Natalie Vyetrova’s Vintage Fashion Looks Will Change the Way You Think About Sustainable Style


June 2, 2023

Natalie Steger

Photography by NAUMEN KHAN | Model Anastasia Tafuri Vakula | Creative direction & styling NATALIE VYETROVA

In a world of dreamers, we had the pleasure of interviewing the one and only Natalie Vyetrova, owner of Nata Sabi, an artistic brand covering event design, artistic direction, project consulting to creating one of a kind dried flower arrangements for all occasions. Vyetrova’s professional life is closely linked to sustainability. Her history in the fashion industry molded her into the visionary and art director she is now. In this interview, you will experience her talents in this immaculate photo story created with vintage clothing and recycled props. Using what was available to her created scenes an unexpected, elevated look rivaling imagery created in the newest editorial campaigns of Dior and Chanel – proof the old can be new again.

All looks styled by Vyetrova using vintage clothing.

Vyetrova’s personal style consists of mostly vintage clothing and she covets the luxurious construction of these items. She beautifully describes the experience of wearing a well made vintage piece is like wrapping yourself in the nostalgia of tasteful living, while eloquently expressing that one “can feel a piece of fashion art on your body and elevate your style, French seams, generous hems, and exquisitely crafted buttons, prints and pintucks. There is nothing quite as flattering as an artfully crafted garment.”

Vyetrova’s showcases her mission and work by creating original and creative ideas utilizing sustainable resources in her productions. It’s her way of expressing where the future fashion should be heading.

“We are moving toward a sustainable life and don’t have another choice,” she said. “It is a unique formula to survive on this planet.”

What is sustainability? According to the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, “Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”

Vyetrova’s goal is to inspire others to think about sustainability and have meaningful discussions about the future of fashion and its challenges, along with the struggles consumers face in the world of fashion. Her hope is to change the life of a person in a much more sustainable fashion which to her, means she fulfilled her mission as an individual and professional. 

Tell us what your personal idea and definition of Fashion is? 

Fashion for me is just an instrument to express style, your personality, and your voice. Therefore, I am not too fond of fashion trends that don’t have a history. I associate style with uniqueness; fashion is like sitting on the ongoing train and admiring different views from the window. Those views are beautiful but are not connected with you. You just enjoy them without feelings. But, on the other hand, one can have their own profound unique style. I see many people who society might think are not very fashionable, but to me they are so stylish in a distinctive way, that I wanted just to look at them over and over again.  

What is vintage to you and tell us how it inspires you in your creative projects as an artistic director and visionary?

Vintage to me is quality and with each piece containing  an intriguing history. My love for vintage started in Italy. My life was surrounded by beautiful artists, architects, and creative people who helped me develop my style and vision. So many of them were wearing vintage clothes and were unique in how they expressed themselves.  I don’t remember the first vintage piece I bought, but I remember the feeling. The feeling I felt was special. One of my favorite past-times was to go to Porta Portese market in Rome every Sunday and explore with the hopes to find something extraordinary.

Vintage clothing is simply remarkable. It helps you to dream about the places and times where you could never be. These one of a kind previously loved pieces which we call vintage are considered quality over quantity.  Every time you pick up a vintage item, you realize how much attention to detail has been spent by the artisans who created it. Every seam, every piece demonstrates a great love for the art of fashion. The refinement of cuts, materials, shades, finishes, the choice in the multiplicity of accessories, and the many interpretations allow you to challenge time and actuality. I experience the warm rush of finding and wearing something beautiful. It is like closing your eyes and taking a sip of good aromatic wine, like watching the blood orange luster you find in the colors of a Californian sunset.

Jean Cocteau, French poet, actor, and filmmaker, manifested elegance in every move, mode, and mannerism. He said, “The fashion is what goes out of fashion.” 

The elegance of a garment can reflect the beauty and elegance of the soul of who wears it. Your vision of yourself can be so exclusive and strange for others. You can reproduce your inner voice outwardly using clothing. Garments help you demonstrate your essence in a very simple way and are a steering link in your communication with people. People say that they do not judge others through clothes, but it is always fascinating to learn about a person who does not look like everyone else, who has their own style, right? It becomes magnetic and intriguing through clothing. Like I said earlier, vintage clothing is simply remarkable.

All looks styled by Vyetrova using vintage clothing.

Tell us about your dreams and goals.

I dream a lot. In general, for the planet, and also the hopes that one day we don’t see suffering around the world. My personal dream is to be heard and have a little lovely house near the ocean. My life goal is to be a good person. I have been learning all my life to be an honest, sensitive, respectful human being. It is not always easy being honest, and that is one thing I strive to always be. I hope that in the way I live, I can help change the world in a good way.

What is your experience in the fashion world that led your journey to this greener mindset?

