Founder and designer, Nyla Jano was working in the surf, skate and snow industry while travelling around Cambodia when the inspiration for what went on to become TORRAIN, a sustainable and colorful bag business, hit.

TORRAIN works to give back to communities. They work with artisans in Cambodia who wash, cut and sew the items. They also work with artisans who are based in Portland on projects. In addition, for every item that is sold, TORRAIN gives $1 towards supporting sustainable practices and healthy communities worldwide. Their materials are sourced from South Africa, Morocco, The US and South East Asia. Their bag liners are also made from recycled plastic bottles.

We virtually met Nyla and discussed her brand, advice she would give to other business owners, and the best part of her job.

What made you decide to start your brand?

I used to design apparel and accessories which was incredibly fun and creative. I learned a lot and it was great for my career, but I always questioned working in the fashion industry because of the inherent waste and consumerism. I didn’t feel I was making a difference. While traveling in 2009, I stumbled upon the inspiration I had to create TORRAIN and I couldn’t pass it up. It was the perfect opportunity to combine the things that have always meant the world to me; empowering people, the environment, and design.    

What is your favorite product from your brand currently?

Currently, I would say the coolers. It’s been a fun project and collaboration with our local breweries. I love the production cycle; that the bags were used to make beer and now they’re being used to carry it. I also love our newest pattern that was inspired by middle eastern scarves. Other than it being classic and versatile, it hits close to home because I’m Syrian and the proceeds go towards relief efforts in Syria.

Have you always had a passion for sustainability?

I’ve always been drawn to and have had reverence for nature. I’ve always loved thrift and vintage wears, enjoyed a humble lifestyle, and have had an aversion to unnecessary consumerism, so I would say yes.

What would you recommend to people wanting to get into a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle?

I would recommend that they start by being mindful of their mark, their waste, and consumption, and to do what they can to reduce it. I would tell them to reduce the amount of single-use plastic they’re using, to pay attention to the lights left on, the unnecessary water running while doing dishes, where their clothes are made, the ingredients in their packaged foods, and to recycle and compost when possible…small things to start.

How do you ensure your company’s products are equally sustainable and live up to the expectations of your consumers?

I incorporate upcycled and recycled materials wherever I can while ensuring the quality of the craftsmanship. Since most TORRAIN products are used for travel, I ensure that they are durable and weather resistant, and I focus on styles that are fun yet functional and timeless.

What do you consider to be the most important facets of the fashion industry?

Creativity, authenticity, transparency and responsibility.

What advice would you give other emerging business owners?

I would say to let go of aspects of the business that are not their greatest strengths, and to allow and trust others to help build a solid, symbiotic team. Also to be patient, to understand their market, and to not to spread themselves too thin/stay focused. I have trouble with my own advice sometimes.

As a business owner, what are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?

Keeping up with such a fast-paced market. I do my best to maintain balance in my life so that I don’t become discouraged or burn out. I strive to stay focused, educated, up-to-date, true to my intentions with the brand, and inspired so that I can keep delivering exciting and inspiring gear. I remind myself that the ultimate goal is for everyone to live consciously, amongst and for one another, and to reach a state of sustainable growth. There is room for all of us.

What challenge have you overcome with this business?

I’ve been faced with decisions to choose authenticity over mere profit which, in the end, has given me a true sense of fulfillment (choosing the former). Currently, I’m really working on putting myself out there; being in front of the camera, reaching out to new prospects, and telling my personal story as the face behind the brand. It’s difficult to bridge being a designer and marketing and selling (as I’m sure is the case for many artists). But it’s an essential skill now because consumers want to connect with the owner, the backstory and the values of a brand, which is wonderful.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part is that it’s never boring or monotonous. I am constantly challenged and learning about all facets of the business. I also get to witness others’ excitement about my work while contributing to causes that mean the world to me.

What are some of your future plans with TORRAIN?

To keep diversifying products, to collaborate and create a strong community, to lift up artists and to keep empowering and educating our people.