In an era that is flooded with an array of athleisure brands, Australian-based Nagnata is making all the right waves.
Founded by Laura May in 2017 (sister Hannah Gibbs joined as cofounder soon after) with the launch of “The Movement 001 debut collection,” Nagnata’s official journey began when May was working with artisan communities throughout India in 2015 on fair trade projects and bespoke upcycled textiles.
Nagnata, which loosely translates to “nakedness” in Sanskrit, is on a mission to redefine value and challenge the rampant consumerism engendered by fast fashion. “Our philosophy when approaching each collection is one of sustainably-minded design,” founder May shares.
One of its key differentiating factors?
Nagnata’s mantra, which is “Movements Not Seasons,” as each collection is defined by ‘movements’ as opposed to ‘seasons’. It’s also why the brand takes a strong stance against sales and has a “no sale policy,” including end-of-season events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (More on this in a bit.)
Nagnata is a luxury fashion and lifestyle brand informed by movement and mind practices, known for its contemporary movement knitwear aesthetic. Sustainability, inclusivity, a celebration of diverse culture, and leading with the ‘slow fashion’ movement are at the heart of its process.
One route to achieving this goal is via the fabrics used — May and Gibbs are focused on innovation and originality, and they’re pushing themselves in the experimental space of fashion and fabric. After all, if you noticed in the aforementioned paragraph, Nagnata uses knitwear for its pieces — an unconventional yet sustainable and breathable choice for yoga and pilates apparel.
Since its launch, Nagnata has released two “Core” and seven “Movement” collections — the most recent being Core 02 and Movement 007. The Core performance collection is known for its superfine Merino knitwear, designed with minimal seams and an innovative second skin fabrication exclusively developed by Nagnata, in collaboration with The Woolmark Company.
It also notably released the “Sama” genderless collection in 2020 (as part of the Movement 007 collection), which signifies the way forward for the brand with a “designed to share” and inclusivity approach, highlighting Nagnata’s aspirations for inclusivity and community.
Nagnata also stands for flow, movement and fluidity, perfectly aligning with Sama, whose styles are not exclusively masculine or feminine. “Sama” is an ancient word of Sanskrit origin, which means equal or same. The concept for Sama was born from Nagnata’s male following who were already wearing the brand, namely the coveted and iconic organic cotton rib sweaters, as well as dancers embracing the merino core performance line.
Merging the natural properties of organic and renewable fibres with technology and innovation, Nagnata collections continue to realize the studio to street lifestyle, blurring the lines between technical sportswear and fashion (and giving off a ‘90s vibe thanks to its bold colors and colorblocking).
May identified a void in the market — as she puts it: “It was actually out of necessity.” “It was just me at the start. Everything was self-funded. Then my sister, Hannah, came on board and helped.”
May continues: “Hannah had experience as a textile designer, fine artist and photographer. So between us, we could do everything we needed to make, design and photograph a collection. And with my fashion career, I’ve worked through all areas of a brand — I’ve been the production assistant, I’ve done sales, art direction — so we really were able to keep this really tiny team.”
So how did May identify the need for knitwear performance apparel?
“Coming from Australia, I’ve always lived by the beach. So it’s kind of like that outdoor lifestyle and ease of jumping in the ocean in the morning, and then needing to race to work quickly,” May explains. “I really wanted a wardrobe that could take me through all these kinds of scenarios. But also look chic and stylish, and not like everybody else. I have always hated wearing really tight synthetics while doing yoga. I find that they would restrict my breath and I’ve never been a big fan of Lycra. Also, the more I got into sustainability and fabric development and understanding materials, I saw that Lycra is 100% synthetic, and it’s from petrochemicals. So essentially putting petrol on your skin. When you’re in yoga practice, your pores are open. And so you’re really absorbing what’s on your body. So I started to put together all these different pieces of the puzzle that actually informed the design path that I took with development. I knew that I wanted high contents of organic, natural or renewable fibers. And I knew I had to use some synthetics for stretch. And at this stage, there wasn’t a lot of recycled raw poly or nylons to blend in. I knew I wanted to work with knitwear, because I would wear beautiful Italian knit bras to yoga. I love the feeling on my body — they were so soft and looked beautiful — but I also wasn’t feeling too restricted. Also the beautiful thing with knitwear is that you can engineer the knit pieces to shape, so I wasn’t wasting all these material ‘offcuts’.”
(In other words, the organic cotton technical knit sets are engineered to shape, to avoid excess material waste.)
“It’s a much more expensive design process and it’s a high-end fashion construction, but I really wanted to blend that with sportswear appeal. I was at Rose Bowl Markets one time and I was sourcing all these old swimsuits from the ‘20s to the ‘50s. And they actually used to be made of merino wool — once I found those, that was a bit of an ‘aha moment’.”
“I actually didn’t have many examples around me, unless they were like, really hippie yogi brands — and the design aesthetic didn’t resonate. So there was a huge gap and a void that I found when I was first starting this brand, and that’s why I was excited by it! What I didn’t have around me was a big team to help me launch all this quickly. So it took me a lot of time and a lot of perseverance to launch Nagnata. And once I did, the sustainability movement was starting to happen more — activewear was suddenly booming.”
At a time when every brand participates in mass sales that have become a global, annual occurrence and expectation, it’s a notable move to opt out.
The ‘movements not seasons’ method is to ensure the brand does not overproduce and enables sustainable business growth. Its slow fashion approach also means it is creating two movements per year, moving away from the fast fashion model that is up to 50 fashion cycles per year.
“Nagnata does not believe clothes should be devalued at the end of a 3-month cycle. This is why as a brand we do not offer any form of sale or discount strategy online, or within our Australian and New Zealand markets. In light of this we work closely with our factories, yarn mills and their technicians to create premium product that will stand the test of time.”
“Another element of our approach is community,” May continues. “We listen to our customers’ needs and create small injections of our most coveted pieces.”
While Nagnata is doing things its own way and doubling down on innovation — especially in the realm of fabrics — it’s clear the industry is taking notice. (The magic happens at its Byron Bay studio.)
Nagnata was named a finalist in the Lane Crawford Creative Callout competition in Sydney 2018, winning an exclusive 1-year contract with the leading Asian department store throughout Hong Kong and China.
In 2019, Nagnata was invited to present looks to Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, at the National Gallery Of Victoria in Melbourne for the Vogue Emerging Designer Showcase. Vogue Australia named Nagnata “Generation Next” designers as part of the ‘Meet Our Future’ feature in the February 2019 issue of the magazine. And as part of the VAMFF Award for Sustainability in 2020, Nagnata received a sustainability mentorship.
Nagnata relaunched wholesale in the American market with LCD and FWRD (the brand had taken a distribution pause in North America during COVID), and it has more exciting news on the horizon in 2021.
“We are also collaborating with an Aboriginal charity on a long-term Indigenous artisan fundraising project, which is close to our hearts,” May shares.
On the movement front, Nagnata recently launched a studio platform featuring free yoga and Pilates.
“The Nagnata lifestyle embodies movement, art and activism and we are happy to open our world to everyone.”