Designer Natalie Brown founded her clothing brand “NMB New York” in October 2020. The brand is based on her thesis collection from Parsons School of Design, where she graduated in 2020 with honors in Fashion Design following an undergraduate degree in Art from Elon University. The Peachtree City, Georgia native now calls New York home. She started her brand with an aim to create clothing that allowed people to embrace their individuality, and feel empowered by what they wear; look good, feel good, and do good. Natalie wanted to create the clothing that she wanted to wear, but could not find. NMB New York designs are based on upcycling, meaning that we take vintage clothing, deconstruct them, then use them as fabric to create new, upgraded NMB original clothing. No NMB piece of clothing looks the same, each is an original, giving every customer their own unique expression. NMB aims to rebrand the idea of upcycling, giving it an edge and luxury feel, whilst making strides toward a fashionably cleaner world and a healthier environment. Reduced waste never looked so good.
THE INTERVIEW: NATALIE BROWN, FOUNDER OF NMB NEW YORK
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as an up-cycling designer?
My brand “NMB New York” was inspired by my thesis project, at Parsons School of Design, where I graduated in 2020 with honors. “NMB” are my initials. We had gone into lockdown because of the start of the pandemic and school was no longer in person. My thesis concept was “rebranding the concept of up-cycling and clothing empowerment: “look good, feel good, do good’”. In school I was learning more about sustainability and facts like the fashion industry generates 92 million tons of waste annually and that clothing can take up to 30-40 years to decompose, which shocked me. With that in mind, I was inspired to design innovative sustainable clothing that I was excited to wear, but could not readily find. Only 10% of donated clothing actually gets sold. So I began sourcing clothing from high-end vintage shops, deconstructing them, using them as fabric, then turning them into entirely new pieces “NMB Originals”. It’s a labor of love and a small step towards a fashionably sustainable world.
How important is your cultural background for your career?
I am biracial (half Jamaican, half American) originally from a small town called Peachtree City, GA. I am often referred to as ethnically ambiguous. Being biracial and growing up in a small town in the south, I definitely stood out as an individual. Clothing was a big form of self expression for me and my identity as a designer has been to celebrate the individual. I believe there is beauty in uniqueness. My up-cycled pieces are all vibrant ones, giving each NMB owner their own look, that is strictly for them. The NMB New York customer is someone who embraces their individuality and empowers themselves as well as other people and isn’t afraid to be themselves. Reduced waste never looked so good 🙂
Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
I haven’t had many mentors in this industry as high-end upcycling is still a bit of a new concept, but I am very open to mentorship :). I have had a friend of one of my old Parsons School of Design Professors, who works in Fashion Production, that has been a great support. One piece of advice she gave me was to “never undervalue your product”.
What was your biggest fear when starting your own upcycling label?
My biggest fear was the fear of the unknown. I have never started a business before and it was a new territory for me. To start a brand within a newer genre of design during the pandemic was a big leap.
How can visual communication improve a brand in a better way?
Successful brands portray a lifestyle/dream that their customer either relates to, supports or aspires to. Visual communication can be key in articulating a brand’s authentic voice.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I would love to do a collaboration with KITH. I love how they are able to celebrate different genres of streetwear while creating an aspirational energy.
How challenging is the business part for an upcycling fashion label?
Upcycling, done properly, is actually a lot more expensive and time consuming to pursue than one might think. But, making a product that you feel good about is all worth it.
A letter to your future self. What would you write?
Keep on Keeping on 🙂
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