Talking with Jackie, you get a sense that her deep love and respect for mother nature (madre natura in Italian) has been a catalyst for the choices she makes as a designer. Few brands tick all the boxes when it comes to sustainability and accountability - madre natura is one of them.
Each piece by this Sydney label is made from dead stock fabric and comes with the promise of three kinds of complimentary mends, plus other clever initiatives. Shop ’70s-inspired wide-legged cotton trousers, soft button-down shirts and boxy tees.
After many years in the fashion industry - designing for some of Australia's most influential fashion brands, Jackie launched madre natura in 2020 with her soon to be husband and business partner Chris, with the fundamental belief that fashion should be ethical, sustainable, circular and slow.
With the upcoming launch of a collection of pre-loved madre natura pieces on The Harmonic, we sat down with Jackie to talk about circular fashion, her commitment to sustainability, and how we can build an optimistic future for the fashion industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background before madre natura?
Growing up, I was very artistic, eccentric and creative. I loved to admire the architecture and contemporary culture around me. I would spend hours exploring magazines, books, movies and spending time in fashion stores and at home playing dress-ups and planning outfits. I have loved fashion for as long as I can remember, and my mother taught me how to sew growing up. She used to stay home Friday nights to make her outfits for Saturday nights in the 70s. I was always inspired by the women around me, mostly my mother and grandmothers.
Before I graduated from The Fashion Design Studio TAFE in Ultimo, I worked part-time at the Vinnies stores in Sydney, mainly in Newtown. It was working at Vinnies where I was really inspired to become a fashion designer. I loved collecting vintage and pre-loved designer clothing and would spend hours adoring the quality, finish and craftsmanship. I was horrified about the afterlife of the clothing that was donated - around 80% of donations were sent to landfill. It became clear to me that the public was not educated about what should be donated, most customers would donate their ‘rubbish’, and there was no system in place for textile waste.
During my studies, I worked as an intern at Karla Spetic, and Romance Was Born - where I learned so much at the hands of the company's production manager. We hand-cut each digital placement print before handing it over to the machinist. Their supply chain was local, so it was such a great learning curb. After graduating, it took almost six months until I got my first job, and since then, I have worked for Marcs, Jigsaw, Shona Joy, Assembly Label, SABA and Sportscraft. All brands were based in Sydney and worked with both local and offshore design and production.
In 2017, while I was still working at Shona Joy, I read Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press. I had always dreamt of starting my own fashion house, and I knew then that it had to be purpose-driven because my love for people and the planet is a part of my DNA.
After a year of studying and collecting dead-stock fabrics from local fashion houses, I had to pause the project. It wasn't until 2020, when I lost my job due to covid, and my grandmother passed away, that I knew it was the time to put everything I had into the business.
My partner Chris, an award-winning Creative Director with over 15 years of experience in the branding and advertising sector, was my right-hand man, and together, we launched in December 2020. Before we launched, I completed a course in sustainable fashion and micro business management - whilst designing and developing the collection and focussing on all other aspects of the business in preparation for the release of our debut collection.
What inspired you to create madre natura?
A few aspects inspired the process, losing my job during the covid pandemic and the passing of my grandmother from my father’s side, Mary, were both significant motivators. My grandmother was a huge inspiration, and she always believed in me. So I thought, you have to do it, it's now or never!
We were in the middle of a covid lockdown, and I couldn't get work, so I finally had time to just focus on the business. I knew I had to do it, and I'd always wanted to do it but never felt like it was the right time until then. The inspiration behind the name, madre natura means 'mother nature' in Italian. I'm half Italian from my mother's side and am extremely inspired by my Italian culture and family - as am I by my love for the planet and its people. So the name felt right because both these meanings connected, it symbolises sustainable, ethical, circular and slow fashion for our planet and its people.
Describe the madre natura aesthetic in a few words?
Luxurious and laid back with a clash between street-wear/everyday wear and Haute nostalgic fashion infused with a sense of cool.
You've built your brand with a circular ethos. Can you tell us what circular fashion means to you?
Our circular ethos is one of the most important aspects of our business because we believe there is no such thing as 'throw-away". We are purpose-driven with all our decisions. Keeping textiles out of landfill is vital, and using renewable materials such as natural and recycled fabrics is key. We also have a system for mending and repairs (mn_Circular) and an afterlife program for waste (mn_Reprocesses).
Have you ever sold your own clothing or bought pre-loved?
Yes, I spent years collecting vintage and designer pre-loved clothing. I used to sell it at Bondi and Surry Hills markets.
Is there a person or brand that you look to who is leading the way in fashion sustainability?
Claire Press - her podcast and books have changed my life forever. She's incredibly resourceful and has the ability to educate the listener about global sustainability issues and industry news.
Where do you see the fashion industry in 10 years?
Manufacturing in Australia is really hard, as it is now a dying trade. We are facing a dilemma within the young and upcoming workforce; they do not want to become cutters or seamstresses - everyone wants to be the 'sexy' designer. There must be a shift in the system to focus on the craftsmanship of clothes made in Australia. We need to implement training at fashion schools that focuses on the craftsmanship of making our clothes. I hope to see the development of all aspects of onshore processing in Australia. From the farming and spinning of the fibres/yarn, to the development of the materials. And then I'd like to see manufacturing happening a lot more here in Australia too.
Is there a particular item in your wardrobe that you treasure?
A 1960s speckle print midi dress from my Grandmother, Tina.
What's next for you and madre natura?
Launching our 02 collection this year, and if all goes to plan, our first madre natura standing store. To continue to develop our sustainable incentives and certificates, circular programs and climate positive goals, and many more exciting things.
What advice would you give to someone who would love to create their own brand?
Focus on the things you can control and forget about the rest…