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Fast fashion brands threaten slow fashion brands

Many people dream of turning their hobby into a full-time job. Brand owner Najlaa Jabri dug deep into her Moroccan roots to do just that – and has never looked back.

By Cheryne Lauraly Fourdrigniez 

Nabri, an online boutique, is Jabri’s brainchild, selling a variety of items that are ethically hand-made in Morocco from a variety of different fair-trade suppliers, fashioned together using 100 percent recycled materials.

Home wear, formal clothing, accessories, face and body treatments and even dog toys are just a few of her items for sale in her online shops on Etsy and Depop.

But being a slow fashion brand isn’t as easy as you might think.

“Because of fast fashion and the importance placed on labels, sometimes people don’t want to pay the prices I sell them at,” says Jabri, 36, who has a fashion and textiles background.

Before launching her brand, Jabri, who graduated from the London College of Fashion, used to design clothing inspired by her British upbringing and her Moroccan roots.

A “hand-woven basket tote made with palm tree leaves by women in remote villages” sells on Depop for £55 while a “great natural clay teapot with lots of Berber charm” goes for a cool £99 – and has just sold out.

Ethically made

Photo by Nabri

‘Against throw away culture,’ is at the heart of Nabri’s brand identity. Every little trinket, from key chains, pouffes, woven straw hats, beach towels, and leather bags are ethically made.

Although she was born and raised in the UK, Jabri’s family is from Morocco, which is where she hatched the idea for her brand. She initially started Nabri as a hobby back in 2018 to bring new life to Morocco’s artisanal goods.

Although some of her pieces are not being used in the way that they are originally meant to, they have a contemporary purpose, she says, attracting a highly western clientele.

Against mass production

Photo by Nabri

As an online shop relying solely on online sales from her Depop and Etsy stores, as well as the occasional fêtes and fairs, Jabri doesn’t have any plans to open a physical shop any time soon.

She believes it’s best when people seek items out on online selling platforms like Etsy because “they are there to purchase a good quality item”, says Jabri. 

“They understand the importance of it being artisanal and a one-off, not mass made like items from Zara, for example,” she says.

Connie Bytheway, a 22-year-old artist and Nabri customer, says that she much prefers to seek out independent sellers – especially when buying gifts. She explains that it makes the purchase a lot more special.

“Having to spend a bit more on it is totally justified when you take into account the extra work and effort that goes into the artisanal products Nabri has on her page,” she says.

Photo by Nabri

“It gives me peace of mind knowing I’m buying into an ethically sound independent brand that isn’t contributing to the damaging ways of fast fashion.”

“We don’t need fast fashion,” says Jabri. “People long before us made and used what was around them to survive, whether it involved weaving baskets and plates to using poppy and pomegranate seeds to stain their lips.

“It is possible to use earth-friendly products and purchase items that last.”

An environmentalist and Extinction Rebellion activist, Nicola Kench, 52, says that slow fashion is important because “we have to set models…it is extraordinarily important for cleaning up the supply chain”.

Kench explains that when it comes to clothing, finding materials that biodegrade can only be done through slow fashion. If we don’t buy into it, “we will continue to have a waste problem from manufacturing”, she adds.

According to a study published on Statista, over 336,000 tonnes of clothing ended up in landfill in the UK in 2019.

Struggled during lockdown

Photo by Nabri

Being a slow fashion brand did come with a price for Jabri, during the first UK national lockdown. Unlike some fast fashion brands, including New Look, Boohoo and ASOS, which boomed during the lockdown, Nabri struggled.

The brand owner explains that there was an initial surge in sales with her home wear items as everyone was stuck at home. Her holiday pieces didn’t do so well, however.

Now, she says that she wants to approach more shops that can help feature her brand on their websites.