“Fashion has always been deeply rooted in me, ever since I was a child watching my mother tailor beautiful clothes for me. It’s always been my passion, and as a designer my goal is to transform the fashion world without leaving a negative impact on this beautiful planet.”– Justyna Lysak, Founder and designer of Mynalabel
Here in Budapest, we have a small community of expat women, and over the last two years I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful women from different walks of life. About a week ago, Justyna and I connected through a post I had made on WOB, and met for a cup of coffee in a little café down the street to speak about sustainability.
I was impressed by how she was contributing positively to the world of fashion, environment and people, with her sustainable clothing line — Myna label.
A recent Bloomberg Magazine article noted that the fashion industry is one of the largest industries that negatively impacts the environment – more than aviation and shipping combined! In nature, waste follows a circular life cycle, just as most industries did many years ago. But in the last decade, we seem to have largely adopted the concept that waste has no value, and many industries, including the fashion industry, have fallen out of this circular system and become linear.
We all know social media and fast fashion have spawned this toxic idea that we must jump on every fashion trend that comes along. When Gen Z brought back mom jeans, straight-leg, and boot-cut, the whole internet went ballistic with headlines like “Here’s why you should ditch your skinny jeans” and “Gen Z has canceled skinny jeans” etc.
So, there I was, a Millennial, looking at all these articles, holding on to my skinny jeans and wondering… what in the world do you mean? Whether we need to jump on trends as and when they pop up, is a topic for another day, but the thing about fashion is that trends always repeat themselves.
Speaking of fashion, if you are in tune with the fashion world, you may have noticed that buzzwords like ethical, sustainable, and conscious fashion are making big waves. The slow fashion movements are fighting back against the unethical practices of fast fashion trends and brands. Many major brands such as H&M, Mango, Adidas, Esprit and Patagonia, and hundreds of others have jumped on the bandwagon and have aligned their business with sustainable philosophies and practices. Now, there are many different viewpoints with regards to high street brands going sustainable, so I will leave it at that. In my opinion, every little effort counts, be it recycling, upcycling, thrifting, or switching to truly sustainable clothing brands.
I believe slow fashion has empowered many entrepreneurs across the globe, to take it upon themselves to contribute to the cause of sustainable fashion.
Budapest has brought me many things: poetry, dance, and a new perspective on life. As I dwell and grow in this experience while living in a city far from home, I consider it a privilege to tell you inspiring stories of men and women who make a difference in the world we live in…☺️ And, this is the story of Justyna Lysak.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing you over the past couple of days, but for the benefit of the WC readers, could you introduce yourself and tell us about you and how you came into the world of fashion designing?
Thank you Maheshi. I am Justyna Lysak and I am a Polish designer with 17 years of experience in the fashion industry, and to be honest, I have always felt like I was born to take up fashion. Since I was a little girl, I’ve carefully watched my mother sew beautiful dresses for me. As I was often fascinated by how she turned a piece of cloth into a garment I treasured dearly I learned and picked up her hobby.
I studied design and pattern making at London College of Fashion and worked in London, and across Europe for premium brands gaining experience in many disciplines including the quality of the garments. I worked as a senior visual merchandiser and stylist in premium locations and was responsible for European markets.
I have also worked in the capacity of a collection and stylist trainer for these brands.
You have been working for almost two decades as a designer and stylist and how do you think the fashion industry has changed in the last ten years?
Yes, over the years many trends have come and gone. Even though the concept of slow fashion has been around since 2007, it’s gained a lot of momentum recently. While there are still consumers who buy from fast fashion brands because of the low cost, there’s a growing number of shoppers who make conscious buying decisions, paying attention to the quality, durability, supply chain, and sustainability. Now mass production is frowned upon. Technology has advanced and textile production has reached new frontiers.
While the processes are complex, brands are striving to build better relationships with all their stakeholders. I think the fashion industry is heading towards sustainability, which I believe is great. But I feel like it not picking up as fast as it should.
What are some of the concerns you have about the fashion industry today?
As I said earlier, slow fashion and sustainable fashion aren’t as popular as they should be, considering the negative impact the ever-growing fast fashion has on the planet. There’s also a lot of greenwashing going on. People need to understand what slow production and pre-order solutions mean and how each of us can contribute to the cause by choosing more socially responsible clothing alternatives.
This way, small brands can co-exist and serve the purpose of sustainability not as rivals but together, rectifying practices like mass production and waste collection.
