Meet Natalie Arribeno of Nubia Natalie
April 23, 2019
Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Arribeno.
Natalie, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Our origins: I didn’t know it then, but I started developing the concept for my own business about three years ago.
It was summertime in the city, and I was out enjoying an afternoon of reggae and dancing. The Gods of nature blessed us that day by delivering perfect weather for playing outdoors in the company of friends. I was not thinking of anything else but having fun when, suddenly, something inside one of the festival merchant booths grabbed my attention.
Towards the rear of the booth, behind the artisan guayaberas and colorful women’s dresses, a woman sat behind a sewing machine. She looked busy. Curious, I entered the booth and slowly began making my way towards her. I pored over the beautiful garments and artisan fashions in the booth as I moved closer, but only to justify my unauthorized advance towards the woman sewing quietly in the back.
I slowed my pace when I was close enough to observe the lively scene in more detail and looked nervously over my shoulders. I wanted to get closer, but I felt like an intruder as if my presence was going to disturb her concentration and cheapen her craft. I did not have a business back then, but I knew the owner of the booth would feel uncomfortable if I approached such a critical employee.
Not only I could interrupt her, I might be a competitor looking to steal such a valuable asset and ruin their business. I chuckled at myself. I’m so silly, I thought. After all, I was just a customer browsing through the merchandise like dozens before me, who by chance reached the end of the booth and stroke a casual conversation with an employee.
People entered booths and bought nothing all the time. What was so suspicious about that? Besides, I was just a couple of steps away. All I needed was to look at one last garment, look disinterested, put it back in the rack, take two steps, and satisfy my curiosity. Easy. Just one more piece of clothing to go. Happily, things didn’t go down this way.
As planned, I picked up a garment, scanned it both sides, checked the label, and showed disinterest, but as I went to put it back in the rack, my eyes instinctively locked on the price tag. I pulled the garment back from the rack and looked at the tag again. I squinted my eyes. The price was rather high price for a rebozo shawl—shockingly high.
I was beginning to question my eyes when a voice made me jump on my feet. “Are you looking for anything in particular?” the owner of the booth asked. “Not really,” I said, before engaging in some small talk mostly made of refusals to buy anything until other customers took the stage light away from me. Finally, I was able to able to approach the woman working diligently in the rear of the booth. Or so it appeared.
A defining moment
When I finally introduced myself to the woman, my inner fashion geek immediately kicked in. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I asked what she was working on. Halfheartedly, the woman explained that she was not really working on anything in particular. Surprised and confused, I asked another question, but she cut me off, looked at me, and said in Spanish, “I don’t know anything. I’m just here for the day. I’m part of the booth display.”
I caught my breath before picking my stomach and heart back off the ground. The immediate excitement had quickly soured into a cloud of completely unexpected disappointment.
I was not looking for anything in particular in that booth that summer afternoon. I definitely was not looking for a bogus artisanal enterprise, or a craftswoman paid to play a stock character, but I did find something. Something I completely forgot about for a long time until I met that anonymous artisan woman/prop. I found my own voice.
Values-led, making our work count
Awake with new purpose, I was eager to give voice to those who had been silenced, voiceless, or were unrecognized or uncelebrated for their artistic and cultural contributions to our world. I was going to champion and celebrate artisan artwork and display on activewear made from 100% eco-friendly and recyclable materials.
I saw a world where prejudice falls to the wayside. I saw a world where people could start a conversation and connect over the uniqueness of each new artisan print for our activewear, admiring the colors and unique symbols, patterns, and rich historic meanings associated with each garment. I saw a world where we were respecting and paying tribute to those artisans creating the art, while also empowering them to actively preserve their own way of life.
Fast forward to the present, and I am so moved by all we have accomplished thus far. We have certainly come a long way, and as we prepare for our official launch of Nubia Natalie this fall, I can wholeheartedly say, how very proud I am of our very first collection.
