’s way of not following the fashion system as such?
I think how I work and the ideals around Mina always circle back to my time travelling when I was young. Being amongst cultures who live a far more simple life yet are so happy, you realise how much unnecessary clutter we have in our lives, which generally doesn’t make us any happier. It could be conflicting as fashion is one of the most materialistic industries to be working in, but Mina stays true to a core timeless aesthetic that encourages quality over quantity and an appreciation for beautiful pure fabrics.
What are you working on right now? Mina-related or personal.
Right now we (the mother, daughter Mina duo) are preparing to dispatch our new winter range Cocoon. I’m very excited about the launch of this range as it’s a collection that really represents myself as a designer and also the growth into the designer I want to become. I’m still young and just like any small business we’re all still learning about ourselves, learning from our mistakes and taking risks. In the next few weeks I am heading around the country presenting my summer 2019 range to stockists so Mina HQ is very busy!
To see the beautiful Mina range, head to minaforher.com