We have a hard time narrowing down Meghan Markle's best style moments, but the Nonie blush pink sleeveless trench she wore to the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition in 2018 is easily in the top ten. Now, the designer behind the Duchess of Sussex's super chic neutral look — Nonie founder and creative director Nina Kharey — is debuting Folds, the first-ever sustainable protective garments company.
Pre-launching on Tuesday, Folds offers ethically produced and sustainable medical scrubs that protect against COVID-19 and "merges coveted luxury design and medicine, at the intersection of science, technology and sustainability," according to a press release.
Available exclusively on foldswear.com, the brand will debut with three female top styles, two male top styles, joggers and slim cut pants for both women and men, with prices ranging from $40-$65. To celebrate the pre-launch, Folds will gift a limited number of sustainable and anti-viral tote bag with each purchase until supplies last.
The innovative silver ion technology used to creative Folds medical garments "works with the micro-particles in the yarn, which release silver ions that interact with the virus," Kharey tells PEOPLE exclusively.
She says an added compound gives Folds fabric a "unique anti-viral mechanism," meaning that the scrubs themselves "protect against the COVID-19 virus by preventing the transmission and spread on the fabric from patient to practitioner."
And the innovation doesn't stop there. Folds is the first brand to produce scrubs using yarn made from post-consumer plastic. The garments are "completely recyclable through our full circle program," the designer and businesswoman explains.
Below, Kharey (who is also an engineer) shares what inspired her to enter the world of medical garments, how her past experience helped shape Folds and explains why sustainability is at the forefront of everything she produces.
How did you take the knowledge and experience from founding your own clothing company (Nonie!) and apply it into the medical garment space with Folds?
Launching Folds feels like a very natural pivot for me. I've already spent the years establishing and strengthening my relationship with my factory and suppliers when building Nonie (we're also working on some exciting new pieces for Nonie too). Over the years, I've also learned a lot about the working woman and designing with her in mind — by making clothing easy to wear and using quality fabrics — something I have never wavered on. Pivoting to make scrubs with modern designs wasn't difficult. When I first started researching this idea, I learned a lot about technology in the textile industry and what capabilities we currently have. For example — which fabrics are safe, and which ones last through numerous washes. I wanted to make something that wasn't just nice and comfortable, but also is long lasting, protective and have an end of life that is healthy for the environment.
Nonie was one of the first fashion brands to respond to the pandemic by selling PPE gear (masks) to its customers – did that spark the idea for Folds?
The masks absolutely helped spark the idea for Folds. Once we got a handle on mass production, I started looking at what more we can do to help. We were looking at bids for gowns and scrubs and I got my hands on patterns that are generally used to make the scrubs you see doctors and nurses wearing at hospitals. I couldn't believe how dated the patterns were, and after researching more, I learned the fabric and fit aren't that great either, especially for women and the environment. These people are fighting a pandemic, risking their own health, and deserve the same innovation and attention we give to the sports industry, or even, our military.
How has your engineering background helped you?
I've always used my engineering background when it came to designing. You'll see a lot of my inspiration through Nonie designs and each collection, but now, I really get to explore more into the tech side of fabric development. I understood how technology can be applied to make a certain kind of natural stretch, or the chemical application that goes into making something anti viral. When it came time to work with labs, I knew what we needed and what to look for.
There's a huge sustainable mission behind Folds. Why was that important to you and how were you able to make that happen?
Sustainability and ethical manufacturing has always been pivotal values at Nonie, so it naturally became a big part of my research right away. Now more than ever, its clear how much of our clothing end up in landfills, and the toxic effect this is having on our planet. The end of life of the products we buy need to be considered. For example, when researching medical scrubs, I learned the immense damaging effects of them – traditional scrubs are not sustainable meaning the millions of people who wear them for work, end up disposing of them in landfills once they are done. This is tens of millions of yards of fabric in our landfills each year. I realized I needed to change that for the betterment of our future. My two children deserve a home they can thrive in, so we need to start looking after our one and only home – the planet – now. Through research and design, not only are our scrubs incredibly sustainable, they also last over 400+ washes, which is four times longer than traditional scrubs!
What would be your advice to other female entrepreneurs who are trying to get their businesses off the ground right now?
Keep showing up. As long as you're doing something that will fix a problem out there, keep going. Keep pushing forward and taking in as many experiences as you can, good and bad. You'll learn and grow a lot through those. Things happen, but they happen at the right time. You just have to keep showing up.
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