Olha and Helen Norba wanted wardrobe items that could take them from a workout class to a lunch date or even a night out. But in the Ukraine, chic sportswear wasn’t a thing.
They made it one. With minimalist styles, solid colors and sustainable fabrics, Norba supports on-the-go women across the globe. Launched in 2018, we wondered why they prioritized sustainability for their second collection, how they settled on using Econyl (regenerated nylon) and the ways it’s shaped their mission moving forward. Read our interview with Olha Norba below to learn about launching and running their sought-after line.
Q: You recently founded Norba in 2018. What kicked off the idea and why did you decide to go for it?
Olha Norba: I always wanted to run a fashion brand, but didn’t know exactly what it would be. A couple years ago I started to workout more intensely and faced a problem of a workout wardrobe. I couldn’t find clothes that fit me right or that looked like “me” (I’m not big on bright colors and logos). I think it’s super important to look good when you’re working out – it gives you extra motivation and makes you feel beautiful and comfortable in your skin. So this was our main idea – to create clothes that make you feel good and that you can wear on different occasions and easily match with the rest of your wardrobe.
Q: We love a versatile wardrobe that makes us feel good. Olha, with you being a model and having a degree in fashion brand management and your sister Helen a lawyer, what’s your working dynamic like? Do you split responsibilities or collaborate on most things?
Olha Norba: We split most of the responsibilities: I’m more on the creative side, so I manage design, visual representation and marketing and Helen is responsible for production. But when it comes to brand strategy we make the decisions together.
We have a big age difference (Helen is 8 years older) so our relationship back in the day was quite complicated. It was only about 6 years ago that we became best friends and started to consider doing something together.
Q: I love that. Launching and running a business is a rollercoaster. What do you do to better handle the ride?
Olha Norba: It is quite stressful to be honest! What works best for me is lots of sports, spending more time with friends and family and learning new things, whether it’s marketing strategies or Spanish. We experience so much pressure from society telling us to be successful, rich and beautiful – it’s easy to forget what is important. I mean, business is great, but it’s just one part of my life.
Q: Societal pressures are real. What perceptions does Norba challenge?
Olha Norba: Sustainable clothing used to be rather boring, but not anymore, thanks to other cool brands out there! So it wasn’t difficult to challenge perceptions around sustainable clothing. For us, our main challenge was changing the perception of wearing sporty clothing outside the gym – we believe that leggings are the new jeans, bike shorts are the new denim (or Bermuda shorts), and sports bras can easily replace tank tops and t-shirts in a daily wardrobe.
In Ukraine, where we live and conduct our business, you still get weird looks when you are walking down the street in leggings regardless of how ‘cool’ they look. In Europe it’s a bit better, but still there’s a lot to be done. Our main goal is to make every woman feel beautiful and comfortable in her own skin.
Q: What prompted you to focus on sportswear x sustainability in this second collection?
Olha Norba: We’ve always been concerned about the impact fashion has on the environment and feel responsible for the products we produce. There is more than enough clothing in the world, it’s really important to not just make a product, but to have a bigger idea behind it.
Q: How did you settle on using Econyl (regenerated nylon) as your sustainable fabric-of-choice?
Olha Norba: We were impressed by the technology behind the Econyl yarn production, it’s fascinating what you can do from regular trash. I hope there will be more projects that create sustainable fabrics like this–not just ones that “don’t harm” the environment but also actually benefit it by cleaning up the waste and recycling it.
Q: What’s the next step in your sustainability journey?
Olha Norba: There’s actually a lot of work in this direction. We are constantly looking for new sustainable fabrics, packaging and production options. Also, it’s important to remember that sustainability is not just about what you do, but how you do it as well. So we are trying to work on relationships with our partners, employees and customers, to create a positive environment and good working conditions for our team.
Q: Any hints about what your third collection will entail?
Olha and Helen Norba: While we can’t disclose any details…there will be more fabric and color options. We’re also working on new silhouettes that could be a perfect wardrobe staple.
Q: Where can we buy your stuff?
Olha and Helen Norba: As for now it’s available on our website norba.clothing (to shop, switch country of origin in the bottom left).
Q: Thank you so much for your time and sharing your story with us. Is there anything else you want to share or say?
Olha and Helen Norba: Every woman is beautiful the way she is!
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