Natissea is coming to Brighton for local yarn shop day! Not long to go now, local yarn shop day 2023 is coming up on the 29th April and we are so excited to be hosting Mathilde from Natissea. Mathilde will be in store with two of her beautiful yarns. Pernelle is a 100% hemp 4ply. Linae is 95% organic linen and 5% organic cotton 4ply. Both come in a beautiful range of colours and are available to pre-order along with several kits.
The choice of fibres that Mathilde works with is really interesting and there is a clear passion behind the choices she has made for her brand so we thought it would be nice to hear a little more about how Mathilde got to where she is now.
From learning how to knit to launching your own business, what was your creative journey like?
I learnt to knit with my grandma at the age of 6. I recall with fondness these happy moments spent together, they are treasured memories. One of the things I love the most about knitting is the fact that it ‘weaves’ generations together, this know-how can be shared and then passed down.
During my teenage years, knitting was clearly not trendy! However it remained a pleasure and I continued doing it at night at home on my own. Up until my thirties, I always had an ongoing knitting project. It was my own secret garden!
When I launched Natissea and created my Instagram account, I soon came to realise that there is a worldwide community of passionate knitters like me. I was not alone, quite the opposite! Thanks to social media, I discovered new techniques and found renewed inspiration. I no longer had to hide my passion but could now share it with others! Daring to show my own knitting was a real milestone for me! Can you believe I am now the one launching knitting evenings? It’s such fun to gather together, to support one another and exchange tips as well as ideas.
Over the past two years I have noticed a real change : knitting is much better perceived. I often spot knitters in public transportations and knitting events are popping up all over France! What was once considered a mere hobby for housewives is now used to express women’s rights! I am proud to have made a proper job out of it as a woman.
Why plant fibres?
Five years ago I began taking a deeper interest in ecology. I was initially rather proud to have what I imagined to be a very eco-friendly hobby. But to my dismay, I soon discovered that the materials and dyeing techniques used for knitting yarns are often far from sustainable. I searched but I only found synthetic fibres or animal fibres alternatives which weren’t local.
It is from this lack of options to suit my own personal needs that the crazy idea of creating an eco-friendly plant fibre company was born. After intense investigation, it turned out that whether in food or textile, plant fibres remain the most respectful towards the planet. Animal breeding requires a great deal of land, water and food, they use up a lot of natural resources.
Throughout my research, I discovered the most fascinating ancient plants with incredible assets. hemp, linen and jute have dressed humankind since the dawn of time! This is not surprising since they are extremely strong and durable! Unfortunately in the 80s with the arrival of synthetic fibres, their production entirely stopped. In less than a year, all the local plantations shut down. Too time consuming to grow and transform with no less than 26 steps against only 1 for artificial fibres, it was the “battle of the clay pot against the iron one” as we say in French.
However things are now changing. As consumers begin to take the environment’s protection into consideration in their purchases, they are willing to pay more for local and high quality fabrics and materials. Long forgotten fibres are reappearing and it’s a true joy to be part of this renewal.
Why plant fibres? How has your background as a fashion designer influenced your yarns and business?
After my designer and modelist diploma, I was hired by a professional fabric Parisian fair. My mission was to sort out fabrics by category and to get them certified. Not only did this allow me to gain precious knowledge on fabrics but it also opened my eyes on the awful “behind the scenes”: sweated labour, bad quality, cheap synthetic fibres… It was appalling and made me feel very uncomfortable. Luckily I was then asked to be in charge of a small fair focused on sustainable alternatives. They were very few but I made the encounter of a hemp producer who introduced me to the fibre. It was love at first sight! Its beautiful feel and precious glow tugged at my heartstrings right away. I was all the more impressed when he began listing all the assets of hemp: thermoregulatory, antibacterial, hypoallergenic! Due to my fashion background I thought: why not create clothes in hemp? More than a fun DIY it can be a way to dress and a personalised one too!
We learn from our experiences and everything happens for a reason. Each and every step of the journey both professional and personal taught me something. Natissea is a reflection of my own journey. I am so happy to have created a brand that promotes my own values and ethics.
How important is it to your that your yarns are GOTS certified?
I discovered all the different labels along the way as I created my yarns. There are so many standards and criteria: local, ethical, ecological, cruelty free, environmental… I decided to choose the GOTS certification since it includes the greatest number of requirements and takes into account the consequences of the production process and not just the final product.
To meet all the GOTS standards, I had to undertake a lot of research. For example I discovered that local dyeing was not so eco-friendly because water sewage was not recycled and therefore harmful for our ecosystem. That was clearly not an option for me! I finally found a GOTS certified dyeing company in France. It is one thing to use plant and mineral based pigments to dye the yarns but if it ends up polluting water and disrupting the environment, it just doesn’t make sense!
I also had to make sure that all the dyeing products were not harmful or dangerous for the skin! Just like cream, chemical products end up in your blood.
Achieving GOTS is a guarantee for my clients! It goes hand in hand with my brand’s ethics and core values.
What’s on your needles at the moment?
I have a surprise coming! I don’t want to spill the beans but I cannot resist sharing a sneak peek of it. I am collaborating with Alice Hammer, we are creating a new kit! I am currently making a sample to present for the pop up in Brighton. This beautiful design will launch on the 29th of April. It’s made in Pernelle (100% hemp) in a lovely vintage pink shade which I love. I will also have another one made of Linaé (95% French Linen and 5 % cotton). Stay tuned!