Why did you decide to become a fashion designer?
It was a childhood dream. Although I didn’t study design and chose instead Business Management and Marketing, it was after few of years working in Finance and Marketing that I realized this is what I wanted for me. So at that point I decided to recall that inner child voice, and started to study at night fashion and design at the Shoe Academy in Portugal. At the end of the 2 years, I quit my job and went to Italy to learn “Bags Design and Patterns” at the International School ARS Sutoria, in partnership with Trends Magazine.
Tell us a bit about the Najha brand.
NAJHA, is a philosophy of life, a lifestyle! Najha is Fashion, Najha is Style, Najha is Love.
Najha is a balance between fashion and nature, its mission is to change the world, to bring to a new state of mind into the fashion industry. Therefore Najha is not only a brand, it is a unique identity! So for those that wear and use NAJHA, you are creating with us a new fashion-conscious community … as I always say … Change the World With Us!
I see fashion in my own way. Fashion is “BE”, Fashion is an expression of ourselves, style, emotion, it’s the way we identify ourselves every day!
I think each one live with its own fashion, we can identify ourselves with a brand for many reasons, because of its philosophy, because of its style, its colors, etc, but at the end we mix all of this to make our own style.
So Najha fashion is in that way is “Be and let it Be”, we create fashion and we let you use your imagination, which is only the limit!
What inspires you when you are creating your designs?
My inspirations are taken from life experiences! The most important part is being connected with myself, that’s what allows me to open up to my inner child, and let it guide me with the theme; for that I like to walk in nature, meditate, practice yoga, play music (violin), experience the most profound sensations and emotions. Also being focused on my work allows me to be with myself.
And there was an era that I really liked, the Dandy lifestyle. For me Dandy is glamour, style, chic, so I try to bring from its essence in each NAJHA Collection!
So what inspires me is the moment! Is living it with intensity and happily!
How did you select the materials you used? Why did you decide to work with Cork?
Before I got to cork, I worked with different type of fabrics and leather, but at that moment I was already vegan, and I wasn’t feeling comfortable using animal cruelty fabrics, materials, especially leather!
After doing some research and talking with friends about cork, I decided to do my first sampling with the material, and it was around the time I got an invitation to do a exhibition in Contacto Holistico – Portugal that I made the first complete cork collection for NAJHA.
After that I never stopped using the cork as the main material for NAJHA Collections, adding the organic cotton lining also. So Cork and organic cotton are the main materials for all the NAJHA collections. For these two next collections we have some surprises with new materials for clothing, so be alert because you will just love it
Was the material difficult to work with?
All the materials have their specifications to work with, but it is not like “difficult”, but challenging yes, because we have to keep our goals really well defined and then we work the cork and all the materials to get the desired results.
So as I mentioned before it is not difficult but challenging … we take care about all the details about preservation, temperatures, glues, and all the components that allows us to offer a high quality product and with huge differentiation in the market.
What do you consider the important facets of the fashion industry?
For me, fashion is one of the most important industries in the world because of its global impact, it involves plantation, factories, lifestyles, and our visions. It is an industry that must be aware of its influence as creator of thought, believes and consciences. Therefore the most important facet of the fashion industry is to be aware of its impact in the world!
How would you describe your personal style?
My personal style is NAJHA, ahahhahahahah! It is classic, sporty, chic, it is what the moment call for!
Is there anything people find characteristically original about your designs?
The most important characteristic are the colors and the floral patterns. You could recognize NAJHA style right away as I see life in colors; let’s not forget the different styles and details!
NAJHA characteristics are colors and details!
What do you think of eco-fashion?
Eco-fashion is a current trend, before it was just “ECO”, now people realize that eco can be fashion and fashion can be eco, that’s the most important point!
So sustainable fashion is improving a lot, in its differentiation, in the fashion industry and keeps growing, and growing with a huge demand.
How can you use intelligent design to reduce the social and environmental impact of a product’s life cycle?
