Nathalie Farfan- A Conscious Maven That's Empowering Women And Leading Cultural Conversations
It’s easy to call Nathalie Farfan of the brand Botanika, one of the most sought after emerging designers. But for this spiritual bruja, each piece symbolizes momentum for the conscious feminist. “I wanted to create something sustainable but could empower women through fashion," says Farfan. Considering herself a storyteller, she started with fashion as one of her first mediums for substantiating a movement.
After the death of her mother, Farfan became proactively motivated to uplift women. Her mother was a stylish maven who always had a voice. “She was powerfully fierce and fashion was her way of telling her story”, says Farfan. Born and raised in New Jersey, Nathalie grew up in an urban Latin community. She often saw her beautiful mom being objectified, which unfortunately was a norm in her area, but always saw her shero with her chin held high. Like the late abolitionist, Sojourner Truth, Nathalie’s mother never believed that a woman should suppress herself. Passing this philosophy onto her daughter, Nathalie had to learn to navigate in this world to create a platform of awareness.
With the base of her inspiration being imbedded in watching and learning from her mother, Nathalie felt compelled to become a designer, but not your typical. “I don’t want to be one of the many fashion brands that does it just to do it”. It seems that the power of connectivity far surpasses the ideology of being yet another drone. This fearless leader isn’t keen on simply making a beautiful dress or settling for producing in China because it’s easier and more cost effective. Her philosophy is that there has to be a message and an uplifting story that must resonate with her spirituality. “I’m about nature and tapping into your intuition and being in tuned with the cosmos. So how can I do fashion and be high end without being a façade and representing the unrealistic things that comes from fashion.”
Thus, Botanika focuses on local production here in New York City. With sustainability being such an avant-garde word, Nathalie curates her own understanding of it. She creates gorgeous and chic collections with 100% deadstock material that may have otherwise been thrown out; giving these fabrics a breath of new life. Because Farfan is a vegetarian and animal activist she commits to not using leathers or furs. She is partial to destock silks, alpacas and cotton blends. “I try to be as sustainable as possible but I understand the discrepancies that take place.” Immersing herself in this world of sustainability, she has watched the movie True Cost and continuously encourages others to do the same in order to minimize American participation in suffrage. As her brand scales and her message permeates, Farfan is committed to learning, growing and becoming more responsible.
However, with sustainability increasingly becoming a buzzword, Natalie keeps it very real on the challenges for emerging designers in New York. Nathalie admits, “The downside is that New York doesn’t make it easy for you to produce locally. We need to have more places like Manufacture NY that’s a one-stop shop but it needs to be more affordable for the designer. Ethical artists should not have to pay luxury prices in New York because then we’re all going to go broke.” The fact of the matter is, is that many amazing designers are struggling financially, making it tempting to produce irresponsibly in places like China and Bangledesh. This needs to be part of the sustainability conversation- making production efforts affordable and accessible for a more inclusive movement. The industry needs efficient systems immediately.
Another topic of discussion that needs to be had is diversity, even amongst indie designers. Being a lover of fashion, style and art – Farfan is fed up with the current industry. Not only does it thrive on unsustainable efforts, New York in particular lacks diversity and neglects to give creative credit to the communities where it originated. Farfan boldly acknowledges that street fashion comes from “us” minority women – “now we have all of these Vogue editors talking about hi-low when people of color created this. Truly we created it out of poverty and it’s blatant cultural appropriation. Over and over again.” Part of Botanika’s vision is empowering women of color. “I came from an inner-urban community and I still love high fashion. But I became high-low by default, not because it was a trend.” It’s imperative to bring back originality and give love to the art form. “I love style but I don’t have the same respect for the fashion world”, says Farfan. Fashion is motionless unless we can step up and pay homage to the brands who are leading with culture and nature; brands who have a bigger story. This all leads to our heightened level of consciousness.
“I am a minority woman, I am Latina. My mom whom I looked up to instilled that it doesn’t always have to be the super skinny white women representing style", says Nathalie. With enough brands catering to the “white women”, Botanika specifically wants to promote diversity. Farfan admits that the lookbook of her first collection was worn by an amazing professional Caucasian model, that was chosen by her art director. But although she looked beautiful and badass, it wasn’t representative of the woman she wants to dress. For the Fall lookbook Botanika intentionally sought after an androgynous model and she found a Domincan Republic woman who had “curly hair and had a butt.”
Nathalie Farfan is a very outspoken feminist who wants to continue this conversation of diversity and promoting emerging designers who stick to their true roots. She’s obsessed with pushing women to tell their story instead of allowing the industry or voices of the media to dictate beauty and authenticity. “The power is in our hands”, says Farfan. As a big proponent of supporting indie brands, sustainable progressiveness and melanin communities, she encourages consumers to go out of their way to pay a couple of more dollars for quality.
Farfan’s greatest achievement was getting the courage to launch Botanika last year with her business partner Angel Macias. The Spring/Summer 2016 collection presented at Capsule in NY and Paris did great but as Farfan expressed; the outcome doesn’t matter as much as the journey. Her goal is to increase consciousness and continue to learn each step of the way. At the end of the day, Farfan is a torn artist and who wants people to know that her “fashion is bigger than fashion”. It’s a movement about self love, appreciation, honoring the next woman and really not being ashamed of your fashion style and culture.