Natalia Allen: Conscientious Fashionista

Utne Reader visionary

  • Utne Reader Visionary Natalia Allen

    Illustration: Gluekit • Allen photo: Frej Hedenberg

  • Utne Reader Visionary Natalia Allen

More than 8,000 chemicals were used to make the clothes in your closet. Approximately 1,800 gallons of fresh water were used to manufacture the jeans you’re wearing right now. All-too-commonplace numbers like these make it clear that the fashion industry needs an eco-makeover. Natalia Allen is up for the challenge. 

A 2004 graduate of Parsons the New School for Design, Allen calls herself a surfer who runs a design firm in her spare time. Modesty aside, this surfer was the recipient of Parsons’ prestigious Designer of the Year award (an honor she shares with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford), was chosen by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, and was named one of the Top 25 Women in Tech to Watch. 

And that design firm she directs on the side? Design Futurist, an eco-innovative New York studio that Allen founded just a year after leaving Parsons, has already advised numerous high-profile clients—including Calvin Klein, Quiksilver, and Donna Karan—and was declared by Fast Company one of the country’s 10 Most Creative Small Businesses. 

Allen’s passion for environmental responsibility springs from both her love of nature and her up-close-and-personal relationship with clothing and accessory production. “Many designers are behind a computer and never see how their designs are made,” she explains. “I, however, spent time on the factory floor.”  

Confronted with the appalling practices of the fashion industry—the use of toxic chemicals, the exploitation of labor, the waste of water and other natural resources—Allen was inspired to facilitate change. “I could not look away,” she says. “I had to do something.” 

Design Futurist teams with already-successful brands and helps implement sustainable methods and materials, working on product development from beginning to end. DKNY recently recruited Design Futurist to reinvent the waterproof jacket using non-petroleum-based materials; Calvin Klein enlisted the firm to create a line of men’s jeans using proprietary dyes and finishes. 

7/23/2014 10:55:08 AM

Natalia`s Eco fashion company will have a lot of success because there are a lot of people that care about the environment and would like to have such Eco-innovative clothes. I asked my wife if she would buy such apparel and she replied that she knows too many chemicals are used to make clothes and she will surely buy them, still she would need to find more info about the accessories she could use.

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