We spoke with Ines Vieira, the visionary behind Norte Women, a sustainable clothing brand refining the true meaning of quality by reorienting women North - toward lineage, longevity, and slow consumption.
I grew up on the coast of Galicia, in the Northwest of Spain. From very early on, I wanted to be a fashion designer. After attending a Summer course at the age of 17 at Istituto Marangoni de Milan, I realized I wanted to have a broad education. I ended up going to business school with the idea of doing fashion marketing in the future. I ended up liking marketing and got a job at a big consumer goods company, unrelated to fashion. It was very challenging but I learned a lot. After that, I kept holding positions as a brand manager at different consumer goods brands. Eventually, I felt the need to finally work in fashion and got a position at a big fast fashion Spanish retailer. I was very excited. Unfortunately, I did not like the job and was very uninspired by the position and their way of making clothes, so I left. And that is when I started to create my idea for Norte.
It felt liberating. I loved the freedom of being able to implement my own ideas.
I think that working for other creatives first helps have a better idea of what it is like. Also, understanding that entrepreneurship is not only creating. It involves paying bills, having a business plan, and understanding your market. It involves a lot of hard work and resilience.
Having your own business is incredibly hard. I love the freedom as I said and the ability to implement my ideas but that does not mean it isn’t hard. I had to build everything from scratch in a foreign country, I had no suppliers or any contacts in the industry or the country. It was hard to source and find the sustainable suppliers I needed. Later, after the launch, obstacles kept arriving; finding the right fabrics, being able to reach the minimums that many factories require, meeting the quality standards. Along the way, there are always things that happen. Sometimes you make mistakes, but you keep learning and improving and hopefully, at least, you do not make the same mistake twice. It is a continuous learning process.
Norte is just my husband Alex, Mer who is our current intern and myself. Alex manages digital marketing and accounting. Mer helps with social media, operations and fulfillment, and I do all the rest: creative direction, production management, PR, communications. It is a small operation, we all wear many hats!
Norte’s pieces are designed for their elegance, wearability, timelessness and style. But the way they are made is crucial for us. We only use fabrics that have globally accepted sustainability certifications and we make the clothes in small workshops where craftsmanship, care and detail are the focus.
Our vision is to make clothes with the care of the past for the women of today. Our mission is to create clothes that are thoughtfully made and effortless to wear with sustainable fabrics focusing on craftsmanship and care.
Reading books on decoration, design and art, in general, is very inspiring to me as it opens my mind and puts it in the mood to create.
I am super inspired by other women and love hearing their stories. I wanted to create a space where others can hopefully be inspired by these stories as well. We also consider it part of our mission to spread the word about sustainable fashion, and we try to do so via the journal.
I am a mother of two so I try to put my kids first. We wake up early, I take my son to school and work all morning until I pick him up and spend the afternoon with them. I have learned to be way more efficient. I am in the studio for fewer hours but I force myself to do everything I need to do in that time. Many times I have to keep working after they go to bed and that is fine.
Favorite self-care is either going to the beach with my kids in the afternoon or taking a warm bath once I have managed to put them to sleep.
My favorite is when a customer emails or sends a DM expressing how much they love our product. That is honestly the greatest motivator I have had so far. In terms of reward, The New York Times article and the Vogue story were very cool. Also, connecting with Leandra Medine thanks to whom our Hola necklace became super popular. I am forever thankful to her and to all the journalists that completely out of the blue decide to feature Norte.
It impacted my business in many ways. The most profound is that I decided to skip a season and invest the time and resources I would have spent creating clothes in refreshing our brand image and building a new website. It also reinforced our values of quality, tradition and sustainability.