Natalia Trevino Amaro is not your typical young designer. Currently based in Los Angeles, Amaro is making a name for herself in the world of fashion by combining her effortlessly elegant designs and passion for sustainability, one handmade design at a time. Her work highlights an ethical approach to fashion while beautifully merging two juxtaposing styles — flirty femininity and edgy expression. Ultimately, her brand calls for a total shift in Gen Z’s view of fashion and consumption.
In Amaro’s world, transparency about how your clothing is made is the norm. Unlike the typical fast fashion brands that Gen Z tends to shop, her slow fashion brand, NTA, refuses to participate in the harm the industry causes to garment workers and the environment. At the core of her values? Ethics and sustainability. While attending the Fashion Institute of Technology as an undergrad, Amaro was introduced to the conversation about sustainability, as well as the effects of the fashion industry on our planet. Upon graduating in 2020, she knew she wanted to launch her own sustainable brand, and she immediately started making waves in the industry. By the end of September 2022, she had held her first and very own New York Fashion Week show. In this interview with Her Campus, Amaro shares more about her work as a fashion designer, her perspective as a member of Gen Z, and how this generation can begin to consume more mindfully.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Her Campus: Could you tell us a little more about the reality of most of the world’s favorite fashion brands and the effects of fast fashion?
Natalia Trevino Amaro: Even just in the past couple of years, the fast fashion industry has expanded a ridiculous amount. I think with social media and TikTok, and people wanting whatever viral piece emerges at the time so fast, everybody’s reproducing it at these crazy speeds. So, there’s a ridiculous amount of overproduction and overconsumption. Not great for the planet in terms of end life of the product, but also in pre-production.
I feel like people choose to ignore it, in a way. Because even growing up, when the sustainability space wasn’t really talked about much, even just in terms of ethics, people know that sweatshops exist. It’s always been a thing to know things are made in China, people, slave labor, all these things are known. It’s never been a hidden fact, but I think people either didn’t know that there was a way around it, or didn’t care, or it became so normal that people didn’t care to actually listen to what they’re hearing. Growing up, I knew sweatshops existed, but I don’t know why I never cared to be like, “Oh my god, maybe I shouldn’t support brands that do that.” That never clicked for me until a lot later. There’s a lot going on with the industry.
HC: What are the sustainable practices that your brand implements?
NTA: One of my main practices is being primarily a made-to-order brand. I only make pieces after they’re sold, which reduces any excess inventory at the end of the season. That way, there’s no overproduction. I also try to be as zero waste as possible, so I keep all of my scraps and reuse them if I can, and some I’ve started to send off to be properly recycled just because I have a lot.
I have so many scraps I can’t even imagine how much fast fashion companies make, because I feel like I’m overloaded with them and it’s literally just me. Then I also have carbon neutral shipping on my website, and I use mainly deadstock fabrics too, which are leftovers from designers. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and I can’t reproduce it, which is also fun.
HC: How would you describe your brand’s style/aesthetic?
NTA: I think I’m relatively minimal. I like to be very classic and timeless. I don’t like to go into super trendy things or super crazy colors or things like that. I try to be pretty neutral in that aspect. But also leaning towards pretty feminine, but maybe a tiny bit edgy.
HC: What would you tell someone who is intimated by the higher price tag of sustainable clothing?
NTA: I think it’s just a switch in mindset. I used to also be intimidated. I used to be the kind of person that shopped pretty frequently. I’d go to Forever 21 every other weekend with my friends in our free time, so you’re spending at least $20 each time. If you just use all the money that you were spending on fast fashion but only purchase once or twice a year, it evens out in the same way. So, it’s just looking towards the quality over the quantity.
At the end of the day, you’re probably spending the same amount, or at least that’s how I feel because I used to shop so often, but it was always like, “Oh, this is only $5, this is only $10,” whatever. Obviously it adds up. It just doesn’t feel like it in the moment. You need to say “OK, well, if I’m only shopping a couple times a year, then maybe spending $200 on a piece isn’t actually that much in the lifespan of how much you’re going to use it, because you’re not shopping that often, so it evens out.”
HC: What does it mean to you as a Gen Z designer to have a voice in the fashion industry?
NTA: It means a lot. Gen Z generally is a pretty vocal generation, which I’m so appreciative to be a part of. I feel like the older designers, the classic ones never talked about sustainability or anything too deep in fashion years ago. It was just very much focused around “fashion is art,” which is really cool and I obviously love that.
But I think it’s really cool to see a new generation of designers just come up, and actually not just care about the money that could come from the brands that they’re making, but the impact is the more prioritized part of it. Gen Z is actually trying to make a change and listen to people who are trying to have an impact.
HC:What are some of the things consumers can do to shop more mindfully?
NTA: If you’re going to buy something, you need to think: Am I going to actually wear this multiple times? Is it an impulse purchase? Is it good quality? Is it going to last me a long time? Do I like the fit of it 100%, knowing that I’m going to actually wear it?
If it’s not going to fit and you’re not going to wear it, it’s not going to work out. If you’re going to buy jeans or something, make sure they’re jeans you’re going to love to wear for the next few years. Personally, I have plenty of fast fashion purchases from when I was in high school that I still wear to this day. Being mindful of what you’re consuming and why you’re consuming it generally is just the best way to start.
HC: I saw on TikTok that your most recent designs are inspired by Taylor Swift’s most iconic concert outfits, for fans to wear at her Eras concerts! Can you tell me a little bit about that?
NTA: So, this is so funny. I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan, and that’s pretty obvious if you know me, and I recently, for Halloween, made the Reputation Tour outfit as my costume. I had a couple of people reach out being like, “Hey, could you remake this for her Eras Tour for next year?” I was like, “Yeah. I’m totally down to do that.” Then I was like, you know what? What if I just put it out there into the world that I’ll make outfits for the Eras Tour? So, I made a TikTok and I was like, “Hey, I’ll make your outfits for the Eras Tour, anything you want. I’m so down.”
Of course that TikTok actually goes viral and does well, it really hit the right audience. So, now I’ve gotten hundreds of emails of people who want custom outfits for the Taylor Swift tour. So, now I’m just making custom outfits for the Taylor Swift Eras tour!
HC: Do you have any advice for people in design school who want to eventually start their own brand?
NTA: I feel like this is really cheesy, but I would say, stay true to yourself and your designs. When it comes to starting a business or brand, I think the most important part is making sure you stand out and stay true to whatever you actually like and what you do. Putting things out there that are most authentic to you, I think, is what’s going to attract more people to you, rather than trying to recreate any sort of trendy vibe that’s going on, because that fades.