EcoWalk. Interview with Designer Nina Skibnevsky a.k.a. Haptic Path: Wearing Hemp is a Pleasure
“Wearing hemp is a pleasure, when you touch it, it feels like linen and it becomes softer with every wash.”
To begin,can you tell us about your journey into the industry fashion? How did the idea and concept of Haptic Path come to fruition? It looks like I was born with a needle in hands – my grandmother taught me to sew on the Zinger machine, which belonged to her grandmother. I grew up in Moscow, Russia. All my live I was in love with fabrics, textures, colours and… people. That’s why I got my degree in Social Psychology. For some time I forgot about my childhood dream of becoming a Designer. In 2012 my daughter and I moved to Israel. It was a great kick for me to come back to my passion because this is the skill that is always with me, no matter in which country I happen to be or what language I have to speak. Right before my moving to Israel I ‘d come across Ukrainian traditional ethnic brand, which used hemp fabric. The moment I touched it was my ‘aha’ moment and I immediately fell in love. I was desperate to use this textile, but I wanted to make it suitable for modern people with modern taste in design. For a few years I have been searching for hemp textures, and when I found it I had no doubts – the Haptic Path is on. And it was a very right moment – my daughter grew up a bit, I got more time and energy to invest into my brand and raise it like a newborn baby.
What drives your passion for sustainable fashion? First of all I am an environmentalist. It was not a surprise for me that fashion is second to petroleum industry in polluting our planet. And I see that building a sustainable brand has much bigger impact than just going plastic-free at home. Before I settled down in Israel I was traveling for many years and I witnessed ecological disaster firsthand. I want my children and grandchildren to enjoy The Earth and The Sea the same way as I still can.
Tell us please more about your brand’s slogan “Free motion in body and mind”. I believe that elegance and comfort should go hand-in-hand. Haptic Path’s clothes are created by a Psychologist to empower people, to inspire them to move forward to their dreams and to stay in harmony with their body. For years I was practicing yoga, contemporary dance, butoh. When you are present in your body, aware of it’s feelings, you simply can’t wear uncomfy clothes. For me, this is true mindfulness and it’s one of the basics of Haptic Path brand.
How do you intend people to feel when wearing your designed pieces? I want to empower people to reveal their inner beauty. When you feel great, your shoulders are strait, your eyes sparkle and you shine. Haptic Path helps creating this kind of feeling. When you are confident, balanced and in harmony with the world, it shows.
Wearing hemp is a pleasure, when you touch it, it feels like linen and it becomes softer with every wash.
On your website you state “We avoid all components that are unsustainable.” Can you tell us a bit more about the sustainability features of your label please? I am going plastic free whenever it’s possible. If I use buttons they have to be metallic, there is zero polyester in my fabrics. I am low on waste and packaging. When I am creating my designs, I am trying to find a way to make a favorite item for a person – the item, which a person will love and wear a lot, not just once in a year. For that reason I keep my tailoring quality at a very high level – I am producing long-lasting clothing.
People say that ethical and sustainable fashion is too expensive. How do you usually respond to that? It’s a question of values. Everyone is going to his/her job and expects fair payment. The same with workers in fashion industry.
Few days ago I was visiting Moscow, I was walking on the streets watching stylish people and I felt sad. I saw many fancy ‘three-for-10-dollars’ items and I knew that the next day peoplewould toss them. Clothes became as helium balloons – one minute happiness.
My grandma used to say: ‘I am not so rich to buy cheap cloths’ – meaning that high quality cloths last long and save money.
The most common misconception is that clothes should be cheap. It’s not true. If it’s cheap it means that the producer used fabric and dyeing process that damage environment, that it might be produced in sweatshops and most likely it is not healthy.
Every item makes a very long journey to your wardrobe. It’s worth investing time to learn more about a brand and it’s values and to choose your clothes consciously.
Why did you choose to work with hemp fabric? What are some benefits wearing clothes of hemp? Hemp is one of the oldest textiles used all over the Globe in the past. Why our ancestors on every continent sewed clothing of hemp? It is easy to grow and crop and the fabric is really strong.
I choose hemp because of great set of benefits for humans and for the environment. Hemp is 100% natural, breathable, durable, hypoallergenic, antibacterial & UV protective. Not bad, right? But at the same time hemp plant does not drain the soil, uses less water, grows faster than cotton and does not require pesticides.
What is your favorite part about being a designer? Do you have a favorite moment in your design process? Teamwork is the most exciting part for me. In my childhood, when I was making clothes for my Barbie dolls I felt lonely. But being the Founder and the Designer of a fashion brand means you are working with people – it has certain rules, as dance culture for example, but mostly you have to improvise, to be in tune with others and to keep your core goals in mind.
Where do you find new ideas and inspiration for your collections? I am getting inspiration from everywhere – from ancient warriors’ garments to contemporary dance actors’ gestures and poses, and then I am playing with the idea to make an item comfy. Sometimes at a concert I am getting new ideas and I have to draw them right on the spot. Or I can see someone’s cloths and think: ‘It’s so beautiful but uncomfortable, how can I do it better?’ Are you familiar with the feeling when you see a woman wobbling on her heals and you feel sorry for her? Sometimes I get this kind of inspiration (laughing).
