When I plan a trip, I tend to think about my outfits first. I love matching a look to the vibe of a city or a location we are going to. What colors should I include in my minimized wardrobe? How can I mix and match the garments to save room for new things I purchase? It is a complicated web that I love to weave… then unweave… and weave again.
A new practice I have picked up for traveling is reeling it in and looking not at the full picture, but what each of the garments are. Do I want to bring a minimalist Zara blouse to a tropical “off-the-grid” city that thrives in their own products, creations, and clothing? Probably not. Would I bring that same blouse to New York City where American Capitalism thrives? Yes, I will fit right in.
It all comes back to the importance of sustainable fashion and fashion’s carbon footprint and ethics. I always feel more up-beat and a little sense of pride when I wear a vintage piece I adore. My recycled rope sandals or my workout set made from recycled water bottles also make me stand a little taller. Knowing where my accessories and garments come from, who they impact, and how they effect the environment is vital information when I am putting together an outfit for travel.
Since I am making 2018 a year of exploration, I didn’t want to turn to fashion giants for my jet-set wardrobe. I stumbled upon Noa Trade; a fair-trade company that sells products from brands that are (N)atural, (O)rganic, and/or (A)rtisanal. They are a one-stop-shop for all of my beachy, boho accessories, beauty, and home decor. Not only did I have this festive, Latin American look covered, but I found a seller that shares the same values that I do about sustainable and ethical fashion.
As I scrolled through their website, I found myself wondering how the founders came up with this idea. I came in contact with Sofía Restrepo, the co-founder and Fashion and Digital Marketing Consultant for Noa Trade. I conducted an interview via email with Sofía to get the scoop on how Noa Trade came to be:
What inspired Noa Trade? How was the brand created?
NOA Trade is the result of many good coincidences. I had just quit my job in fashion and was looking for a job that would let me follow my dreams of helping the world be a better place.
Elisa, my best friend, had just given up on the fashion industry as well to follow her dream of creating something of her own that would support a healthy lifestyle. She started working on that for two weeks with two partners. I saw the opportunity for all of us to come together and create a company that would have a greater impact.
We created NOA Trade, the result of Elisa’s passion for health and beauty. Esteban [is] the head behind everything. Germein is in charge of logistics and support in the United States. [Then there’s] me- someone with experience in fashion and retail but wanted to do something that helped others.
What makes a sustainable, but fashionable lifestyle important to you?
I grew up surrounded by the fashion industry. My mom has worked in fashion all her life. Most of her friends have also worked in fashion.
I got a sewing machine at 12. I fell in love with it; so much so that I [focused] my career in advertising only to work in the fashion industry. Later when I graduated, I became more for familiar with the fashion industry since I only worked on fashion companies. Then did my master degree in Luxury and Fashion Management.
So yes, fashion is in my veins, but helping the planet also is. I started searching for sustainable fashion… I found that in Colombia we had amazing designers working with artisans and creating high end products with traditional techniques.
That is why a sustainable, but fashionable lifestyle is important to me. A fashionable lifestyle is a core for my life, but fashion is not worth destroying the planet for. Fashionable and sustainable is my choice.
Cultures from all walks of life inspire contemporary fashion everyday. What makes your brand a unique source of inspiration?
Our company represents brands that have a story and a purpose. They want to make the world a better place step by step.
Some of them do it by taking great care of the environment, which we all need to learn how to do. Others do it by taking great care of people and communities.
All of these brands coming together, they make a difference. Even if they change one person’s life, or even if they change the fate of one small river. It is definitely worth it. That is what inspires us every single day.
In your “About Us” section, you say you want to “improve our customers’ lifestyle step by step”. What is the ideal lifestyle you want your customer to reach with your products?
We honestly do not think of it as an “Ideal lifestyle”. What we mean is that we can all become more conscious about the way we consume; what we buy, what we eat, who makes our products and under what conditions they make it.
It is not about becoming 100% eco-friendly. It is amazing if we can do that, but not everyone is willing to and that is OK too. Someone might just be looking for a beautiful product, but then falls in love with the story behind it; with the difference it makes, and begins changing they way he/she consumes. That is all we need to know; that we are making a difference.
Why is “shopping local” or “shopping small” so important in our society today?
We think what’s important is not shopping local or shopping small. We believe in buying products from companies that are conscious and ethical in the way they work. Companies that are really fair-trade, environmental and human friendly. To be honest, most of the huge companies are not. Most, not all. Some of them are doing amazing jobs.
Have you met all of the artisans you work with in person?
We have met with all the owners of the brands we work with, but we haven’t met each artisan since some of them live in the other side of the country. Still, we would love to visit them all in 2018.
Is there a story behind “Noa Trade” as a name for the company?
NOA stands for Natural, Organic or Artisanal. These are our pillars, our reason of being. Living in this country (Colombia), you get to see all the amazing work people do. Incredible craftsmen, artisans, and environmentalists. That is what we want to bring to the rest of the world.
Sofía even included the basic requirements for getting a brand sold through their company:
NOA stands for Natural, Organic, or Artisanal. The first thing on the checklist for a brand to work with us is to have one of these three characteristics.
We then sit with them too see the way they work. We want to work with fair-trade brands that have respect for the environment and every single person involved in the production process.
We look for brands that have a story to be told; a story of craftsmanship, environmental respect, passion. Each brand brings its own story to the table, which is what makes NOA so special to us.
One of my favorite quotes from Sofía from the interview is “One must never be ordinary, not even for grocery shopping.”
Not to be ordinary can mean so many different things. Travel is how I differentiate myself. I love learning new cultures, understanding their customs, and seeing new things. Noa Trade has allowed me to see the fashion that makes up Latin American culture directly from the source. Brands that share knowledge as well as style lead the change in lifestyles and trends.
Here are some of my favorite products from Noa Trade:
You can purchase these products and more with my discount code: SKRIBBLED20 on their website. This code does not work on sale or beauty items. It’s 20% your full price purchase! The code is valid until the end of January.
Follow Noa Trade on Instagram!