Fun Fact: Back when Natalia attended Parsons The New School she was known as the “black girl building surfboards with computers in them in the fashion department.” This was before she graduated from Parsons as Designer of the Year in 2004. See the full Young Global Leaders article on her here.
What creative things were you known for in high school or college?
Advances in technology provide designers with many new options. In fashion, these new technologies are often applied superficially. For example, adding lights to a dress or speakers to a jacket. One of the ideas that emerged while I worked for Natalia, Inc. is that we should carefully consider the global lifecycle of a product when introducing a new technology.
As a part of the team, I learned a new way to create technological fashion that is not just a visual statement. I learned to use technology in a creative and purposeful way. Complexity does not have to be displayed in the dress instead it can be part of the design solution or process. When you use the right technological tool for the right task, things work smoothly.
It’s easy to create a collection using high-tech materials and call it futuristic design. However, I believe meaningful innovation addresses the whole product, process and purpose. Now my goal as a fashion designer is to use technology as a tool to make great products in a better way and ideally without adding problems to the world. It sounds simple but simplicity is complicated.
The McCardell 3/4 Sleeve Seamless Dress. It was made seamlessly by a robot for an exquisite fit and feel. We made this modern essential in charcoal, a timeless color that looks great on everyone.
Italian yarn made from 14% Elite, a high-performance stretch fiber that gives the dress great versatility and 86% Viscose, an eco-friendly fiber derived from fast growing trees. The fabric is lightweight and has a smooth feel and rich lasting color.
Graham Hill, founder of LifeEdited, recently recommended that I read Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin. According to Godin, a tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader and an idea. As my team and collection expand, my role as a leader has become increasingly challenging. Godin makes the case that leaders are heretics who focus on generosity, authenticity and impact, not size.
"Great leaders don’t water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger."
My ideas and values as a designer are distinct and have led me to envision a modern way to design, manufacture and retail clothing. We’ve been pretty successful thanks to an amazing group of early-adopters. Nonetheless, at times I feel the pressure to accelerate and adapt to norms. Many founders experience this chasm. Tribes reminded me that my heretical commitment to great design, and a more innovative, holistic and equitable fashion industry is smart.
"The art of leadership is understanding what you can’t compromise on."
- See more NATALIA ALLEN