My “greener mindset” desire for people to live healthy lives, and minimize the human impact on the planet evolved to be my priority starting in the late 1980’s as a young child in Soviet Union-occupied Ukraine. Like most Ukrainians, I learned to survive with minimal resources. By the time I turned sixteen, I knew only of survival but could not ignore my evolving desire to create and express my artistic and fashion interests. Unable to find or afford fashionable clothing, I depended upon piecing together my mother’s decades-old clothes and using my creativity to satisfy my self-expression with self created fashion-forward outfits. Later, my first year at University provided me the opportunity to purchase my first pair of jeans, and pursue my degree in LEED-certified construction project management. Soon I realized that my love for fashion and the arts was far more substantial than my interest in construction and, despite my degree, I pursued a career in fashion. 

My first position was as a consultant to small designers mixed amongst the famous fashion houses in Rome’s commercial center, “La Rinascente”. My career progressed to fashion stock management, and ultimately to positions with Gucci in sales and merchandising. Though educational, those experiences had a more negative than positive impact on me. I realized that my clients were over-consuming, and purchasing clothing without thinking. Ultimately, this behavior of consumers led to the decreasing quality of materials and craftsmanship. I soon discovered the impact of the fashion industry became the seeds that inspired my approach to sustainable fashion.

These collective experiences, growing up in a minimalistic and restrictive environment, along with my education in eco-building formed my desire to connect sustainable living with a fashionable approach.  Today, I am fortunate to live in the U.S. with its limitless resources, combined with the lessons of my past and my desire to promote a sustainable environment along with a healthy lifestyle has provided the foundation for my fashion artistry. It also solidifies my commitment to helping  people make fashionable and sustainable decisions.

All looks styled by Vyetrova using vintage clothing.

Can you talk more about your time at Gucci and discuss your role there? 

I loved that time! I earned a position in the original flagship Gucci store in Rome. Not only was it a new experience, it was also challenging because I was exposed to a different aspect of the fashion industry. As a sales professional, I needed to learn that the “business” of fashion and client satisfaction had nothing to do with my personal design choice; those lessons were critical to my success. I realized the importance of being a good listener which, ultimately, taught me to be open-minded and to see the world differently. After a couple of years, I became immersed in the philosophy of sales, inspired by the process of selling fashion and luxury to clients from around the world with different cultures and behaviors. Eventually, I became the leading sales professional at the most famous Gucci store location.

Serving the various needs and desires of my global clientele helped me appreciate the visual representation of products. I became fascinated by the psychology of visualization, and spent my time studying the strategy, thought process, and attention to detail which defines Gucci’s merchandising platform. This led me to transition from sales to visual merchandising to which I dedicated my time to people’s visual perception of fashion.

Looking back at your time working at Gucci and in fashion back then, what are some of the things you loved? 

While at Gucci, I had two different roles: sales professional and visual merchandiser. As a sales professional it was exciting to quickly curate outfits that matched the culture, fashion interests, physique, and personality of clients. I also loved taking the fashion experience beyond the individual desires of each client, and using visual merchandising to appeal to the eyes of many. For this, visual creation brings me tremendous joy but also requires a keen understanding of fashion trends. I needed the ability to present the product to the client in a manner that the client was able to perceive themselves wearing the product, all the while, successfully demonstrating the product’s value, and substantiating the product’s investment. 

My career as Gucci’s visual merchandiser was much like the concept of an artist who must paint to appeal to the masses without the benefit and direction of a specific client’s request. The artist is left with a blank canvas, access to an array of different color palettes and textures. He or she has a head full of ideas, and must produce a high-priced painting that is guaranteed to sell. I find tremendous fulfillment in managing all these elements to produce a visual experience that will be enjoyed by many and sell products.

All looks styled by Vyetrova using vintage clothing.

How do you think bigger fashion houses can do better? Do you have any designers or brands that inspire you and why? 

I think that the groups Kering and LVMH have a significant impact on the future of fashion. They own a big part of luxury brands and have to be focused on recycling and reusing materials more than ever. Of course, this is a significant investment afforded by big conglomerates. I don’t want to go into too much detail to explain how much responsibility H&M, ZARA, and other fast fashion companies have in global and environmental disasters. Still, I believe that the companies have to continue to make sustainable choices more affordable and practical, which influence increasingly into consumers’ actions. 

I strongly believe there should be investments also in education internally, not just in brands but also to the consumers. Some of my favorite people whose work or life inspire me so much are Gabriela Hearst, Alessandro Michele, Mira Duma, Ulyana Sergeenko, Lauren Singer who is a zero Waste Environmentalist), and photographer Alexi Lubomirski. They are exciting and inspiring individuals whose life is focused on sustainable living and saving the planet. They all have a unique goal with a consciousness of living, creating a sustainable future, making changes for future generations, and demonstrating actions toward eco-friendly life.

