Elevated Basics Brand Numi Brings ‘Humanness’ Back to Fashion

“Consciously created products that make life a little easier” correctly captures the mood of the moment — and the brand behind this befitting concept is Numi, a sustainable elevated basics company that aims to amplify women’s wardrobes through its feminine, utilitarian approach.

The Toronto-based brand “born out of necessity” is focused on achieving a flattering fit with sustainably made, technical fabrics that offer a lot more than your average blouse. Numi uses Tencel and “Contemporary Cotton,” a high-performance fabric that moves moisture away from the body. But its prized material is “Sustainable Silk” imported from Italy, a trademarked fabric blend of 31 percent silk and 69 percent Naia, a sustainable yarn made from pine and eucalyptus trees, treated with Bluesign compliant stain repellent technology — which means your silk stays clean throughout the day and into the night. And the kicker is that it’s completely machine washable.

Its latest collection features a button-up, short-sleeve blouse, reversible tank top, and a classic cami available in black, blue, blush and white. And to add some fun with function, its styles are named after historical women and thought leaders, such as author and feminist Simone de Beauvoir; investigative journalist Ida Wells-Barnett; poet Audre Lorde; and on-screen starlet and inventor Hedy Lamarr.

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But when the brand launched, it began with the basics, which remain core to the brand’s differentiation among its peers. Numi’s undershirts possess a vintage quality and old-fashioned feeling, but they’re thoroughly modern: the fabrics are high-performance, sweat proof, thermoregulating and even feature absorbent underarm gussets, among other technical features.

Easy Wear, Easy Care

Founder Michelle Shemilt told WWD that her former career in finance — which required wearing professional apparel for far longer than 9-to-5 — helped identify a need in the apparel market: elegant, elevated basics that could be worn for any occasion, and wouldn’t drive up a majorly expensive tab at the dry cleaners.

“I love wearing silk blouses. But the problem is that as soon as I put one on, a stain seems to appear out of nowhere, and then I have to send it to the dry cleaners. So, we developed a sustainable silk fabric that is lightweight, breathable and drapes like silk, but it is also machine washable, stain repellent and more sustainable. This means you get all the upside of a classic silk blouse, but without any of the worries.”

Aesthetics aside, Numi is centered on the promotion of “conscious creation,” an idea taking hold among brands and consumers that lends itself well to the industry-at-large.

The Ida Short Sleeve. Image courtesy of Numi. 

“Conscious creation means that we think about every small detail of each product, starting with its intention and finishing with the small design details and packaging. Before we create something new, we think about what problem we are solving and how we are adding value to our woman’s life.”

Shemilt told WWD that Numi prioritizes sustainability at the initial stages of the sourcing process, which ensures that the fabrics, trims and packaging are as sustainable as possible. “Then, in the design process, we take a long time to consider fit, details, and trim. Can we make something reversible so our customers can wear it in more ways? Or, can we add a button detail to add interest?”

For Numi, its sustainability also lies in longevity. “Most importantly, [we ask], is this piece versatile, and will it stand the test of time? One of my inspirations for the Essential Undershirt line was that I was always saving my good outfits, I didn’t want to waste them on an average day. But we want women to wear their good outfits every day, and so we aspire to make pieces that make it easy to do.”

Numi makes its commitment to women’s empowerment clear by putting humanness at the center. “At our core, we want women to feel their best every day. That’s why we’ve created solutions to everyday pain points, so women can wear what they want, feel confident all day, and focus on being their best selves.”

And while its branding is meant to inspire, it’s meant to do so “in a way that you can really see yourself in it.” Shemilt told WWD, “In our imagery, we don’t do any post-production Photoshopping. We focus on really beautiful lighting and styling and then allow the humanness of the models to shine, such as a stretch mark here, or a red undertone in the skin there. We think of it as ‘attainable aspirational.’”

Shemilt added, “Our aesthetic is also very timeless. We associate ourselves more with the slow-fashion movement. We want to make easy-to-wear pieces, that are seasonless and versatile — so you can happily be an outfit repeater.”

For more Business news from WWD, see:

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