A Budapest-based brand, the durability in production, and the exposure that should be given to sustainable solutions and nature: case study, Nanushka, Sandra Sandor
An hour’s drive from Budapest’s center, Sandra Sandor, Creative Director and founder of Nanushka, and her team, meet near the Danube and pass the day planting trees to compensate for the environmental impact and the carbon emissions they produced in 2019: they will need to plant 4.800 trees. Carbon offsetting aside, Nanushka is recognized for its padded vegan leather jackets, but Sandor reveals more activities behind the scenes.
Veronica Pravato is Nanushka’s Sustainability Manager. «We work in a cross-departmental way to implement an integrated sustainability approach within every function of the business». Nanushka’s key components of production are housed under one roof; the pattern makers work alongside the designers, with the factories near the area. This deliberate choice of each unit working in close proximity to the other was made to assure transparency, helping to cut down the carbon footprint of the organization and operate a clean supply chain. «We aspire to maintain a close relationship with our manufacturers and ateliers, as this guarantees transparency and visibility on all our processes. The advantage of being Budapest-based and having a Budapest-based studio is that sampling can be done in house without additional waste».
The team working together offers the opportunity to find solutions to issues that crop up during production. «While working on the latest collection, our pattern makers recognized that they generated waste cutting some fabrics. We made scrunchies out of that waste. Everything is taken into consideration. We are looking at implementing how we collaborate with our suppliers in the cut phase to re-introduce the material that exceeds» says Pravato. Redefining waste is an example of Nanushka’s exploration of circular production, beyond the tropes of reusing and recycling. Sandra Sandor says «How we re-use scraps from the cutting stage is something that’s in the pipeline. Circular production starts at the design. How can we remove waste right at the design stage?».
Emissions are examined to understand the carbon footprint of the company. Sustainability runs from tier-one garment manufacturers and fabric suppliers to warehouses, ateliers, offices, and stores. «We collect data to understand our direct and indirect emissions across the scopes. Our objective is to go all the way down to material manufacturing because often the impact of making our garments lies on tier-four, which is where the materials are grown. We need to understand where the consequences affect and how big or small they are to prioritize our decision making». Sandor wants to sell clothing that lasts and does not see Nanushka’s role ending once a garment has been purchased. For this reason, she decided to introduce a repair service for customers: «It is part of our circularity efforts, we want the clothes that we sell to last as long as they can. Part of that responsibility – if anything happens to the garment – is ours. So, we will offer the repairing, and we are working on all the setup for our stores».
In a bid to reduce the number of garments that end up in landfills, Nanushka will introduce a way to follow a product’s journey, tracking where and how it was made. A tech company called Eon will aid the brand, as the start-up specializes in supporting apparel companies in tracking a product. «We will enable our customers to know how to repair a garment, take care of it and also re-sell it and rent it in case they no longer want it to be part of their wardrobe. There are challenges in the circular economy scale for fashion, especially, when it comes to a garment ending up in landfills – which is often the case because we do not always understand what a garment is made of. This does not allow recyclers and sorters to do what they could with recycling and re-selling». Thanks to the collaboration with Eon, Nanushka’s customers will be able to scan a QR code and follow the product’s journey from the initial raw materials up until it is sold.
Nanushka’s packaging is recycled or certified as being sourced responsibly. Canopy, an NGO which aims to protect ancient and endangered forests, provides the company with tools to analyze their sourcing: «We’re committed to protecting the world’s forests through the responsible sourcing of cellulose-based materials such as paper, packaging, and fibers. We’ve partnered with Canopy, an NGO dedicated to developing innovative business ideas to save forests and ecosystems. We’ll fight illegal tree logging by ensuring that our fabrics are sourced from sustainably managed forests. All of our packaging, paper, and manmade cellulosic fabrics will be sourced from forests certified to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) system».
Budapest remains at the center of the brand physically and creatively, as the city’s cultural heritage informs Sandor’s designs. «Budapest has always been an intersection of East and West and has a nomadic heritage which I try to capture in my designs. Traditional craftsmanship is at the heart of Hungary with weaving techniques, symbolism, and embroidery». For Sandor, Budapest also implies community, which is another component of the Nanushka brand: «Even if the company continues to grow, I want to keep the design and manufacturing process relatively small to preserve the DNA. All the seamstresses have been working with me for years and they know me, my expectations, and my preferences. It simplifies the process».
Beyond the scope of carbon emission reduction and sustainable practices, Nanushka collaborated with Noha Studio – a workroom where Hungarian creatives can come together in the name of crafting – on creating ceramic pieces for the collections. «We are making some handmade embroidery and macramé – and we are teaching the craft to the community to provide skills and works opportunities to women in Terény, in rural Hungary. Since work is scarce in Terény, especially for women, we support and empower this disadvantaged female community. This will lead also to an increase in the ratio of sustainable materials in our collections by replacing plastic detailing with ceramic finishes – made exclusively by the Terényi women from natural materials». By 2025, they aim for all Nanushka products to be 100 percent sustainable: from the linings to the trimmings and the processes behind. Each collection is a chance to explore the changing world of sustainability and carbon emission reduction, which they plan to do one tree at a time.
Sandra Sandor, Founder and Creative Director, was born and raised in Budapest, attended The London College of Fashion, and graduated in 2005. In 2016, her partner Peter Baldaszti joined as Co-Owner and CEO.