Natalie Arribeno Is Creating A Latinx-Inspired Activewear Line, But First She Had To Confront Impostor Syndrome
Writer: Vivian Nunez
Aug 24, 2019
Natalie Arribeno is a merchandising planner at The Walt Disney Company, an adjunct professor at California State University, but as of recently the title she’s owning the most is that of Founder of Nubia Natalie.
“The idea for Nubia Natalie (which is actually my first and middle name) was inspired shortly after attending a music festival,” explains Arribeno. “There I found a merchant booth that had guayaberas for sale. Unfortunately the artisan woman meticulously sewing inside the booth wasn't the one selling her craft. She appeared to be there, mostly displayed as a prop. I spoke to her in Spanish as I was curious to know more about her technique, but noticed she was becoming growingly uneasy with each of my questions. I walked away, my brow furrowed and with a heavy heart. After some reflection, that heaviness transformed into purpose. I wanted to create my own clothing line — an activewear line. One that would provide direct acknowledgment to the artistic designs of artisan communities, rather than simply co-opt them.”
Now, Nubia Natalie is an eco-friendly active wear line with a capsule collection of products that celebrate Arribeno’s own Latinx roots. Arribeno goes one step further by crediting her parents’ for the motivation to pursue the brand in the first place.
“It was actually my mom who always pushed me towards fashion,” shares Arribeno. “She noticed something in me, that I myself wasn't awakened to yet. She’s the one who first pointed out, how much I lit up when looking through textiles, colorful clothes, merchandise, and other raw materials. After graduating college [and before starting Nubia Natalie], I worked for national retailers Trina Turk, Splendid and Ella Moss for about 8 years, before transitioning to The Walt Disney Company, where I've been serving as a merchandising planner for the last 7 years.”
Below Arribeno shares how she manages her day job and building Nubia Natalie simultaneously, what advice she has for other Latinas, and where she grabs inspiration from.
Vivian Nunez: What prompted you to expand beyond consulting and adding "founder" to your roster?
Natalie Arribeno: My entire brand is about championing the voices of underrepresented artisans, but noticed I wasn’t championing my own work. Since I started my business, while working full-time, I noticed I was afraid to outright say I was building a business. Instead, I often called it a side-project,and in hindsight it was due to fear of owning my authentic voice, and the looming possibility of failure.
When I started to talk more openly about my business, I noticed a lot of people around me, starting to cheer on, my work. I received a lot of positive feedback and some great earned media. It was then that I made the conscious decision to update my LinkedIn profile and own my new venture in a big way. I took it even further by reducing my full time schedule at TWDC. I even took up teaching fashion merchandising at Cal State University, Los Angeles as a way to hone my fashion experience and refine my own public speaking skills.
Nunez: How have you gone about funding Nubia Natalie?
Arribeno: Nubia Natalie is currently self-funded. I’ve used my personal savings and money from an individual private investor. At this time, I am mostly focused on securing grants for women and small business owners, while continuing to self-fund. I knew the risk when I first started, but the financial pressure of starting a business is very real. My goal is to be able to fully support myself with my business before I give up my other forms of monthly income.
Nunez: What goes into ensuring that all products are eco-friendly and socially conscious?
Arribeno: For Nubia Natalie, it all starts with the fabric. When I first started, I spend a lot of my resources finding the right fabric and fit. I made a conscious decision to use Repreve recycled plastic bottle fabric.
We also incorporate dye-sublimation printing, a form of printing that transfers dye directly onto fabrics without the use of any water. I chose this eco-conscious printing method because of the low waste factor, non toxic inks, and it’s ability to produce bright vibrant colors.
Because fashion is one of the top polluters globally, I wanted to ensure that all of my products are made with the least amount of harm to the environment. Also, since I work with indigenous communities, whose values are rooted in environmental preservation, actively protecting mother nature is another way our company shows solidarity with our artisan partners. Lastly, everything is cut and sewn in my home city of Los Angeles, where I visit with the manufacturers regularly. I am proud of the local and international relationships I’ve fostered with everyone who comes in contact with our Nubia Natalie brand.
Nunez: What has been one of your biggest lessons learned as you launched an apparel line?
Arribeno: Consistency is key! What will always define Nubia Natalie, is my own will and ability to continuously chose to advance, despite feeling like I am not advancing fast enough. I am often determining and redetermining to move things forward, every single day. In hindsight, launching the brand was easy. The challenge has been finding new and creative ways to market my brand, and keep telling my story to the right audiences who will best resonate with Nubia Natalie.
Nunez: What advice do you have for a Latina who is looking to kickstart their own fashion line?
Arribeno: Just do it! There will never be a perfect time to start, but I will emphasize that you must know your “why” because life will come and go unexpectedly and that “why” will be the reason you get up every morning to work on your business.
Nunez: How important is it for you that the brand be values led?
Arribeno: Because we don't see many activewear lines intentionally designing activewear that purposefully celebrates the work of artisans, Nubia Natalie is committed to doing exactly that. For us, values led means, we intentionally choose to elevate and acknowledge everyone involved in the making and creating of Nubia Natalie. It is not just a new activewear line by a Latina, but a living, breathing ecosystem. Nubia Natalie prides itself on being values led not only because it’s good for our world but it’s also good for our bottom line.
We created a brand that people can feel good about buying. One that is led by a woman and is Latina (despite the fashion industry lacking diverse ). We also tout our love for the entire entrepreneurship journey, (all of it) because as we know, the journey isn't always sexy. Lastly, if my company can be a blueprint for another Latina who wants to create a brand, I know that Nubia Natalie is one that could serve as reliable example of what it means to be values led and create social good in the world.