Ethical Brand Nisa Is Making Moves With An Activewear Capsule For Body & Planet
Plastic bottles, fishing nets and textile waste have elegantly metamorphosed into sports attire through a project two years in the making
Poneke-based social enterprise Nisa is thoughtfully stepping into new territory, launching a sustainable activewear range. Made from recycled fabric that utilises plastic bottles, discarded clothes, ghost fishing nets and textile waste, the concise range — leggings, shorts, top and three sports bras — adds to its established offering of underwear and basics, all sewn in its Wellington workshop.
Developing activewear stemmed from conversations with customers — the starting point for most things the brand does, says founder Elisha Watson. “People kept mentioning it and it made a lot of sense — after underwear and swimwear, activewear was next step”. It’s a natural fit for the brand’s product categories, she explains. “Comfort and support connect them all, and empowerment.”
Slow and steady has come to define the business, and its activewear took two years to develop. Much of that was finding the perfect fabric — a peach-finish textile made from recycled waste that feels like cotton and, though light, provides compression and support.
The Nisa team also undertook a considerable fittings process — using 15 different people — and wear testing to ensure the range, which goes up to 4XL (and is sampled at both ends of the spectrum) would make everyone feel good.
“There was a lot of trial and error,” says Elisha, and they spent a long time working on fit, performance and “getting the cut exactly right.” Seams are strong and smooth, done on a special machine of which there are only three or four in the country.
It was a huge learning curve for her and her team, and a big step up. “We’ve never done something this ambitious before, it does feel quite scary,” admits Elisha. “We've put so much work into it, and we’re really excited to get it out there.”
Its timing couldn’t be better, with getting outdoors front of mind for New Zealanders, and many finding solace in movement during the restrictions wrought by the Delta outbreak (and comfort in activewear).
Luckily for the brand, it could get back to business as (mostly) usual when restrictions eased in Wellington. Nisa is still feeling the impact of higher levels though, with a huge uptick in orders from people stuck at home, looking to support local, and perhaps reconsidering the ethics of their underwear drawer.
The shop local message has made an impact for brands like Nisa, says Elisha. “People are asking themselves, who do they want to see on the other side,” she says. “It’s the little labels they love, that they feel a personal connection with, and the people behind them.”
Purpose is important to her, and Nisa is part of an emerging zeitgeist of brands looking at how to do things differently, and it’s a mission that resonates with customers as purchases become increasingly political. “Every dollar they spend is voting for the world they want,” says Elisha.
Since launching in 2017, the brand has evolved naturally, driven by ethics — it creates employment opportunities for former refugees and people from migrant backgrounds, uses sustainable fabrics, and offsets its shipping. Nisa’s sustainable activewear is the latest step. “I could never have dreamed we’d end up here,” admits Eleisha. “But I’m so glad we are.”
Nisa’s sustainable activewear is available on Nisa.co.nz now.
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