Re//Store Sisterhood: Neliana, founder of A Transparent Company
A Transparent Company is founded by Neliana Fuenmayor, a London-based fashion designer and a sustainability advocate for transparency in supply chains and communications. Her company aims to raise awareness on the importance of the role of transparency in the fashion industry and how this can be applied. Her and her team of experienced consultants offer communication strategy and inspiring talks and workshops where the latest findings in ethical and sustainability innovations are shared. Besides this wildly inspiring and noble project that is crafting the future of mindful fashion, Neliana has a strong, mesmerising and energetic personality that I felt at ease with as soon as we met and found out we shared many like minded ideas.
How would you describe your personal style?
Everybody knows me for wearing lots of black – I guess it is linked with my fashion student years of long days in school, you want to look good during the busy days without getting too much attention, but outside the fashion world wearing all black is quite noticeable, hence my reputation of the girl that wears black. However, in winter I like to wear colourful coats and add rose gold or copper accessories. My style is minimal with an edge, I like to bring different textures, lengths and layers. In Spring/Summer I still wear light black silk and chiffon tops and dresses, but I love to introduce greys, white, coral and digital prints. Coming from a country like Venezuela, I tend to feel more connected to my Andean tropical roots in the warm weather with no doubt.
What made you decide to start your company?
My theme of sustainability has been the thread linking my work, both as a fashion designer and creative entrepreneur. I decided to call my venture ‘A Transparent Company’ as I believe knowledge should be shared and the relationship between brands and customers should be more open and democratic. The story goes, back in 2012 I co-founded a womenswear brand under the name of AETHER, trading under ‘A Transparent Company Ltd’. It was my first startup and attempt to test my entrepreneurial skills. It allowed me to practice what I preached, but I found it shocking when suppliers didn’t know or wouldn’t share information about the origin of fabrics and materials they were selling, I knew this was going to be challenging. I was very much inspired by Bruno Pieters, founder of ‘Honest by’, who claims to be the first 100% transparent company in the world, at least in fashion I believe it is. He created disruption in our industry by sharing all the information of how, where and by who the garments were made. I decided to be part of this movement. Currently, I am the sole director and I turned the company into a creative consultancy that focuses on sustainable innovation and communications for fashion business.
How do you put your ideas surrounding sustainability in process?
For me sustainability is a mindset and a long term journey. I am not 100% sustainable, in my opinion no person or company is, but it is about the awareness of always trying to make better decisions and choose alternative options over conventional ones. I try to educate myself the best I can in terms of what my impact as a person, entrepreneur and citizen has on the world. I talk about transparency because for me is about being honest and open, sustainability and ethical practices are equally important, and by being transparent you are sharing your own processes and journey of becoming better.
What are your favourite elements of your job? And biggest Challenge?
My favourite element is meeting people – I am a natural networker, the same people knowing me for wearing black, also know me for connecting people. I love to learn from other peers, from different industries and backgrounds. Recently I’ve been exposed to the tech world by being part of software company Provenance, and I just love learning new things, such as Blockchain technology which is informing my path towards greater transparency and trust in fashion supply chains. The latter, has been one of my biggest challenges, to step out of my comfort zone to understand another way of working that is totally different to fashion. This influenced and changed the way I work and see my industry, it is allowing me to add value by offering a more holistic approach and innovative thinking, with a good dose of tech!
What role does yoga play in your life?
I remember my first ever yoga class. I was 17 years old, just graduated from school and felt the freedom to start exploring and managing my own time – I booked myself a class back in my hometown, Merida. I was so lucky, I was the only person who showed up! I had an amazing immersive experience with all the attention to each pose. I remember the feeling of leaving the room almost levitating. I decided then yoga was going to be part of my life. Change is the only constant – and so I have had phases where I am very disciplined, others where I am not constant, and sometimes no yoga at all, but the mat has become a good friend and is a place where I know I can create mind space.
Do you practice mindfulness and in what way?