This collection is special for me for many reasons; the most important being that it is integrated into the very roots of the Huichol community. We are honored to be working alongside this beautiful community and are proud of our collective efforts to ensure we are adequately reflecting and helping to sustain the way of life of this community for future generations.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: LIVING OUT OUR SHARED DREAM, EVEN THOUGH MAMA IS NO LONGER WITH US
No one ever told me that losing a loved one would gift me with so many different emotions to experience. At times I thought I would break but turns out, each of these brought me emotional growth and peace. Pain, grief, anger, guilt, joy, gratitude – were just some of the many feelings I’ve worked through in the years since my mother Lupita’s passing.
Pain and grief – because I was losing my mama when I needed her the most, she passed at the age of 52, less than a year, after I completed undergrad and was about to begin my professional career. Anger – because there was nothing I could do to change the situation or bring her back. Guilt – because of the many dreams she and I dreamed up together, that I knew would never be.
Joy and gratitude – while reliving her life’s work, celebrating all the heartfelt memories while honoring her legacy – by living up to my own in a determined way. Choosing to embrace the torch of entrepreneurship was not a decision I made lightly. After all, it was my mom who first inspired me. And – this was supposed to be OUR small business, she and I, both building it up, together as a team.
Mami Lupita was quite the visionary. I would listen in amazement, to all her creative ideas and personal stories as we both flipped through numerous fashion magazines cutting out all types of pictures and colorful clippings, spreading them out all over our living room floor (before a Pinterest board was even a thing). She confided so much me in, and she too, was as much older-wiser-big-sister, as she was my dedicated mother.
But the creator had different plans for her. Laying my own mother to rest before my grandparents were truly debilitating. Thankfully, as I’ve continued my personal healing journey; I have slowly been coming to terms with this reality, and what it means for me and my life ahead.
Sooo… you can imagine how ‘in my head’ I’ve been about this whole launching my own business ‘thing.’ I get caught up in all the mechanics, and really long for her gentle voice and warm embrace, reminding me that everything will turn out just great.
Launching Nubia Natalie has been just as much about kicking off something completely unfamiliar and new, but also, putting to rest the idea that mom’s sudden passing, left us with unfinished business – both literally and figuratively.
I acknowledge my mami Lupita for all the way she’s contributed to and inspired me, both in life and in death: I honor your life mami and celebrate you and your legacy. Look at all we’ve created. It’s all thanks to you and your blessings from the heavens.
Thank you for reminding me to own my voice and keep sharing our shine in all the things my sister, and I do. I miss you and look forward to the day we can be reunited. Te Quiero mucho.
Please tell us about Nubia Natalie.
NUBIA NATALIE is a mission-driven activewear brand that focuses on quality over quantity. We approach fashion in an ethical and transparent way which considers both people and the planet.
I am the designer of Nubia Natalie. I design all my pieces in Los Angeles, CA and Manufacture them as well. Then I partnered with the Huichol Center for the selection of prints that are culturally authentic and can be printed on activewear.
We begin by illustrating the pattern digitally at Los Angeles and then move on to print on paper, land on color and print and adjust as needed, all a sustainable process, sublimation process. Then I take the sublimation fabric to Manufacturing for cutting and sewing in Los Angeles. Every style holds a story from the name of the item to the print.
We love to live by this statement: “We must demand quality not just in the products we buy, but in the life of the person who made it.”
Every NUBIA NATALIE garment is made from recycled fabrics and sustainably sourced fabrics. Our goal is to collaborate with artisans across the globe too, we handpick designs that celebrate cultural diversity, and share the artisan’s story. For our my first collection I started at my parent’s hometown, Nayarit Mexico which leads me to the Huichol Center.
We are also proud supporters of the Huichol Center. Some of the NUBIA NATALIE’s proceeds are donated to the Huichol School.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
To understand that entrepreneurship is a journey and progress over perfection rules. It will never be perfect, the branding, etc. because it costs a lot of money to be perfect and you need as much cash flow as possible to keep the business afloat.
Susana Leggings $88
Lupita Sports Bra $58
Valerie Yoga Shorts $68