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“We not only believe that simple is sexy, but that simple and ethical is even sexier,” Bowen said.
Many people go into the family business because they have no choice. Bowen, an architectural studies major, did it in part because her Connecticut College education allowed her to pursue many interests. Courses she took in architectural studies and art, and in gender and women’s studies, helped her to investigate and address inequities in the world. In fact, Bowen’s devotion to slow fashion can be traced to her time at the College.
“The ethics imparted by my teachers in the classroom resonated deeply with me and supported my exploration of what it meant to ‘do my part’ in life, professionally or otherwise,” she said.
Bowen earned a master’s degree from Parsons School of Design, studying the history of decorative arts and design. She then began teaching design history and theory at Parsons, and practicing yoga. The two pursuits soon worked in tandem to revive Bowen’s interest in her family’s retail history.
“Being at Parsons, with such a strong fashion program, inspired me to explore objects that are even closer to the body than interior domestic spaces and the objects that fill them, and I started getting excited about ethical fashion. And now I teach yoga and run Najla. In the end I went from the closest designed object you can have on the body (lingerie) to focusing on the body itself.”
Her focus on the body includes choosing only natural materials, like organic cotton, which doesn’t expose the wearer to toxins used in the production of conventional cotton. Her intention is to offer two five- or six-piece collections of lingerie staples, with the occasional limited-edition release.
“This concept was very much rooted in the mindset of thoughtful consumption, not buying for the sake of buying, and having staples that can multitask,” Bowen said.
“If you buy things you love, that are high quality, and that don’t necessarily relate to the latest trend through their aesthetic, they will serve you more often, last longer and, yes, perhaps—hopefully—encourage you to buy less.”