This week our green product hunt led us to a fabulous new ethical knitwear label discovery-NIA- from USA. Created, designed & managed by a bright young woman entrepreneur- Merica Kahn. You know how much we encourage and feature women driving sustainability and change and Merica’s startup checked all the right boxes- innovative and quality green product, ethical manufacturing and potential to drive sustainable fashion. Comfortable, stylish and made with Italian merino wool, the label’s speciality is its innovative production using 3D knitting machines that cut production footprint drastically. The product range features wardrobe essentials that can be mixed and matched with various garments- a fabulous combination of function and fashion.
Here’s Merica’s journey in her own words from fashion student to sustainable fashion entrepreneur and everything about her ethical knitwear label NIA.
NIA ETHICAL KNITWEAR: FASHION WITH A ‘PURPOSE’
My name is Merica [Mur-ee-kuh] Kahn. I’ve lived on the East coast all my life in Northern New Jersey. Since I can remember, at the age of five, I have always been deeply drawn to fashion. My young memories consist mainly of playing dress up at my childhood BFFs house down the street. I had a closet full of those little plastic dress up shoes and I couldn’t wait for the day I was able to wear “real” high heels. I always knew one day I wanted to start my own fashion company. I don’t think I ever had such a strong desire in life for anything else besides that one dream.
Fast forward a few years, I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in May of 2013 with a bachelors degree in Production Management. The end of that summer I started working for a wonderful company in the Fashion District full time. I feel so lucky to be a part of the design team there and I’m learning new things everyday. I decided I finally wanted to start my own line in December of 2015. I felt like it was the right time and I had just enough savings to get the development off the ground. One of the best decisions I made was joining an accelerator program called Factory45. The founder, Shannon Lohr, has created an interactive program for aspiring sustainable designers that takes them from 0 to launch! It wasn’t until starting this program that I had truly been introduced to how bad the fashion industry was impacting, not only the planet, but exploiting the factory workers in the industry.
Halfway through the 6 month Factory45 program I watched a documentary called The True Cost (If you have not yet seen it, WATCH IT ASAP! It’s available on Netflix, iTunes & Amazon). I learned about the devastating collapse of Rana Plaza that killed over a thousand workers, and the damage that chemicals and dyes have done to the water systems all around the world. As it turns out, the Fashion Industry is the second worst industry for our water, right after the oil industry. Cheap clothing is piling up in landfills faster than they ever have. This all shocked me to tears. After seeing that film, I promised to stay committed to being the positive change I wanted to see in the fashion industry.
For the last 10 months I have been working closely with the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator to develop and launch NIA, my eco-friendly knitwear company. NIA, also my first name means ‘purpose’ in Swahili. I decided to go with this name because NIA has become my eco-friendly identity. I decided it worked since it was my name, but also a part of me that most people who know me aren’t even aware of. With my intention and purpose being to have a positive impact on the fashion industry, it was a fitting identity. That’s how NIA was born.
HOW ETHICAL KNITWEAR NIA IS BOTH SUSTAINABLE & STYLISH
I wanted to create a line of knitwear that could provide someone with a versatile outfit that could be dressed up or down depending on the moment. The styles have been developed on Shima Seiki WHOLEGARMENT® 3D knitting machines. Think 3D printing, but for knitwear! That means the garment has no seams for extra comfort.
Rib knits provide a comfortable stretchy fabric that moves with you.
3D knitting provides better quality because of the efficient program software Shima Seiki has created. Once a garment has been developed, that will forever be how the garment gets produced, as it’s super consistent. There is a much lower lead time compared to typical market knitting. The machines are really efficient on energy, providing a low carbon footprint. Almost the exact amount of yarns are used to create a garment so there is minimal waste in the 3D knitting process. The yarns I use are 100% Italian Merino Wool. The all natural merino wool fibers provide temperature regulation, sweat wicking features that reduce odor, barely wrinkles, and has natural UV protection. Merino wool is much softer than your typical itchy wool. The yarns that come from Italy are taken humanely from the sheep with absolutely zero harm to them. The process to create the yarn is so eco-friendly the people of the town where the yarns are sourced from can drink the water it’s made from!
The focus when designing the first 3 pieces was making sure the customer could feel stylish, elegant and comfortable. I wanted to make sure that these garments were easy to mix and match with pieces every woman already has in her closet. With this minimalist vision in mind I came up with the NIA, cropped pant, tank top and choker.
First knitwear collection: Ready, set, go with Kickstarter!
I am currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the local production of NIA in Brooklyn, New York! There is less than a week left in the campaign. If the project is fully funded I will immediately proceed to next steps of product production. I’m eager to get to the production phase with the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator. I’m extremely proud to be a part of the experience of manufacturing they are bringing back to the fashion industry of New York.
Styling inspirations for NIA ethical knitwear
My vision for NIA ethical knitwear
If the campaign is successful I hope to grow in the sustainable fashion industry. I have been so appreciative of all the information everyone in this field is willing to share. There are new and innovative ideas popping up that are changing the way we think about our clothing everyday. I hope to have a positive impact on this industry and help raise awareness about the devastating impact fashion has made. I intend to lets many people as possible know that making small thoughtful changes can have a big positive impact! In the next year I plan to use recycled yarns to create even less impact on the environment. I’d like to set up a partnership where I can provide used knitwear that can be broken back down into fibers to reuse and close the lifecycle of clothes so that clothing does not have to end up in landfills.
FOUNDER TIPS ON HOW TO STAY STYLISH & SUSTAINABLE
I am a proud supporter of the ethical and sustainable fashion industry and believe if everyone does a little research and expands their knowledge on positive changes we can drastically reduce our footprint here on Earth. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ways you can become a more Eco-friendly fashionista:
1. Swap clothing with your friends. It’s a great party theme, or just an excuse to get together with friends and have a good time while enhancing your wardrobe for free!
2. Shop at your local vintage or thrift stores. Some of my favorite pieces in my closet are from vintage stores.
3. Purchase clothing that is only made from humane, all natural and organic fibers.
4. Buy clothing that is only dyed naturally, or not dyed at all.
5. Shop for clothing that is upcycled and reuses materials.
You can also read UrbanMeisters’s Founder Mirela Orlovic’s easy to do 3 tip guide on building a sustainable but stylish wardrobe.
We need you! Support NIA on Kickstarter
Ethical knitwear NIA is a great project to support and develop and we urge you to donate to NIA’s Kickstarter campaign to see Merica build this sustainable fashion startup. Here are two ways you can help:
- Share the campaign on social media with friends and family- you can even share this article to raise awareness.
- Back this project with funds.
Visit NIA at any of the addresses:
- Website: http://shopniaclothing.com
- Kickstarter: http://kck.st/2owcRix
- Follow NIA on Instagram, Twitter & FB: @shoniaclothing
- Contact founder Merica on Instagram @mericakahn
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