Also I am in touch with my customers: every fair is full of insights, and during everyday work I am chatting with people and asking about their needs. Haptic path is a very young brand, it takes time but I wish to have all the basics in place.
How durable are your products; is it possible to increase their longevity? Hemp fiber itself is durable and I pay close attention to seam quality. But you need to keep in mind that if you wear natural clothes every day, you’ll need to replace it once. In the end of its life cycle hemp garment is biodegradable, so you can donate it, recycle it or put in a compost pile and be sure that the item will not stay in the fields for 100 years as polyester.
What three style habit should every woman adopt? First: build your own capsule wardrobe with help of a Stylist – it’s the best investment to build your image ever. Every woman is unique and no trend can fit all. When you know your colors and shapes – you are the queen.
Second: never go shopping when you feel lonely or depressed, you’d better get professional help or cheer yourself up with a massage or SPA.
Third: living in sharing economy realities we don’t have to possess all and everything, we can swap or rent an evening dress.
What is the timeline from having an idea to actually creating the product? Shortly describe your design process from mood boards to picking out fabrics to production. My mood boards are on Pinterest, I love this platform. Sometimes I wake up with colors in my mind, but in general I am in love with earthy colors. I know my fabrics and I am playing with them – it’s more about combining and drafting than sketching. As I mentioned before, I want to build a basic wardrobe, but I want to express myself as well. Reaching balance – this is the goal for my new collection…
What has been the most difficult aspect of getting your brand off the ground and how did you overcome that? I assumed that my customers were in love with the tactile feelings/touch (focus on haptic perception) the same as me, but I didn’t really know who they are. It took time to get to know my customers and their needs. And I feel really happy and grateful for their support. I feel very connected, as I got friends from all over the world: Canada, Germany, UK, US. I am just wondering who would be the next.
How can we be more conscious consumers to affect change in the fast fashion industry? Prefer quality over quantity. Be honest with yourself: do you need it? Do you REALLY need it? How many times are you going to wear this item?
Fashion revolution movement has a course on the Futurelearn. I strongly recommend it: you are going to be a detective for a few weeks and find out where the fabric, buttons and garments were produced, what is an average salary in this country and so on… Nowadays as customers we have big power: to ask brands questions in social nets, to ask for transparency and raise many other uncomfortable questions.
In your opinion, how have you seen the sustainable fashion industry change or develop in the past few years? More and more new amazing fabrics are created. For example, Alga-life (www.alga-life.com) is a way to make fabric from seaweed and to dye it organically.
Customization is becoming more and more available. Haptic path provides customers with tailor-made cloths as well.
Leasing clothes is a revolution – if you’ve found your best pair of jeans, why would you search for new ones?
I can see many amazing steps, but the scale is still very small. For example only 5% of cotton is grown organically, that means 95% of producers are still using pesticides.
Give us a hint! What are your plans for the nearest future? Do you have any exciting upcoming plans that you would like to share with us? Oh, yes! Right now I am working on a crowdfunding campaign. I need funds for scaling up my brand. I encourage you to visit my site, and to choose the best way to support from spreading the word to pre-ordering items by “early bird” price. Subscribe to our newsletter right now, and you won’t miss the date.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a sustainable designer? My personal challenge is being one of pioneers in Israel and not being fluent with written Hebrew. It really sucks. I want to share so much information, but keep silent a lot.
For sure sustainable approach gives some limitations – I can’t easily find new fabric, have to look for a good supplier and it takes time. But at the same time I feel so much support from the world, from friends and family that I know I will find all the answers on the right time. When the childhood dream is becoming true there is no way back.
Ifyou could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself when starting a fashion label? Do not be afraid, find a balance between listening to people and to yourself.
What are your thoughts about the future of ethical/ecological fashion? I wish it became a norm.
And once again I would say: the customers got the power. Simply vote with your dollar for brands/manufacturers, who are transparent and ignore others.
What are your tips for others trying to lead more sustainable lives? Step by step, don’t put all the world on your shoulders at once. Practice what you preach – everywhere: at home, at your workplace, even with the slogan on your t-shirt. Build your tribe because you’ll need lots of support in these days, when you feel too small challenging the system you wanna change for better. Think globally, act locally (smiling).
In your opinion, what new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on fashion design? Wearables are impressive. T-shirt, which can monitor your health parameters, isn’t it the future? And the possible level of customization with internet-shopping: soon there will be very little difference between designers and customers – we are able to collaborate and to develop everything together – not apparel only.
What legacy would you like to leave behind you? I want to be a conscious fashion brand empowering women. I know it’s ambitious, but I believe we should never settle for less. I am following Stella Mccartney and Vivienne Westwood – two superwomen with mother Earth in mind.
What superpower do you wish you had and why? To record my dreams as movies and to swim under water without equipment.
One thing that bugs you about humans is…? I can’t say anything about all humans. But in our gadget era we’d better learn more about our body potential and dance more, because motion is fun and health.
Please tell us a surprising fact about yourself. 10 years ago with my 5 years old daughter I traveled all around India without phone, laptop and player. Since then I almost stopped watching movies.