Natalie Procter lives above her shared working space on Auckland’s K’ Road.
Natalie Procter founded her ethical and sustainable clothing label Mina in 2017. She speaks to Josie Steenhart about a life-changing trip to India, working with her mum and her passion for Sunday brunch.
I think, deep down, Mina was always in the pipeline for me, but it was really a six-week trip to India after doing my fashion degree in Wellington that gave me the drive to start a label. I remember messaging my parents while I was away saying, “I think I want to start my own label when I come back home, I want the brand to support people and makers and I really want to try to do some good in this industry”.
The trip to India was a life-changer for me. It was run through my university and I was lucky to be one of the students picked to go. The focus was around ethical and sustainable design, from seed to garment. We visited organic cotton farms, natural dye houses, NGO organisations, production houses etc.
We use deadstock fabric for Mina. The word “deadstock” seems a little funny to consumers I think, which is why I’ve started to talk about it with my customers so they can understand what it really means. Deadstock fabric is basically fabric that already exists, that has come from larger fashion houses around the world. Most produce their own fabric and what’s left over or not used is then sold into wholesalers like the ones we have here in Auckland. Buying deadstock fabrics means I’m using something already produced, which helps the brand tread as lightly on this planet as possible.
My mum and I are a great little mother/daughter duo. I don’t think either of us really knew what we were getting into – at the beginning, we thought mum would just be a helping hand with patterns and some sewing, but now she’s well and truly out of retirement and works full-time for Mina. Mum and I have a great relationship (most of the time), so we find it quite easy working together. We both have our clear roles and that works really well for us.
After university in Wellington, I moved back to my Auckland home. But when I decided to start Mina, I moved into the city as I thought living and working with mum probably wouldn’t be a good idea.
I live and work on K’ Road where I manage a shared working space and live above it. It’s an old loft-style building. The shared space is on the second-level where currently five of us independent designers work. I also run my showroom out of there for customers to come and view the collections. I love meeting and chatting with my customers. The showroom is a very personal experience between customer and designer, which is quite rare nowadays. The top level is where I live with my partner Sam and two friends. So it takes me a flight of stairs to get work, I love it.
As for my family home, what used to be my playroom is now a converted Mina studio. This is where all our pattern-making, sampling and fitting is done. It’s also in nice and quiet suburbia so I like to go and work out there quite often – K’ Road can be a little distracting at times.
It’s really hard to remove yourself from your business, because your label is really a reflection of yourself. What helps me switch off from my work is cooking. I love to cook, so closing my laptop and going upstairs to start dinner is my way of shutting off work. And because my working space is in my home, I like to get out of the house on the weekends. Sam’s parents live in Tauranga, so it’s really nice to head down there some weekends. We also both love getting to the beach, or heading out west for a bush walk.
Good food is a big part of Sundays too. I’m a bruncher, all the way. I don’t know what it is, I just love being among people – families, friends, everyone – on their Sundays, having brunch. Some Sundays, Sam and I go down to Western Park or Point Chev beach for a picnic. Often my dad likes to cook a Sunday roast, so I’ll head out to my parents for dinner. It’s also a good time to talk to mum as my mum, instead of my business partner.
I’ve just been over to South Africa for three weeks to see family, so I’ve had three weeks to step back from my business, do some planning and get ready for another season. I’ve come back refreshed and reflecting on what we’ve accomplished in our one-year in business. I’m excited to see where we can go this year.