After one year of working as a buyer for a fast-fashion retailer, Ines Vieira Varela started to experience an insurmountable feeling of fatigue. Having graduated from business school in Barcelona, she thought that her fist gig would be “the job of my dreams,” she says. “I just ended up feeling very uninspired and completely unmotivated. I didn’t like working for a corporation that sold so much clothing for just one season. It didn’t last, and that was something I knew I didn’t want to be a part of.” After marrying and relocating from Spain (she grew up in a small city in Galicia called Vigo) to Miami, Varela began to conceptualize her own brand of timeless, easy wardrobe essentials. Last year she launched Norte, a collection of sustainably made, minimally minded tops, pants, and dresses produced with eco-conscious fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, Tencel, linen, and silk. Varela also designed a few pieces of jewelry, including a beaded necklace with letter charms that spell out hola. Everything in the Norte offering is produced locally and in small batches to avoid creating unnecessary waste.
The name Norte comes from a Spanish expression that translates to “losing the north,” meaning that someone or something has lost its way, or is acting in an erratic manner. As noted on the Norte website, Varela believes that “certain aspects of the fashion world, driven by the fast-fashion phenomenon, have ‘lost their north’ by encouraging overconsumption of lower-quality goods that harm the environment and clutter your life.” Varela first learned about the idea of upcycling and crafting classic, long-lasting garments from her grandmother back in Vigo. “She taught me how to design and sew when I was seven years old,” Varela remembers. “I spent a lot of time with her creating new pieces of clothing out of old, unique fabrics.”
Varela lives her brand’s ethos each and every day, too. When she isn’t wearing Norte, or other brands she loves like No. 6 and Reformation, she is dedicated to buying vintage, dressing for both day and night in garments that hold true meaning for her. Varela collects vintage scarves and rarely changes during the 9 to 5 hours, whether she’s rushing home to take care of her two-year-old son or switching between sketching in her Little Havana studio, attending meetings, sourcing fabrics, or exchanging emails with retailers. As she explains, “Like my grandmother would do, I want to wear and create everyday clothing that is timeless in style and high in quality, but also made sustainably. I wanted to make clothes that were versatile and that would serve as pillars for an elegant and unique wardrobe.”
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Below, Varela shares some insight into dressing for her 9 to 5 with all stylish signs pointing north.
“For everyday, I really like wearing minimalistic clothes and adding fun accessories. In general, I don’t like piling on a lot of items or owning a huge wardrobe. I want fewer things that feel truly special. Ten years ago, before I understood the negative impact, I used to buy a lot of fashion fashion. Nothing felt meaningful, but now, everything I own has a purpose and I love every single item.”
“I typically carry light bags with me when I’m running around each day, but I probably put too many things in them: my notebook, a few pens, my phone, keys, wallet, water bottles, a snack in case I end up staying in a meeting longer than expected. Sometimes, I will also pack one or two diapers for my son. I recently discovered Emily Levine’s bags, and I wear that one often since it’s quite unique and very light but can still fit a lot.”
“My favorite pieces of jewelry are those that have sentimental value to me, like antiques handed down from my grandmother, or my mom’s Cartier Trinity ring that my dad gave her and that I’ve been ‘borrowing’ for the last 10 years. I also have a lot of my mom’s vintage bags and my own vintage Hermès and Loewe scarves. Buying and wearing vintage is very important to me.”
“In my opinion, the key to great 9-to-5 style is balance in the outfit. You should always try to balance the proportions, colors, and shapes. For example, if I’m wearing a tight shirt, I’ll usually pair it with pants or a skirt that have looser fits. I don’t really like the idea of dressing differently for day and night.”