Brand Interview: Forma
Nelly spent the first few months of 2017 in Southeast Asia. She shared much-appreciated glimpses into her travels and experiences on her personal Instagram throughout her trip.
After a few months of adventure and soul-searching, Nelly returned to the United States with a vision. Her mission? To create clean and simple clothing with the intention of using fabrics made from natural plant and protein fibers. Only two months after her return, she launched her online shop.
Mindful Makers Co: What is the name of your brand and why?
Nelly, Forma: My brand is Forma. It translates to "form" in most languages. Form is a fascinating word to me. As a verb, it means “to form a shape or to fashion in a particular manner”. In philosophy, it is “the structure, pattern, organization or essential nature of anything”. I feel like the name “Forma” encompasses my ideals with its simple yet diverse meanings. My Instagram handle is @forma_of_thewest, Of The West meaning, made in California.
Mindful Makers Co: When did you first decide that you wanted to start a brand built on more sustainable business practices and why?
Nelly, Forma: It all started in San Francisco, California. I moved to SF in 2014 after living in Oklahoma for 20 years. My parents raised my brothers and me in a Russian/Ukrainian community located in a suburb of Tulsa. My world was small. I didn’t really question anything I was taught, and I believed whatever I was told. In college, I started to question basic principles and beliefs.
Eventually those questions led me to San Francisco. The city is progressive in many ways. Naturally, I started to discover new beliefs and began to identify with different values and principles. San Francisco’s sustainable practices are advanced in comparison to the majority of the country, evidenced by the almost religious practices of composting and recycling in homes, restaurants, local farms, and storefronts, as well as the studios of various types of artisans.
There was a clear movement happening towards sustainability. It made me feel proud and I was quickly on board with the movement to save ourselves as well as the planet. I’ve always been attracted to fashion and making clothing, but I wanted my work to stand for something. Once I found out about the slow fashion movement, it resonated with me deeply. It was clear I needed to be an activist for change in the fashion industry.
Mindful Makers Co: What are a few of the sustainable aspects or practices you employ in your brand?
Nelly, Forma: I use natural and responsibly sourced fabrics to design and create all my garments. Natural fibers are biodegradable, so the impact on our planet is low. I produce limited pieces of each garment, and they are cut and sewn to order. This reduces waste and gives value to the garment. Each piece is made with intention for the one who orders it! I am a big believer in community over competition. I think it makes us all stronger, our world kinder, and connects us all to a bigger picture.
Mindful Makers Co: What does organic mean to you?
Nelly, Forma: No pesticides, additives, or genetically modified organisms. Sometimes it feels impossible to escape, but this is why I insist on using natural fibers to create my designs. I know that if my garments were to wind up in a landfill, the decomposition would take about three months. This is in drastic contrast to synthetic (man-made) fibers that take 600+ years to decompose.
Mindful Makers Co: Why are organic and sustainable fibers important to you as an American-made brand?
Nelly, Forma: As crazy as America is right now, I still believe we live in one of the greatest countries in the world. We have access to anything and we have so many freedoms. America can be a powerful agent for change and a leader in so many movements.
To me, it seemed irresponsible to start a brand with no values or principles just for the sake of looking fashionable or cute. What’s life without dedication? I wanted to be an advocate for changing the way we consume. I recognized how the fast fashion industry is effecting the well-being of people all around the world as well as our planet.
Improving the way we make clothing in America begins with selecting non-toxic, biodegradable fabrics. Eyes are being opened. People are learning about the damages caused by irresponsible business practices present in the fast fashion industry. Consequently, people are searching for a better way. The slow fashion movement is a beautiful movement to be a part of.
Mindful Makers Co: Who is designing the original pieces and what do they want to bring to the world with their designs?
Nelly, Forma: By yours truly! I design each piece with California’s effortless approach to style in mind. I love the story behind clothing. I think that’s why I always loved vintage! It has a story, and I feel like my pieces say something as well.
Each piece goes through so many phases. Sourcing fabric, patterning, cutting, and finally, sewing it all together. My hope is that each Forma piece brings true comfort and confidence to every customer.
Mindful Makers Co: If there is one piece of advice you could give to the mindful consumer trying to make more sustainable and ecosystem-friendly purchases for their closet, what would it be?
Nelly, Forma: Look at the clothing tag. If it’s an online shop, check out their "About" page. Brands that are following sustainable practices want you to know what their clothing is made of, where it’s made, and who is making it. We’re proud!
If there’s no backstory, they’re probably not employing sustainable business practices. They may even be trying to hide their business practices. The same goes for vintage! Just check the clothing tag and try to choose pieces made out of natural fibers.
Mindful Makers Co: If there is any other information you would like share with our awesome readers, spill it now!
Nelly, Forma: I am currently a one woman show, but I have hopes to own a small production studio staffed with talented pattern makers and sewers. I would never mass produce, so it would still be small batch production. There is one thing I would never sacrifice: fair wages. To me, it’s one of the most troubling aspects of the fashion industry. Behind every piece of clothing there is a person, and I just want people to consider that when making a purchase.
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Nelly, the Founder, Designer, and One Woman Show of Forma. She is a mindful maker on a mission. I am inspired by her work and encouraged by her dedication to the slow fashion movement.
As a designer and mindful maker myself, I want you to know how incredible it is that Nelly chooses sustainable and natural fibers for her pieces! Linen and silk are premium fabrics. They are worth their weight in gold as far as I am concerned, and know Nelly agrees.
When designers work with premium fabrics such as linen or silk, there is a corresponding level of care and caution bestowed on behalf of the maker during every phase of construction. That attention to detail can be felt while wearing one of Nelly's pieces. Trust me on this. I have several of them!
A big and heart-felt "Thank You!" to my incredible team for the creative imagery featured in this post. Wendy Bobarikin of Bobarikin Photography captured my vision and direction flawlessly. There simply are not words to adequately express my gratitude, Wendy. Jenny Rausch and Katie Allen of Anthousai created absolutely stunning floral pieces, which brought life and beauty into this collaboration. Ladies, it was an honor to create with you. Kennedy Marinelli wore these clothes effortlessly. You are truly talented, Kennedy. Without my incredible team, this imagery would not have been possible.
If you are or someone you know is a Mindful Maker interested in working with me, collaboration ideas can be submitted here.
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Thank you so much for reading!