Biochemistry engineers are working in laboratories trying to come up with a disruptive alternative to our traditional, heavily polluting and cruel fibers such as leather, wool, silk, cotton, and viscose. What is being created inside this labs is a pot of gold – and some start-ups are getting closer to it every day. But Nina Rössler, the woman behind the Nuvi Nomad brand, took a different path to find equally valuable alternatives.
While traveling through Asia, the German designer looked to Thailand’s nature and heritage for inspiration to create the concept of Nuvi Living and Nuvi Nomad. Rooted in her social and environmental beliefs, as well as in her passion for fine arts and yoga, Nuvi produces bags, wallets, travel gear, and belts with Nuvi Leaf®, a material inspired by the ancient Thai tradition of Saa papermaking with teak leaf.
Nuvi Nomad HQ is located in Chiang Ming, Thailand.
Subsequently, Nina left Germany and established herself in a small province called Chiang Mai, renowned for its traditional Saa paper and textile manufacturing. As the demand for handmade paper has declined over recent years, local communities are falling apart. By giving a new direction to what was once a dying industry, NUVI is helping to keep the craft alive. Everything happens from there: the Nuvi Leaf® production, product design, cutting, sewing, and selling.
What is teak leaf leather?
According to Nina, teak leaves are used both for paper making and as a roof material, due to their size and strength. But the journey from paper and roof cover to a leather alternative isn’t a straightforward one. It took Nina and her team lots of research and uncertainty, but she trusted her gut and took the challenge. She knew that there was something precious there.
Nuvi Leaf®: From teak leaves to leather-like material
Even after the process, we are able to see the original lines of the leaves
“I found some of these leaves made into paper and some had some kind of foil on it used for book covers and fragile little pouches”, Nina explains. “I loved the idea but saw two problematic aspects. One is, compared to other countries, in Germany, we have a deep-seated understanding of sustainability and the other aspect is high-quality standards which were not met. After three years of testing and developing this material, it has become what it currently is is”. Nuvi Leaf® is PETA-Approved vegan, cruelty-free, 95% natural – and Nina points out that she and her team are working hard to make it 100%.
The company’s cornerstone principle is to inspire social and environmental responsibility, according to its three essential principles: sustainable, fair trade and cruelty-free.
The beginning of an innovative journey
Nuvi Nomad is at the very start of its journey, meaning that exciting times lie ahead. Nina’s aim is to take the leaf leather to Europe and put it in the hands of craftsmen that usually work with animal-derived leather. “Wouldn’t it be nice to offer them an alternative material to work with?”, she asks rhetorically. I think so. A lot can be achieved when high-skilled artisans meet with innovate materials.
The brand is also with a Kickstarter campaign online now for those who want to put their hand on this innovative product. You can check it out here.
For now, Nuvi’s range is only available via e-commerce, but a flagship store is expected in the future. “I think a shopping experience in a beautiful space, in the company of a nice sales person that can tell you the story of the product heightens the sense of identification with the product and creates a memory at the same time. This is what you don’t get when shopping online”, Nina explains. But since Nuvi is a one-woman show, she needs to take one step at a time. “We are definitely hoping for Nuvi to grow bigger, better and take a good bite of the leather market.”
If good karma works for Nina, the brand possibly will: 10% of the proceeds from each purchase are donated to Yogamour Global, a yoga-centered non-profit organization based in Chiang Mai. Their community work and free healthcare clinics benefit hill-tribe children living in under-represented areas providing access to basic healthcare, education, and clean drinking water.
All images are courtesy of Nuvi Nomad.