Ethical Closet brand alert! NAYLA is an eponymous footwear line founded by Nayla Atallah. The designer has great experience in the fashion industry, working at Theory for almost 7 years before she decided to start her own journey into sustainable fashion.
Based in Miami, Nayla is passionate about the natural world and believe that protecting it has never been more important. Not wanting to compromise good looks, she created a footwear line that unites the best of both worlds.
Launched in March 2020, the brand is built on three pillars: environmental sustainability, social sustainability and charitable efforts. Nayla Atallah has gone above and beyond to create a footwear brand that is circular and eco-friendly, from extensive research and development, to diving into the Amazon rainforest to source natural and sustainable materials and innovating with the fishing industry's byproduct.
UP: Tell us about your brand. Why did you start the label?
NA: NAYLA is a luxury sustainable footwear brand that is bridging the gap between design and sustainability. I started NAYLA because I wanted to make a difference. It was no longer just about making a beautiful product but also measuring the social and environmental impact of that product. It was about being able to answer who was making your shoes, what materials they were made from, and how they were being made. I wanted to build the brand on the following three pillars: social sustainability, environmental sustainability, and giving back to local communities. This brand and our company are about a vision about the direction of fashion, but also a set of values that are rooted in what a global community should be about.
UP: What is your main source of inspiration for design?
NA: Inspiration comes from all over. I am inspired by my experiences, the people that I meet, and the places I have traveled to. The Amazon Rainforest is a major source of inspiration with its lush vegetation, exotic wildlife, and beautiful colors. There is something so magical about it. New York, Miami Paris, and Beirut are also cities that mean a lot and have shaped me into who I am today. Each city has its unique style and aesthetic that is always influencing my designs. Also very inspiring and important to me are women who are pursuing their dreams and making a difference. They are my muses.
UP: Low impact and eco-innovation are a strong part of your mission, what made you choose the planet and its people first?
NA: We believe that helping the planet and its people is the greatest luxury. As a sustainable brand, we believe in both social and environmental responsibility. That means we use eco-innovative materials such as pineapple leather, wild rubber sourced directly from the Amazon, and fish skin. We also make sure that the people who are working with us make fair and livable wages and work in ethical work environments. Part of our social mission is giving back to our community. This is why we are donating 10% of all sales to No Kid Hungry. With schools being closed, No Kid Hungry is helping to feed kids who would normally receive their lunch at school.
UP: How do you choose your materials?
NA: All of our materials are all thoughtfully selected and thoroughly researched to make sure they are aligned with the brand's mission. We make sure that they are sustainable, abide by REACH standards, and are on-brand with our values.
The wild rubber that we use to make the soles and the straps of our shoes is sourced directly from the Amazon Rainforest in both Brazil and Peru where we work directly with the local communities. The rubber tapping process is a decades-old artisanal process, which taps latex from the rubber tree and then turns that into rubber. The tree is never harmed in the process but instead is left to rest to regenerate. I went to the Amazon Rainforest in both Peru and Brazil in 2018 and had the privilege of meeting the rubber tapper communities that we are currently working with. Rubber tapping is such a slow artisanal process that will no longer be around if we don’t help preserve it. So many families rely on rubber tapping for their source of income and in turn that helps to combat deforestation. The Amazon Rainforest is home to 1.4 billion acres of dense forest and its health is linked to the health of the planet.
The fish skin that we use is a byproduct of the fishing industry and is something that would normally go into a landfill. Instead of having it go to waste, it is turned into leather using geothermal energy. The result is a beautiful luxurious material full of texture.
We are also using pineapple leather, which is made using recycled pineapple leaves. For the longest time, pineapple leaves were discarded after the pineapple harvest. That has amounted to approximately 13 million tons of wasted leaves. Now pineapple farmers are able to collect the leaves that are then turned into the amazing material that we use on our shoes. As a result, pineapple farmers have an additional source of income, and NAYLA can have a beautiful material that is sustainably sourced.
UP: Where are your pieces manufactured?
NA: All our shoes are made by hand in a female-owned factory in Lima, Peru.
UP: How do you assure the workers are paid fairly?
NA: We work very closely with our factory to make sure that the artisans are earning a living wage and that they are working in a safe, healthy, and happy environment. We have full transparency regarding the artisans’ wages and health benefits to make sure that they are in line with the latest government regulations. We also visit the factory often and work directly with the artisans there who are treated like family.
UP: How often are you in contact with your artisans, factories, and seamstresses?
NA: I am in contact with our factory on a daily basis. I love visiting with our factory and working directly with the artisans there to develop new styles. Now with Covid-19, we will definitely be working over Zoom more but I look forward to when I can travel again and work directly with the artisans in person.
UP: How many collections do you make a year?
NA: We are currently making 2 collections a year. It takes two days to hand-make each pair of shoes. As a sustainable brand that practices slow fashion, our goal is to be thoughtful about the styles we are producing and why we are producing them.
UP: Which one is your favorite piece in this collection?
NA: Really tough question! I love all the pieces for different reasons as they each have their own story and personality. If I had to choose though it would probably be the Josefina in the color sky because I think it is really elegant and versatile and can be dressed up or down really easily.
UP: Where can people buy your pieces?
NA: The collection is available on shopnayla.com!
UP: What advice do you have to create an ethical closet?
NA: The word sustainability is used a lot but it is important to understand what really makes something sustainable as every brand has its own definition and perspective of what that means for them. Do your research and educate yourself regarding the brand's sustainability practices and make sure it aligns with your values. I also believe that versatility is a huge part of sustainability because it limits how many pieces you really need. Be thoughtful about your purchases and don’t let anything go to waste. Upcycle pieces in your wardrobe that might need a refresh and if you need help doing so, there are plenty of resources to help like the Upcycle Project!