I remember the first time I heard about mindfulness – it was through my neighbour Paul in Clapton who introduced me to the concept. I was curious about what makes it different to meditation. It has helped me through difficult times, and learning that awareness is the base of everything we do, by being as present as possible in the now. That is how I practice it. In the past 18 months I have turned more into meditation, making space for it. I love the Insight-Timer App, its free and a great way to share your meditation with a global and local community. I recommend it – it’s free and lots of guided meditations!
What is your favourite indulgence within the world of wellness?
Having a long long bath, with my favourite music, scent candles and a glass of wine. Is that wellness? I believe is all about balance.
Where do you go when you want to find inspiration in London?
In London you can find inspiration anywhere, but having been in this city for 11 years, I find inspiration in quiet places. I love Hackney Marshes, it has been my favourite place for years to disconnect and reconnect, I love running this route that is basically a tunnel made out of trees. It doesn’t feel like London. In the city, I love a walk through Soho, Berwick street, pop into the National Portrait Gallery or a walk by the Thames in good weather, nothing can beat that!
What do you listen to at the moment?
I love music, I can’t concentrate without it, funny speaking about quietness earlier, but music can also make me or break me. I love creating playlist per seasons, so I categorise them
by quarters e.g. Q4 2016, Q1 2017. It serves me as a reference to what was happening in my life at that given time. I am currently enjoying the new album from Sohn called Rennen. I went to see his show live a couple of weeks ago – Loved it, its lyrics are very current to the times we are living.
Change is the only constant in my life – and thus I have had phases where I am very disciplined, others where I am not constant in my practice, and sometimes no yoga at all, but the mat has become a good friend and is a place where I know I can create mind space.
Could you recommend an organic / local produce cafe / restaurant in your area?
At the moment I live in Shoreditch, near my all time favourite street Red Church street. I enjoy going for breakfast at the Albion Counter where they serve amazing bowls with all the seeds, fruits and superfood powders that you can think of, with sourdough and of course avocados. I also like Andina, a Peruvian restaurant. Their smoothies are amazing and they use Maca which makes me feel closer to my indigenous origins.
Where do you go to shop for clothes / accessories?
I have a neat selection of clothes and accessories. I know that it is hard to believe since I work in the fashion industry but I have been very mindful about bringing new items to my wardrobe. After moving from my last place where I lived for 6 years, I decided to declutter my life. I realised it is so easy to buy something without thinking if it is really necessary. I remember one day I just couldn’t see another box of clothes and my sister introduced me to Marie Kondo’s method.
And in terms of wellness?
I am spending more on this category, from buying as much organic food as I can to investing in yoga classes and workshops. I recommend Reva Yoga run by Nina Deely just off Broadway market where I have co-hosted ‘somatic mediations’ with my dear friend Rebeca Castella. The three of us decided to name it ‘Thank Buddha it’s Friday’ bringing mindful fun together to end the week in balance. We will be hosting more events between London and the magic island of Ibiza.
Who would you like to see on here in the future?
My good friend Jessi Atkinson founder of ‘East London Gratitude Network’ who is creating a beautiful universe of wellness here in London. Her workshops are so beautifully curated, with so much attention to detail, you feel you are on a holiday when you enter the room. The mat is not just a place to spend a limited about of time, but is a place to connect deeply with your inner source, embellished with comfy sheep skins and bespoke made crystal water depending on the moon cycle. We met through fashion but yoga has always been a way for us to connect on another level. I hope to see her at Manuka soon.
Oh! I have been dying to meet her so if I can make that happen I look forward to that!
What is your favourite plant based / Vegetarian recipe?
It will have to be my signature smoothie that helps me through busy periods. I am a Nutri-bullet fan, my former yoga teacher, Lisa Brody told me about it and ever since I travel with it if I can.
1 cup of almond milk
1 handful of blueberries
1 handful of spinach
Chia seeds (leave them in water overnight to activate them)
1 tea spoon Maca Powder
1 tea spoon of spirulina Powder
(If you don’t want a green one, replace the spinach with Cocoa powder and organic chunky peanut butter)
Thank you so much for the inspiring talk Neliana, I cant wait to make the smoothie post practice!
Interview and photos by Maaike Mekking www.maaikemekking.com