A COFFEE WITH NAOMI WALSKY The dilemma of buying sustainably

By Veronica Gautschi

I have a coffee with Naomi Walsky. Stylist, designer and entrepreneur based in Montreux, Switzerland. A chat about circular design, entrepreneurship and life story.

Veronica: Can you tell me in three words who you are? Three adjectives that describe you…
Naomi: Starting off with the hardest question! I’d first say that I am multi-national. I’m originally from Alaska, spent my young adulthood in Italy, and have lived in Switzerland for the past 11 years.  I live my life in three languages and all of these influences and experiences affect all of my perspectives both in my personal and professional life. Next I would describe myself as ambitious. There’s always something to do and there’s always a way to do it. (Maybe the American hard work and smart work ethic?) Lastly I would describe myself as… mamma even though it’s not quite an adjective. I have two boys and any parent can tell you that having kids transforms you. It changes your outlook on life, on the world, it adjusts your priorities and values and this certainly comes into the work place too. 

Veronica: How you describe your brand and what are the main values ​​of your brand?
Naomi: Rue Vautier is a lifestyle brand with focus collections in women’s prêt-à-porter and bridal. I like to refer to the style as easy elegance- pieces that are versatile as they transition from day to evening, work to weekend. Most of our pieces are made locally in Switzerland to support our region’s economy as well as the development and production teams composed of women who are able to balance their work and family lives simultaneously with our flexible production planning. Working with natural fibers is also extremely important to the brand, in order to provide comfortable, easy to maintain pieces made with renewable materials.
Veronica: American by origin, moved to Montreux, stylist, mother and entrepreneur. How do you manage your roles?
Naomi: I am tempted to say that I can’t manage them all! It certainly is a challenge to do everything well although all of these roles correlate to extreme passions, or love, so what choice do I have? I’m very lucky to have set up my work place and kids’ schools within a 500 meter radius of my home so this makes everything much easier. And now that my older son is big enough I really love him spending time in the office and boutique with me. For me it was important to have my kids witness my passion and see their mom “in action”. I’m sure we will all have fond memories one day of spending this time together, blending all my roles daily.
Veronica: If we talk about Rue Vautier, we also talk about the bridal collection and if we talk about Naomi we also talk about the Riviera Concept Boutique. How do you describe your career?
Naomi: It’s a lot of concepts, I know! I’d have to say that every project has come about in an organic, intuitive way. Designers are often pushed to resolve problems and this reflects into the entrepreneurial sphere of life as well. Each of my ideas came from a passion and that passion went through an entrepreneurial transformation in order to problem solve or offer something unique that was previously missing. I’ve been so lucky to have amazing collaborators along the way and without them I certainly couldn’t have brought any of these ideas to light.
Veronica: Let's talk about sustainability and circular fashion. What is your commitment to sustainable fashion and a conscious lifestyle?
Naomi: The sustainable and conscientious aspects of my brand and boutique reflect the values we talked about earlier- mainly local production and natural fibers. At Riviera Concept Boutique there are also plenty of articles made from recycled fibers or brands with ethical initiatives. We also have plenty of educational discussions with clients in-shop about the importance of buying less, but buying better and practicing intentional shopping.Our connection with the objects around us should be intentional as well as extremely rewarding. 
Veronica: What do you dream of for the future and how do you see the role of women in the fashion industry?
Naomi: I hope that we can continue to bridge the gap between affordable fashion and quality, sustainable fashion. At the moment it’s extremely difficult to produce a completely sustainable collection at prices that are accessible for the broad public and so the consumer is constantly confronted with the dilemma of saving some money or buying sustainably. And, when you do find a collection that offers both often the design isn’t in line with what’s desirable in the moment or even in a timeless sense. There are lots of styling options to make fewer pieces work in many ways, and so clients can buy less, but better, but the shopping experience is still important culturally and socially, so we need to continue to work toward marrying all of these aspects as we go into the future. It’s certainly not a deliberate choice, but I collaborate almost exclusively with women in my line of work. Women are quite connected to their communities and I find they are often highly dedicated to creating collections for other women, to enhance their lives and solve little design problems that they themselves have dealt with. Women are essential to the fashion network and are always helping each other.