NALU happens to sell lingerie — but we strongly believe it could successfully sell anything, now that it has started to gather a base of customers with the same mindset: minimalism, simplicity, comfort.
We interviewed its founder, Sonia Micu, to find out more about the philosophy that made it popular.
Sonia, please tell me a bit about how NALU started and the philosophy behind it.
NALU started out of a need for a more selective approach to life. It aimed to stand for a lifestyle that focused on what is essential and can bring joy, whether it is about the goods we own, the relationships we invest in or how we view consumption.
Movements that advocate decluttering and un-complicating our lives are not just a new trend. We’ve always been seeking less complexity and greater ease. It’s just that, now, we are starting to be more creative with the tools we imagine for living this way and to think of alternatives to all these “life enhancing” goods which tell you that you are never ‘enough’.
I believe NALU is a very consistent brand — from product design to packaging and delivery and communication. I believe your vision — the entrepreneur’s — is easily noticeable in each of these details. How involved are you in these touchpoints and how do you control this consistency?
Well, thank you very much! Right now, it comes easily, because I do it all by myself. I visualize it in my head and spend hours thinking about projects, people, and content that would best contribute to this consistency, without the feeling of being work. The challenge with these nice little businesses comes when they grow and the team grows.That’s when you realize whether your vision has really been that solid.
On one hand, because, when you grow, your responsibility of delivering income grows and the resources allocated to details might be under pressure. On the other hand, if your vision is solid, it will be easily understood and applied by a team who can really believe in it. If not, it can be a struggle.
So, I am enjoying these creative times and planning for the future.
The brand you created is absolutely local but addressing a global need & ideology. Who are your clients?
Most of NALU ’s clients are Romanians because this is what I focused on during the first months since its launch, mid-July last year. About 5% (and growing) come from Europe (mostly the Nordics, France & UK). There have been the occasional orders from the US, but now things are growing quickly and I’m starting to plan ahead so that it doesn’t catch me off guard. Forecasting has been the most challenging part so far.
Have you ever thought of positioning NALU as a Bucharest or Romanian-born business? Do you feel that’s relevant?
I think the positioning of any brand should be less about what we want to communicate and more about what’s in it for the customer. Why should anyone choose NALU? Should it be because it is Romanian? I don’t think so. I think choosing a Romanian brand over any other brand (whenever there is a good alternative - and there almost always is) should be a must nowadays, not a competitive advantage.
There are great Romanian brands out there, in so many product categories (not to mention exquisite Romanian lingerie brands). Buying Romanian should be our default mode. And then, out of those local options, we should choose what suits us: our needs, our values, our principles, our lifestyle. If you value purpose, comfort, simplicity and your body, NALU might be the best choice for you.
You’ve gathered quite a community of loyal customers and enthusiasts around NALU. How did this happen?
I wish I knew. I was overwhelmed with the interest, as well. I made no efforts in building a community at first, I was busy and dizzy figuring out what this entrepreneurship thing is about (I still am). Somehow, it was exactly those who shared the same values that gathered around the brand. It might have been coming from a mix between what NALU stands for and the way the products keep that promise.
I met some fascinating people and I hear from enthusiastic customers every day, some I’ve also met. They say that entrepreneurship is pretty lonely. My experience so far is the opposite.
I’m guessing you’re applying principles of simplicity, minimalism, and comfort to other aspects of your life, too. I’m not sure how Bucharest fits this framework — on the contrary, haha. Are there any local places, brands or services that fit the same mindset and which you would gladly recommend?
I actually love Bucharest. I think one can live a pretty good life here. It can also be a frustrating, annoying and nerve-wracking experience, no doubt. But, if you have the luxury to create “your own Bucharest”, you can really enjoy the contrasts, the vibe, the energy, its safety.
Plus, there is a growing involvement of the civil society in transforming Bucharest and that might prevail over the mind-blowing incompetence of the local authorities. There is a number of going-out places that I love and events with great concepts, but the good vibe comes from some of the people and their new energy to do beautiful things here.
“The good vibe comes from some of the people and their new energy to do beautiful things here.“
This minimalism craze is more about a mindset, less about riding the bike and shopping at the farmer’s market. Yes, it might be easier to have a simple and comfortable approach to life when you live in Copenhagen and don’t have to worry about such petty things of life, but giving into excessive consumption and living a cluttered life is a choice people make irrespective of where they live.
And lastly, I'd love it if we could have a sneak peek into NALU's future.
I’d love to have a sneak peak, too (haha). Right now, the international customer base is starting to grow organically and this year we will make the first efforts to actually target them. And, as we’re getting bigger, I hope we’ll have a solid base to go beyond lingerie. That was the initial plan. Not into fashion, though, because I don’t know fashion, but maybe into other lifestyle goods, who knows? Stick around.
Photo Credits: Zwei and NALU Underwear.
Words by captain Alexa