LONDON — Nona Source, the surplus fabric platform backed by LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has a stylish — and lush — new home in London alongside a host of green start-ups near King’s Cross station and Central Saint Martins.
The showroom is a first for Nona Source in the U.K., and will open on May 11 at The Mills Fabrica, a new space that’s part of a wider revitalization project funded by the Hong Kong-based Nan Fung Group that sees old textile factories transformed into innovation centers for start-ups, and retail spaces.
Nona Source launched last year and sells surplus fabrics from the LVMH fashion and leather goods brands. It describes itself as “a committed start-up serving the creative community,” and until now has had just one showroom in Paris.
From this week, creative professionals will be able to book private, hour-long appointments with a Nona Source expert via the company’s website, and choose from a colorful, textural rainbow of cotton velvets, faux fur, tweeds, plaid and checks from brands including Celine, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
Designers will be able to choose from more than 1,000 fabrics which the cofounder of Nona Source, Romain Brabo, refers to as “sleeping beauties,” ready to be reawakened by young, emerging designers.
Nona Source acts as a broker, purchasing deadstock fabric from the fashion houses, and selling it at up to 70 percent off the original wholesale price.
The Nona team then works with customers on planning and purchasing, and advises designers on alternatives if quantities are low. Customers who can’t make it to the showroom can also scan a QR code online and see what quantities and colors are available.
The seed for Nona Source was planted in 2017 when Brabo, an expert in materials purchasing and manufacturing at the LVMH-owned Givenchy and Kenzo, took note of all the luxury fabrics sitting in brands’ warehouses.
He believed he could give them a new lease on life and teamed with LVMH colleagues Anne Prieur Du Perray and Marie Falguera, launching the company through DARE, LVMH’s “intrapreneurial” program, and an incubator for new ideas.
DARE enables all LVMH employees, across brands and regions, to propose and transform an idea into a solution. The trio subsequently built the Nona Source platform with the support from LVMH’s Environmental Development Direction.
Brabo said the brands quickly warmed to the idea of giving their old fabrics new life. He added that COVID-19 accelerated the need for brands to find solutions to excess stock and materials.
“In the past, these fabrics were taboo for the brands because it made them look as if they could not manage the extra resources. But every industry makes waste, so it’s just about managing what’s left over,” he said.
In the luxury business, Brabo said around 5 percent to 10 percent of fabrics are left over each season, mostly because suppliers dictate high minimums and orders end up being more than what the brands actually need. The situation is worse with fast fashion, he added, where 15 percent to 20 percent of fabrics are left behind in the warehouse.
There are around seven brands working with the platform now, and by the end of the year Brabo is expecting all of the fashion brands in the LVMH portfolio to join. Nona Source does not disclose the origin of the fabric to the end-buyer, although a trained eye would be able to discern a Fendi fabric from a Celine one.
London’s young designers are already big fans of Nona Source.
“The fabrics I have chosen have always been great, showing a high level of quality, and having the availability that is ideal for small businesses like mine,” said Bianca Saunders. “Fabrics can be sourced online easily with a quick and efficient turnaround time. It’s exciting that Nona Source will have a physical flagship here in the U.K., giving me the chance to view the fabrics in person.”
Richard Malone, whose business is mainly made-to-order and whose seasonal collections are small, said he loves sourcing “fabrics that already exist,” and that Nona Source allows him to make single pieces in exclusive colors, and to plan ranges around fabric that is available.
Nona Source, he said, also takes the pressure off designers like him who work in small quantities. They can buy exactly what they need instead of having to over-order and over-produce. Malone believes that sustainability in fashion is about reducing what is actually made, and he said Nona Source caters to that need.
While Nona Source has big growth ambitions, there are no plans to stock fabrics from outside LVMH, or expand outside Europe. By sticking to the LVMH brands’ fabrics, Brabo said Nona will be able to guarantee the quality, and also trace the fabrics’ journey.
The plan is to have more showrooms similar to the one in London, but they will be in Europe because Nona Source wants to avoid shipping fabrics via air. “Our DNA is local, and we don’t want to be sending fabrics on airplanes,” he said, adding that growth will come from developing “our offer and resources.”
Nona Source will expand its offer to include leather, trims, yarns, embroideries, and alternative materials such as metallics, plastic and wood.
While Nona Source is only available to professionals, Brabo said it also reserves stock for students and sells it to them at even cheaper prices.
The company is currently in discussions with Central Saint Martins about connecting its students with Nona Source. LVMH already has a series of partnerships with the fashion school, including the Maison/0 platform, which is dedicated to regenerative luxury.
Last month, LVMH announced a further partnership with Fendi, Imperial College London and Central Saint Martins, a two-year research project to develop new, lab-grown fur fibers for luxury fashion.
Eventually, Brabo also foresees Nona becoming a platform for the brands within LVMH to exchange resources.
Circularity is a key pillar of LVMH’s environmental strategy as expressed in the group’s LIFE 360 program. LIFE stands for LVMH Initiatives For the Environment.
Hélène Valade, LVMH Environmental Development director, said that by supporting London and U.K.-based creative community, “we aim to boost circularity and upcycling of our unused fabrics as we have done with the Parisian showroom for over a year now.”
Alexandre Capelli, LVMH Environment deputy director, said the “London Nona Source showroom will be a concrete tool to inspire and support one of the most creative and sustainability-focused communities of designers.”
Stella McCartney, whose business is part-owned by LVMH and who has been advising its managers on sustainability, described Nona Source as a “groundbreaking, circular platform that will revolutionize the fashion industry.” Her brand already uses it.
Nona Source’s choice of The Mills Fabrica as a partner was an important one.
Brabo said he shortlisted a few partners, but The Mills “shared the same values of sustainability, innovation, and supporting emerging talents and brands. On the human side, it was a good fit, too.”
The Mills Fabrica opened its London site last year, and hosts companies looking for regenerative solutions and sustainable innovations across fashion and agri-tech. It also invests in start-ups and student talent, and gives them space and resources to grow.
The Nona Source showroom is located on the ground floor of The Mills building, and its neighbors are fashion, home and food brands, all of which have sustainability at their core.
Businesses include Flax London, which makes heavy jackets out of discarded upholstery linen, and Bolt Threads, which makes Mylo fabric out of mycelium.
Another business makes hanging mushroom plants, powered by coffee grounds, cardboard and moss. Those mushroom pods hang near vertical beds of potted plants, including basil and kale, part of a “zero mile” farming project.
Upstairs, there are desks, offices and workspaces for the various entrepreneurs that The Mills Fabrica supports. All of the furniture in the building is recycled or upcycled, including tables and stools made from melted down CDs and garden furniture and the marble-like tabletops are created from old yogurt pots.
Nikita Jayasuriya, general manager of The Mills Fabrica, said the organization teamed with Nona Source because its “profound mission not only strongly aligns with ours around sustainability, but they are pioneering a new form of fashion that puts circular and no-waste ethics at the forefront of luxury and cutting-edge design. We are so proud to support Nona Source on their journey and to welcome them to our community.”
Nona Source is one of the more recent green initiatives from LVMH. The group has had a partnership with The Environmental Center for Eco-friendly Packaging Breakdown and Recycling for more than 10 years to encourage recycling within all of its Maisons. From a brand perspective, Loewe’s The Surplus project crafts bags exclusively with the excess leather from previous collections.