Interview: Naomi Maaravi of IM NOMI

As part of this online magazine, I'll be exploring Israel's sustainable and ethical design industry and meeting all sorts of practitioners who are pioneering the sustainability movement. This will be a series of short conversations with designers, artists, and changemakers who are leading the way into a more ethical and sustainable Israel.

My first interview is with Naomi Maaravi, the designer behind IM NOMI. At the time of writing, Naomi is hosting upcycling workshops in her studio in Tel Aviv and helping educate partakers in how to give clothing and objects a new life.

I sat down with her on a warm and sunny afternoon in her studio and she introduced me to her world of second lives, and now I can do the same to you!

So Naomi, tell us a little about your background and how you came into the sustainable design world.

I was born in Holland to a Jewish family - both my parents survived the war. My house already had a lot to do with upcycling; floor mats made from tyres, lamps made from bottles. My mum played in the theatre and was into art and design, so the aesthetic of the house downstairs was very beautiful. I learned the language of design at home.

The attic - it was my father's. I thought we were throwing out trash, but the trash was really his treasure. It looked like a flea market. I loved to sit there and find things, and without knowing I had already entered the world of upcycling, of thinking out of the box. To see that things can be something else.

My father always said that every product has a soul, a story you could tell further.

After two years of studying art, I went to fashion school. After studying fashion, I worked in Milan, France, Holland, Israel - building concepts, designing, and leading the teams. I have a lot of background in fashion in every area - but I'm more talented in creativity than I am in design.

What does your fashion practice look like today, and how did you get here?

I got an opportunity when I was a head designer in Shilav to make a collection for Comme il faut (one of my designers moved there). I had always upcycled and had wanted to make a collection based on this, so this is what I did. It was actually my first handshake into this world. After a few years of the collection, we went more commercial - we worked with existing fabric, we tried to upcycle as much of the previous collections as possible, with classic lines, colours, and a beautiful fit.

However, I wasn't happy, and so I asked myself, what do I want to do?

I want to give people the opportunity to learn, the opportunity that if they don't wear their clothes, to give them advice on how to change that. I want to give lectures here, a monthly clothes swap. It's community driven.

So at the moment, I'm doing these upcycling workshops, and also making a small collection for several stores - it will be 100% upcycled, every dress will be different and unique.

The workshops are groups of maximum three, and all sorts of people come in. For example, I had a male traveller last week who wanted a new strap for his Apple watch, a young woman who wants to be more sustainable. The idea is that people bring their own stuff that they want to upcycle and change - everyone has a different need and it's very individual and dynamic.

I also do sentimental garments - there was someone whose husband died and we made dresses from all of his shirts, wedding dresses that have been passed down from mother to daughter.

I'm connected to personality, to the stories.

Do you have a vision for a future Israeli fashion industry?

I think we have to give a lot more knowledge and information and awareness to everyone - the professional, the consumer, the buyer, etc. The goal I want to achieve is that upcycling will be fashionable, that it's great, that people want to belong to it.

We have to go to the designers, to explain to them how to be more eco-friendly, to give them the tools to achieve this. I have this idea of giving different symbols, for example, one for gender equality, one for transparency, one for upcycling, zero waste, etc. A system that people can refer to, because today nobody really knows what exactly sustainability is - not just the customers, also the professionals - there are so many avenues.

If people see that [sustainable fashion] is something great to do... I see that people like to do more, they want to do something good. It can be such a community driven thing, but also it makes people feel good! And it's the feel-good factor that we have to bring, and I think that we're ready for it - we see it taking place.

We're all seeking something more, we miss working with our hands... we need to slow things down.

I had such a great and inspiring time sitting down and talking all things eco and sustainable with Naomi. It's amazing to see people really working to achieve change in quite a toxic industry. You can find out more about Naomi on her website, or give her a call about her workshops from the number posted above.

Thank you, Naomi, for taking the time to chat with me!

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