As I mention before, making sure what ethics is and establish this concept in the company’s philosophy. The community is not only about Fair Trade it is all about being conscious, alert, with what we are bringing to the world, being aware of who we work with, the manufacturing process and conditions, the raw material, its production, its use.. We have a lot to do about the environmental aspect of it, this is just the beginning, and we need a lot of transformation in order to really care for our planet, but we already started and that’s the best! So intelligent design is not just the design concept, it is all that govern and lead to the final products and what it will move!
Do you consider the environmental effects of the colors and prints you choose for your collection?
Yes, definitely, and we are always looking for new and best solutions; for us that is an important aspect since the beginning.
When selecting your fabric range, do you think about the end-of-life stage, such as the implications of disposal?
As I said we are always looking for new and better solution for recycling. That’s why we are creating new partnerships with suppliers to get better materials and better end-of- life for NAJHA range of products.
Are there any toxic used in the production stage that can still be in the materials which can harm when having skin contact?
NAJHA Products are all tested by us; it is absolutely safe to skin contact. We even pay attention to the glue we use, which is water base, and allows an environmental impact much lower.
How durable are your products; is it possible to increase their longevity?
NAJHA Products have a long life but is nice to care for it, of course! To increase their longevity, keep it clean, use it nicely, care for it with love ;).
The leather cork can be cleaned with a wet tissue and natural soap, let it dry inside out, and its ready to use again. For clothing you can put them in the machine at low temperatures and preferentially with natural detergents. That can increase the longevity of each NAJHA item.
How can you encourage the customer to form an emotional bond with your product, thereby discouraging disposal?
That is a good question, we always have an emotional connection with our personal “belongings” so each NAJHA item has a concept related to it, and we ask our customers to buy it because this emotional bond, not see it as only just a bags or a shoe … NAJHA is Love, so make sure you really love what you are buying and will use it for a long time, because you are using not only an unique identity, but also spreading love and emotions, saving our planet!
Could you offer an upgrading and/or a repair service to your customer?
Yes, we always offer repair services to customers as needed; fortunately given the resilience of the product, you won’t have to use the service as often. But yes the client can call us and send us the items for repair. This service is for free, of course!
Do you try to keep up with the trends or create your own?
We actually don’t, we try to create our own, and that is each day a challenge; coming up with a product in every ways, from shapes to colors, choice of raw material! We create fashion at Najha.
What’s next for your brand? What do you hope to have achieved in the industry, 10 years from now?
Concretize 100% NAJHA Concept, which is for sure – to Change the World!
Ahahah, really lots of things are “working in progress”, and only at the right moment can we communicate to our customers, fans and family, so keep in touch we have always news.
“I’m a vegan and I have a philosophy of life that makes me a friend of the environment and of natural things, and I soon felt the need to find materials that could be used in my collections, and cork was the most innovative and versatile material I have ever seen.” — Daniela Sa
The businesswoman reveals that at the beginning she was “intrigued and resistant” to the material. “I didn’t know its potential. I didn’t know how to use cork, but the models began to appear and, now, I won’t move away from cork”, she confesses.
In 2012 her work as a designer, as well as the concept of the brand, was recognized by the international fashion magazine “Drapers -The Fashion Business” and was nominated to the category of “Best Designer of the Year – Accessories”.
Najha was created by Daniela Sá in 2006 but it is in 2010 that she decides to revitalize the project. Daniela graduated in Management and achieved a Master’s Degree in Marketing from Portugal’s Lusíada University. She entered the world of fashion and accessories through the footwear industry. She worked for seven years in the commercial area of the industry, which allowed her to come into contact with the creative and design side of the company.
She soon realized that she would like to see her own ideas gain life. To better develop this passion, she completed a design course in leather goods, at the footwear industry’s vocational training centre. Upon finishing, she left for Italy where she learned more about the design and styling of cork leather goods and accessories, in association with the fashion trend magazine Ars Sutoria. Leading a vegan lifestyle, she looked for natural materials such as cork, and soon put her know-how into practice with the creation of her own collection.. But most of all she is a fashion lover which is transmitted in each design she creates. Her collections as she says are “All about Love!”, because each collection represent the discovery of herself, her own life.
Daniela was born in Fiães, Aveiro and besides being a designer, she is a true artist in the soul, she perform contemporary art and play violin, does painting as well…she wants to take cork as far as she can.