Stefania Borras makes sustainable luxury an everyday affair
‘And, deep in Datura poison buds, I dwell in a perfumed world,’ said Edwardian romance poet Adela Florence Nicolson of the mystical “moon flower” whose intense fragrance has bewitched many cultures over the years. The violet tinged edges of the white-trumpeted Datura give it soft sensuality, yet its hallucinogenic properties – witches believed its tea gave them the ability to fly – made it an inherently poisonous plant. It was this duality that inspired Stefania Borras to name her sustainable luxury brand after the beguiling flower. “I used to wear a perfume called Datura Noir, and I loved the story of the flower. It has this beautifully dangerous allure…like nature.”
Born on the lush isle of Mallorca, Stefania grew up surrounded by raw, organic elements. Having studied fashion in Barcelona and upon winning a 3-year incubator grant, she developed her first eponymous collection. “That was a really good experience to know what I wanted as a designer. I wasn’t expecting to start a brand at that point in my life. I decided what I wanted out of the industry.” Dipping her toes in the Spanish design market – where Zara and Mango reign supreme – is what catalyzed her transatlantic shift. “I’m really against all the fast fashion in the industry. Copying other designers, more, more, more. You buy things all the time and wear them once. There’s no meaning to them. If you’re going to invest money in something, it should be something you want, and something you’ll feel proud of.” That experience inspired the idea behind Datura.
Stefania is lounging on a leather couch in her pop-up shop in Chinatown. With her willowy hair and ethereal demeanor, she is natural beauty incarnate. Her aura epitomizes ease with a slow meditation in her responses that mimic the thoughtfulness of her design. Datura is as ethical as it is elegant. Using exclusively natural, luxurious materials like silk, her direct-to-consumer model is sustainably made in New York. “When I moved to New York [in 2013], I missed the natural element of back home so I wanted to bring that easy free spirit to the city. The materials are all natural, very flowy. Most people say they feel like they’re naked in Datura. It gives you a freedom and an inner light.”
“I wanted to be comfortable”, she admits, wearing one of Datura’s signature silky sets that could easily be mistaken for pajamas. “The way you wear them is what’s urban. I wanted versatile pieces that you can wear from day to night. As a working woman, often we don’t have time to go home and change. Maybe you have a dinner pop up or whatever…I wanted pieces that you could just put on a lip or a heel and go.”
“I’m really against all the fast fashion in the industry. Copying other designers, more, more, more. You buy things all the time and wear them once. There’s no meaning to them. If you’re going to invest money in something, it should be something you want, and something you’ll feel proud of.”
In addition to the languid fabrics and relaxed silhouettes, the notion of slow fashion is integral to the brand. “I always wanted to do my own fashion calendar, I never liked going to showrooms or shops. I decided to sell online only and I feel it’s more sustainable that way.” Stefania has signature pieces that are always available rather than pushing out new collections seasonally. And for those anomalous shoppers who like purchasing winter pieces in December rather than the heat of August, Stefania’s right there with you. In regards to selling direct-to-consumer, “I like that the consumer’s the one that’s choosing, rather than a buyer that selects for a store. Feedback helps me design. And the price point is half what it would be in a store.” Extracting herself from the standard industry model expands Datura’s accessibility; she’s designing for the fashion girls who don’t blow their rent on Chanel bags and eat ramen for a month.
The greatest advantage of her client engagement is the culture she’s creating around the brand. The Member Styles section of her site, and gorgeously curated Instagram feed, feature self-styled female creatives in Datura. “It’s people that inspire me and others. I love individual style because people wear things so differently. I wanted to show normal people actively wearing the pieces and how one can incorporate the collection into their lifestyle.” All of these women are uniquely different in race, age, and style, but all distinctly Datura; they exude an inherent grace, effortlessness and confidence. “For me, Datura is comfortable and elegant above all. It’s supposed to feel natural, like you’re in a second skin.”