Conversations with Changemakers: Naomi Rachèl Timan
Did you know that every year nations generate over 1.3 billion tons of trash? This amount of trash has devastating human and environmental impacts. Heaps of waste cause pollution that runs into waterways and releases toxic gases. Grave environmental injustices lie within the fact that poor communities are often disproportionately affected by these toxic exposures and pollutions. Yes, there is hope that technological advancements can help us convert waste into clean energy. But the truth is we can’t continue consuming at our current rates and expect new technologies to safely clean it up for us after the fact. Instead, we need to simultaneously focus on solutions of individual behavior change, which involve consuming less and consuming smarter. It is time that we as consumers learn to value, appreciate, and understand the life cycle of the products we consume. Once we understand what we are consuming and how our consumption impacts our fellow humans and the environment, we can begin to make smarter purchasing decisions and search for options that have less negative impact.
Creatives like Naomi Rachèl Timan are at the forefront of promoting this behavior change by creating accessory pieces that allow us to rethink what we consider “trash.” As a designer and sustainability advocate, Naomi sees “trash” as an opportunity to create new products out of old materials…ultimately producing desirable bags and other accessories that have little to no added negative impact on the environment.
I had the pleasure of meeting Naomi while I was scouting out sustainable and ethical shops in Amsterdam last summer. Naomi is endearing and welcoming and in no time we were chatting about the importance of sustainability, especially within the fashion industry. It was here that I first learned about her work as a designer. Naomi speaks with passion and enthusiasm for her work. She can often be seen collecting old pieces of furniture around the city streets before the trash collector comes. She then breaks down these pieces of “trash” and gives them a new life as an accessory. Her current collection is called “I WAS A…” In this collection each product includes a background story explaining what it was before it was turned into an accessory. It’s been great to stay connected with Naomi and I was thrilled that she answered some of my questions via email once I returned to that states.
Arissa: What experiences first opened your eyes to the environmental issues and injustices caused by our excessive consumer waste? What drew you specifically to pursue work in the sustainable fashion industry?
Naomi: As a designer I want to create new things, tell stories and inspire people, and in doing so I don’t want it to be at the cost of other people or the earth. I want to have limited to no negative impact. During my study, I did an internship at sustainable fashion brand Studio JUX (based in Amsterdam). Here I saw that it was not difficult to make beautiful products, in this case clothing, while simultaneously having a positive impact on people's lives and the environment.
Arissa: What is your design and production process like? How do you find the materials for your designs and what is life like in the studio?
Naomi: My studio is located in The Hague, next to the beach which is amazing to stare at during breaks (or just during the day)! Here I do almost everything, from designing to producing the bags. I am also looking into new ways of producing by collaborating with local and social production spaces. The materials I use are all seen as waste and they come from different locations. I go to second hand stores to find old furniture and clothing or I literally stand outside waiting for the waste collection service, and then I tear it down before it’s wasted. Another example of how I get my materials is that people just send me old leather clothing, or they send me a message that their old couch has to go, and then I’ll come by to strip it.
Arissa: You’ve been designing and selling pieces since 2014. How do you feel you have progressed and evolved as a designer? What challenges and obstacles have you faced along the way as a sustainable fashion advocate in a society of fast fashion?
Naomi: For me life is about more than only working to earn money and buying a lot of stuff. That doesn’t make me happy. I want to explore, discover, and inspire others; tell people a message and give a positive impact with all that I do. I try to share my inspirations with people wherever and whenever I can. Since this year I’m also on the list of the ‘Dutch Sustainable Young 100’ with my “I WAS A ....” collection.
Arissa: Where do you see yourself headed for the future?
Naomi: I want to create more and have a bigger impact. I wish to do so by involving more people and companies in upcycling their materials. On the other hand, I’m also trying to live more in the here and now, as life always takes a different path then what you expect and predict. So I try to continue what I do with a positive and open mindset. My dream is to create a mentality change and to create more awareness, not only about waste, but also about the people behind a product. To make a bigger impact, I’ll have to involve more people and companies with my vision. By doing so, I hope that we can all begin living lifestyles that are more circular, more honest, and ultimately fairer to one another .
Arissa: What suggestions do you have for others who are trying to break into the sustainable fashion industry?
Naomi: Go for it! Stay positive and don’t be afraid to fail, there will always be some positive things coming on your path that you can grab on to as life always takes a different path then what you expect and predict. So try to keep a positive and open mindset, then you’ll get where you were going.
Thank you so much to Naomi for sharing your insightful words. Your efforts contribute to a growing shift to get society to rethink the way in which we consume.
For more information on Naomi’s work as a designer and sustainability advocate and for information on where to purchase her designs you can check out her website https://www.naomiracheltiman.com/.
The world's trash crisis, and why many Americans are oblivious http://www.latimes.com/world/global-development/la-fg-global-trash-20160422-20160421-snap-htmlstory.html