Normou Interview: Danielle Fichera
We had the opportunity to have an exclusive interview with Danielle Fichera. This New Yorker is what Normou is all about. Her brand is one that speaks to the wanderlust in all of us, with a classic French feel to each piece. Her garments are created using Italian grown organic cotton that feels so exquisite, you can confidently know that these quality garments are made with love and care. She's a full blown girl boss lady and we love finding female-founded brands. Read along as Danielle gives us an inside look to her journey creating her sustainable fashion line and what she has learned along the way.
What was the ‘aha’ moment that really led you to create your resort wear line?
I didn’t quite have an ‘aha’ moment to be honest. It started quite organically. I was traveling and stumbled upon a very beautifully designed, but poorly constructed handmade tunic. I purchased it, but decided to redesign it upon returning to New York. I contacted my local seamstress, and, together, we began to redesign the tunic. Within three months, we had about nine styles based on the original tunic, and, shortly after, the collection was picked up by the Four Seasons Hotel. However, I didn’t come from a fashion or business background - so moving forward was quite the challenge!
Why did you decide to use sustainable materials?
Without a background in fashion, I knew very little about the industry overall when I began. After my first and second season, I was horrified by the excess materials and inventory remained after the seasons were over. I was told to either donate, sell, or throw away the extra materials and inventory. At the same time, I met Silvio Albini - the owner and president of Albini Fabrics. One of the largest mills in Europe, Albini Fabrics happens to also be certified as sustainable. We began working together to create sustainable fabrics for our next collections. In good conscious, I could not continue my business if I did not work to make it fully sustainable. I am so inspired by nature that the thought of harming it through fashion was a deal breaker.
What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout the process?
The importance of surrounding yourself with good people. You are only as good as your team.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your work creating the Danielle Fichera line?
I am quite proud of the product itself. We’ve taken major steps to ensure sustainability and quality that could be seen by many as a bit risky, but we’re incredibly proud to be a part of a shift in traditional fashion practices. All our garments are handcrafted in New York under ethical working conditions using sustainably sourced materials. They are produced in limited batches to avoid excess waste. We up-cycle our fabrics from one season to the next.
I am honestly more concerned with sustainability, ensuring ethical working conditions and production means, and partnering with charities than I am with fashion. If I couldn’t do this sustainably, I would have no interest in working in fashion. We have also partnered with various charities that support women and animals.
Did you always envision yourself working in Fashion?
At first, I did not. Now, I hope to continue to run my business as long as it allows me to do so. After that, I am not quite sure what I will do. I do know it will be related to design. I have a deep love for art and design, and that drives me to keep exploring my creativity.
If you had to give a piece of advice to other women looking to create an ethical fashion label, what would you say to them?
Don’t compromise! A lot of companies preach their commitment to sustainability, but when you really look at their business, only parts practice sustainability. Look at every aspect of your design, line of production, and means of distribution. Set high standards from yourself and do not compromise your values. Bring the customer the best product and do not cut corners. If you are not fully sustainable, be transparent about it. I am a straight shooter, and what you see is what you get. I don’t make promises to my customers I cannot keep. Your integrity is everything, especially when it comes to sustainability.
Aside from your brand, what are some of your passions that you like to do in your spare time?
I love film, art, cooking, and traveling. I studied film in graduate school and am always exploring different films from various time periods. However, art is so inspiring to me. On a day off, I often find myself exploring one of New York’s incredible museums. Cooking and traveling go together for me. I prefer cooking Middle Eastern food as it has such a rich history and is challenging to find properly done at even the best restaurants in New York. Every week, I have about four hours of cooking lessons. I am attempting to master cooking through my love of Middle Eastern culture.
What is it like working in New York’s Historic Garment Industry? What is your experience like working with expert tailors?
It is incredible! I enjoy the opportunity to know the people who are making my clothing and to learn about them. One of the greatest joys I have is walking through our factory and being able see the process start to finish.
Can you help shed some light on why sustainable fashion comes with higher than average price tags?
To start, the price of the materials is going to be much higher. Our sustainable cotton fabrics can cost us between $12-$30 per yard while non-sustainable cotton is often between $2-$7 per yard. In addition, it’s important that a sustainable garment lasts longer, which not only requires quality fabric, but also quality production. This means more highly skilled and more expensive labor. To ensure that we don’t over-produce and have an excess of remaining inventory, we also produce limited quantities. These smaller runs cost a premium with factories. Meeting these sustainability needs simply cost more, and, unfortunately, that cost is carried onto the customer. But, we believe the price is outweighed by the long-term benefits. Our garments are made honestly and ethically and are handcrafted to last a lifetime.
Your pieces transcend trends -- they are all based on classic silhouettes with timeless patterns. What are your thoughts with all the trends going on in the fashion world?
When I first began, I wanted to start with styles that could be carried from one season to the next. This became more of a priority as I further focused on sustainability. Creating sustainable fashion does not only refer to the means of production, but the design itself. My goal is to create garments with longevity. As time goes on, I do plan to include more fashion-forward pieces, but with a classic touch to ensure they remain in your closet well past the first season.
With everything going on in the world, in terms of the environment, can you share with us something that is absolutely precious to you that leads as your main motivator when it comes to adapting your lifestyle to climate change?
I try to live a very thoughtful life with great respect and regard for our environment. I have tried to eliminate plastic from my day-to-day and have replaced it with glass (such as water bottles). I am a careful shopper and think hard before any purchases. As a sustainable designer, I have tried to support brands that follow my personal commitment to our environment.
Not only are your designs beautiful but the fabrics are silken, soft and gorgeous!!
Love your clothing line!!