Meet Natalie, the founder of Canadian based, Arraei Collective.
If you haven’t yet already come across Arraei in our brand directory, prepare yourself for what will likely become one of your new favourite brands.
Not because of the completely plastic free packaging they use, or the fact that they add in the most beautiful surprise to each order (although that’s part of it), the story behind and the quality of each Arraei garment is one worth telling and getting behind.
While you can read our full brand write up, aka what we really think of Arraei here, we wanted to sit down and chat more with Natalie about why she started this timeless label, what the struggles have been in her journey thus far and what her goals are for the future.
What made you start Arraei Collective?
I started Arraei because I felt a deep desire to to alter the fate of our planet, to change the direction we were heading in terms of sustainability and to be an activist for social justice. Arraei was born in a moment of realisation while I was in India - after a few years of constant travelling I had allot of time to think, plan and manifest my future and what I wanted to do to make a difference, to make waves. I have always been creative and involved in the arts, that coupled with my love for hemp and all its sustainable properties led me to starting a women’s slow fashion brand. Arraei Collective is my way of connecting to people and the planet and developing a space where we people can learn, express and encourage the importance of conscious and mindful living.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Most mornings I wake up at 5:30 - I love waking up early before the light, there is a calmness in the morning that is so dreamy. I do a few minutes of meditation and then a full yoga practice which I change up depending on my schedule or my mood. I try to do this everyday (although sometimes I slip up :)) I like to take this moment to be present and set my intentions for the day creating some space in my mind for the day ahead. I really don’t like starting my day in a rush because I need my me time in the morning even if its a few minutes it helps me align myself and be focused. When I lived back home in the warmth of Africa I would do all of this outside in nature. Living in Canada has forced me to adapt a little so nature time is later in the day when its warmer!
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
I would say that one of the biggest challenges would be price points and awareness. Our commitment to sustainability and ethics is the most important thing about Arraei so we spend allot of time working through our supply chain, researching and sourcing the best eco-friendly materials and making sure that where we can we are supporting ethical companies. But doing everything the right way costs allot more. Which brings us to the next point, and that is awareness - spreading knowledge and creating change in our community. When people are aware of their impact on the planet then they are able to make changes in their own lives allowing them to fully understand their footprint. It’s often a challenge to communicate responsibility, because people need to feel it for themselves.
Within the ethical fashion community, there's a big question that we ask which is 'who made my clothes?'. In the scope of Arraei, who made your clothes? Can you tell us a bit about them?
I work with a small team of local sewers and seamstress - all our pieces are handmade in Vancouver Canada. The sewers work in small studios or in their home studios which allows them freedom to work in their own flow/time. We produce in small batches to ensure quality as well as not to overload our team with tight deadlines. Allot of thought and love goes into making one Arraei piece in every stage of production.
Why did you pick the fabrics or materials that you have chosen to work with?
I spend allot of time sourcing the best materials and fabrics. Everything we use (from fabric to packaging) is 100% natural, biodegradable and eco-friendly. Sustainability is at the core of Arraei so I do my best to ensure we live and breathe our values. We use hemp and linen fabrics that are GOTS and OEKO-TEX Certified which ensures the mills are producing responsibly and sustainably. They are also audited, reviewed and visited regularly for inspection. We are moving towards a full hemp collection because of hemps magical eco-friendly properties. I want our customers to feel connected to the earth - to feel a part of it and to be in harmony with it, knowing that their clothes are made responsibly with the earth and all its inhabitants in mind.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Hmm, that’s a tough one. So many little snippets of advice from all kinds of people have helped me in my life. I would say often the best advice always comes at just the right time. Something that really rang true is “create and let go”. To channel your energy into something beautiful and then allow the freedom of fate to take its course.
What’s next for you and Arraei?
There are allot of inspiring things in the pipeline for Arraei. Firstly we are finally moving towards a full hemp collection and really working towards minimising our environmental footprint. Hemp has been at the core of Arraei since the beginning and it has taken some time to source the perfect fabrics, and finally we have found the magic. I’ve also been working on Arraei as a brand and the vision I want to create, I feel that we are now on the curve of defining exactly who we are and what message we want to send. So there are allot of new and exciting things on the way.
One book everyone should read? Why?
Sidharrtha by Herman Hesse - It’s a book about self discovery, a teaching about living an awakened, conscious and spiritual existence. There are so many moving lessons in this book about life’s journey, with strong emphasis on being present and open to receive. One of my favourite quotes from the book is
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
One documentary everyone should watch? Why?
In light of Eco-Fashion and spreading awareness I would say everyone should watch “The True Cost” - a film that pulls back the curtain on the fashion industry. Unveils the inside world of fast fashion to consumers.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about? Among many others - Im always inspired by the women who run The Hemp Temple. I love their values, wisdom and vision that they share with their people. In the last few years I have met so many inspiring women who run their own businesses and are dedicated to a more sustainable and ethical world.
Did you just fall more in love with Arraei after reading this interview with Natalie? Us too.
You can check out all the beautiful Arraei garments for yourself, HERE.