An Interview with Hillary Sampliner of Nuvango (Part Two)

What is Nuvango – its title, mission, productions, and vision?

NU-VAN-GO, rhymes with mango – comes from the idea of “the new Van Gogh”

The changing landscape of the art world makes room for new creatives to blossom and show their work on the versatile medium of apparel.

Nuvango is a fashion and lifestyle brand focused on collaborating with international artists to create wearable art for the masses.

The associations of “wearable art” and “the masses” usually do not go hand in hand, but at Nuvango, our goal is to make art accessible. Our apparel is unique, well designed, produced ethically and sustainably, and is affordable. Not to mention, we give back to the artists that we collaborate with.

Our mission is to inspire die hard creatives and people new to the art world to curate their bodies like a gallery. To mix and match, make political and social statements, and to be bold. To reimagine beauty, and rewrite history by telling a story with your visual identity.

What makes the company unique?

Nuvango has a unique story. Starting out ten years ago as Gelaskins, an art inspired tech accessory brand, Nuvango was born two years ago when the founders Drew Downs and Jamie Pichora decided to expand their vertically integrated manufacturing business and add apparel manufacturing to their product offerings. The most unique factor that sets Nuvango apart from other businesses is not that we work with artists, or that we are produced in a major North American city.

Nuvango production site

An old macaroni factory that is now the Nuvango production site in downtown Ontario

Our unique factor is our on-demand manufacturing process. Aside from small boutiques, home sewers and mass customization factories, Nuvango is pioneering the on-demand approach in the fashion realm. This highly sustainable business model allows us to produce only what is ordered, eliminating waste and need for warehouses full of inventory. A garment is only produced after a customer has ordered and paid for it, then the unprinted cut garment has artwork applied to it and is sewn together and shipped out. This business model is a reaction to the fast fashion apparel business which produces the most waste of any industry in the world. Without holding an inventory, Nuvango is able to keep on trend and adapt quicker than most businesses, if a style is not selling we can discontinue it without having to sell through, or dispose of old stock.

The other defining factor of Nuvango is the factory itself, set in downtown Toronto, this three story historical building is a hub of creativity and inspiration to those who work there and visit. Previously a macaroni factory, the Nuvango headquarters house our head offices as well as our vertically integrated production facility. Upon entering the building you are hit with beautiful original artwork, quirky installations, and friendly faces that make Nuvango so unique.

Our production facilities look and feel very different than most garment factories. The production floor is bright and airy, spanning the first and second floor of this beautiful post and beam structure. Looking around you see many sewing machines, large printers and presses, and tables for cutting. It is quite an impressive set-up all under one roof.


Nuvango workspace and its diverse workforce

The faces behind the machines are that of a diverse workforce. Young, new graduates of college sewing programs sit next to european veterans of the industry, they share jokes, experiences and knowledge. This is the new face of manufacturing in North America, one Nuvango is proud to be a part of.

Nuvango workers only produce on demand clothing items

Nuvango workers only produce on demand clothing items

What other work are you involved in at this point in time?

Just this year I taught my first lecture to Ryerson fashion students about 3D printing technology. I find teaching to be very rewarding and I like being able to share my knowledge and predictions about how the emerging technologies in apparel design are changing the industry and the way people design.

I am involved in a collaborative research project with several professors and PHD students analyzing the nuances of fitting garments to a body that is size 22 or higher. There is little research done on the different body types at this size and how to accurately fit clothing on this niche segment of the market. Part of the research involves body scanning various individuals, analyzing measurements, and 3d printing custom body forms. I am acting as a technology and fit consultant on this fascinating research.

What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?

I like to keep my finger on the pulse of technology and new developments in textiles. Continuing to learn is what keeps me inspired and coming up with new ideas. I hope to one day leave a lasting mark on the world of fashion by changing the way people think about the industry, by inventing a new technology or process that has a positive impact, and by continuing to push the envelope of what is possible in design and manufacturing.

With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them now?

Many people believe that by giving garment work to factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China, we are giving people jobs and work that they need to sustain their own life, and build their economy. While in part this is true, unfortunately due to corruption, these garment factory jobs are not empowering people to provide for themselves. The wages made by garment workers are unfit to sustain an individual, let alone to provide for a family. By giving certain overseas garment factories contracts, we perpetuate the acceptance of slave wages which will continue unless consumers demand more of their apparel brands.

Sustainable and ethical manufacturing is hugely important right now. I believe we are at the point of a paradigm shift towards transparent manufacturing. Companies are now considering environmental factors much more than before in part because of governmental laws, but also because sustainability is hugely marketable. Apparel companies have realized this shift is coming and are using those ideals as a marketing tool. Consumers, now more than ever, are checking labels, reading about companies, and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. The trailblazers of ethical manufacturing are paving the way for more businesses to become sustainable by figuring out the nuances of bringing production back to North America and competing in a society focused on the bottom line.

Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?

Beyond the company we have built with Nuvango, we are also creating tools for other brands, bands, artists and designers. We are building an app that will allow anyone with a website to plug in the same manufacturing capabilities we use everyday at Nuvango. Stay tuned to for more details.

Thank you for your time, Hillary.

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About the Author

Scott Douglas Jacobsen researches and presents independent panels, papers, and posters, and with varied research labs and groups, and part-time in landscaping and gardening, and runs In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.

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