You have done a little of everything in the aspect of design. What are your plans for the future artistically? 

In 2022 I have projects: events, podcasts, photoshoots, collaborations with non-profit organizations that are concentrated in the education of customers, and promotions of vintage and secondhand, sustainable fashion in society. I am currently preparing my capsule vintage collection, which I will have for sale.  The capsule vintage collection is of items that I carefully curated for my customers.  My long experience in fashion gave me the capability to see the quality of items, match them together, create unique, authentic outfits that can catch the eye. I love playing around time, textures, shapes, styles. I have many ideas of trying to create new items using secondhand clothing which would update vintage pieces in a modern way. 

Do you see us, as a society, making true strides to a better world of sustainability and acknowledging we need to make changes? 

Yes, I do! In my little community in Washington DC, I noticed that my friends, neighbors, and people I know are waking up; they are more focused on sustainable living and being attentive to what impact they have for the future of the planet. They are speaking all the time about this global issue, climate change, fast fashion, and plastic waste. I noticed that my friends started to have questions like “ What can I do as a person to make a better future?” This leads to discussion on how we all can do better. People are more aware of how an item they buy can be recycled and used for other occasions as well where and how items are produced.  

From the global perspective, the numbers can confirm that people are starting to try to be more green. According to PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey, they were conducted in March 2021, signifying a historical and dramatic shift in consumer behavior. Consumers evolved to be more interested in local shopping and sustainable brands. We have already seen that the generation we call the “Gen-Z”  support influencers with unique, less individualistic views who engage and entertain them in meaningful ways. People want to buy an item with its contribution to society.

Speaking about vintage to others is one of the things that I promote so hard in my personal life, on social media and in all creative aspects of what I do. The vintage clothing trend is growing fast thanks to changes in values, the inclusion of vintage inspirations used in current designs. For me, vintage movements are a reaction against mass-produced fast fashion. The vintage trend phenomenon might be a potent chance to keep sustainable promises and be a big part of the circular economy. According to ThredUp’s 2021 Fashion Resale Market Report, secondhand is projected to grow to double in the next five years, reaching from $36 B in 2021 to $77B in 2025. 

Any last inspiring words you’d like to share with our readers or quote?

A regeneration of humanity. Finishing with the words of Vivienne Westwood in BoF VOICES 2021: “Governments will crash the whole world, rather than submit to popular demand for peace. We are defending ourselves from our own aggression. Tomorrow is too late. S-O-S”

In a world where fast fashion is taking speed and pressuring us to buy more and think less, and we can find discarded clothing in landfill that contains over 16 million tonnes a year in the US alone, we have a choice to do better, be better, and be more proactive. As humans, we have a responsibility for our daily decisions. Did you know that just 20% of all clothing is recycled? The fashion industry creates waste and sends it to landfills on massive levels. Water consumption, energy emissions, and chemical usage are the struggles with which we have to work on. If we don’t decrease the number of resources used in the fashion industry, it will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget until 2050.

Since the Pandemic, the consumer has been looking for balance in everything: life, work, or a place to live. Finding a state of equilibrium or equipoise in living is the priority now. All around, everyone starts asking about their impact; Sustainability starts to matter to people more than ever. 

If we want to talk about the quality of life, then sustainability and balance are inseparable. For creating ecological balance, we have to practice sustainability in our daily life. There are many platforms or projects where we can share our approaches for long-term vitality. One of them is a tag in social media #SolveDifferent where people can share stories about what they do towards creating a different future for our planet.

Our effect as a consumer on the environment is the loudest conversation topic in fashion right now. Saving money on clothes is now the top priority for many of us. However, we have the power to take small steps towards a much more sustainable fashion future each day because the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. 

To make an individual positive impact on consumption volume, we can purchase vintage or second hand pieces. Shopping vintage is so easy now. There are many online stores such as GEM, Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Beyond Retro, and others where you can find exclusive pieces for any occasion you want. By buying vintage, you not only reduce the environmental impact, but you also give a garment a second life; you create your style and have notable, unique pieces in your wardrobe. 

Of course, the vintage clothing industry leaves a carbon footprint on its own: transportation is the primary resource for it. However, vintage clothing resale doesn’t usually require any additional materials such as material waste or water consumption—So in that respect, the resource use is still minimal. From the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report, textile waste has increased by 811% between 1960 and 2015 which is the date I found on in a discussion about who and why we are thrift shopping.

I love a quote from Ralph Lauren and he says it best,  “Style is very personal. It has nothing to do with fashion. Fashion is over quickly. Style is forever.”

You can keep up with Natalie and her recent projects by following her here: @nata.sabi.

Photo courtesy of Natalie Vyetrova.