Natalie Arribeno is juggling her career as a merchandising planner at The Walt Disney Company, between being a professor at California State University, the Founder of Nubia Natalie, her own eco-friendly activewear line.
Arribeno launched a capsule collection of products to celebrate her Latinx roots and as an homage to her parents, for encouraging her to pursue the brand. “It was actually my mom who always pushed me towards fashion,” said the designer to Forbes. “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 eight years, before transitioning to The Walt Disney Company, where I’ve been serving as a merchandising planner for the last 7 years.”
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The artist revealed to the business magazine that the idea behind Nubia Natalie was inspired shortly after attending a music festival. “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,” said Arribeno. “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.”
For Arribeno, representation is a big part of her clothing line, and she is making sure to not only be inclusive but also find her own voice. “My entire brand is about championing the voices of under-represented artisans, but noticed I wasn’t championing my own work,” she said. “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.” She also added that after she started to talk more openly about her business, she noticed the support. “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,” she said.
The designer said she is aware of the financial pressure of starting a new business and revealed that her brand is self-funded. “At this time, I am mostly focused on securing grants for women and small business owners, while continuing to self-fund,” she continued.
Ecologically conscious, Arribeno made sure to build an ethically made brand by ensuring that all her products are made “with the least amount of harm to the environment.” Forbes reported that she is working with indigenous communities, and they are “actively protecting mother nature.”
“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,” she concludes.