I also think consumers often see the items either online or hanging in a store, but don’t realize all the thought, effort, time, and costs involved in bringing these designs to reality.
As a designer, you could have hopped on trends and done something that appeals to the masses, but you chose sustainable fashion. Why?
It’s always been my dream to design my own collection, and one day it felt like that dream was coming true. When my children needed more attention and I had to stop traveling for work, but then my friend introduced me to the world of sustainable and ethical fashion. She was looking for sustainable clothing that was more feminine and she didn’t find anything in the market. So she offered me to create my own brand and styles, and be the co-creator and head designer of a fashion label.
I used to design the clothes just for myself, but the opportunity to present them to a wider audience was a challenge and an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Since I learned about sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics myself, I don’t see myself going back to low-quality fast fashion solutions. The quality of organic fabrics is so much better and stunning – and above all, it’s better for the planet.
In your opinion what makes a brand truly sustainable?
To be a truly sustainable brand, it must use eco-friendly materials (best GOTS certified), practice eco-friendly production (pre-order only), eco-friendly packaging and stationery, and leave a low carbon footprint (design, production, logistics from one place) – these are the 4 main points. But suppose I were to elaborate in the hope of simplifying it further… when you are buying a sustainable clothing item, you must consider who made them, if the material was ethically sourced, if they are timeless pieces you can wear through the seasons, and if the packaging adheres to sustainable principles.
What do you want to achieve through Mynalabel in terms of sustainability?
Being a sustainable fashion designer is about constantly thinking of ways to better production, using more sustainable and safer materials while making the designs aesthetically pleasing.
At Mynalabel we believe using eco-friendly materials is not only better for the planet because they biodegrade quickly leaving no chemicals behind, but they’re also wonderful for the skin and reduce allergies that plastic microfibres cause. And as a small business we don’t overproduce. So we don’t wait around hoarding big inventories. This model helps us reduce wastage that often occurs due to mass production.
In addition, we will be taking more pre-orders moving forward, and I would love for people to feel comfortable having their clothes tailored for them. I am also planning on rolling out a program from September 2022, through Mynalabel, to educate people about sustainable fashion, and will be doing one-on-ones with them about how to take the good cause forward, as designers.
Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to be boring. Tell us about the style and aesthetic of Mynalabel designs.
Of course, they don’t have to be.
Our mission is to come back to the natural shapes of the woman’s body, by creating timeless feminine designs, so often lost in modern contemporary styles.
We want to make available clothes that accentuate the natural contours of a woman’s body — the curves of the breast and hips and embracing the waistline while still leaving enough space for her o breathe and move freely in them.
Our pieces are intended to be loved forever and are inspired by the beauty of nature. As a brand, we envision a world dedicated to the feminine spirit. We celebrate women through our designs, and love for hidden details; like secrets only they know.
We want our brand to be classic, beautiful, subtle, and feminine… so it’s reflected in our brand and our designs. We want our customer to feel personally connected to the brand, to feel unique and cared for, to feel that she deserves to look beautiful and that she can do so effortlessly, while knowing that she’s making the right choice for herself, for her loved ones and our beautiful planet.
By consciously choosing to buy our pieces she looks beautiful without compromising her values.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It’s always a challenge for a small fashion brand when the fast-fashion giants are still successfully leading the way. The main challenge is definitely the price.
Our prices are determined by many factors. First of all, eco-friendly sustainable material happens to be expensive. Add to that, given that we only release a few items per collection, we are not entitled to the discounts of bulk buying. We also pay fair wages to all local tailors, who make these beautiful Myna designs. All of that adds up to a certain cost which most often happens to be higher than the alternative cheaper options. Even hand-painted special fabrics, which are unique, are more expensive because of the time and effort that goes into making them.
In the words of Lucy Siegle, the journalist and author of, we are what we wear “Fast fashion is not free. Someone somewhere is paying.”
What advice would you give to those who intend to start a sustainable business?
Passion for what you do and a strong understanding of the contribution you make to the planet are very important – this will definitely make everyone achieve the goal that’s more important than money. Do your research, draw up a sustainable strategy and put your KPIs in place. Be open and transparent about your production process and practices.
For someone who wishes to embrace sustainable fashion, where do you suggest they start?
You can start by thinking twice before buying something. This way you will not fill up your closet with unnecessary pieces you will either not wear or just rarely do, once a season. When clothes are cheaply produced and sold, we tend to buy too much without thinking. Look through your wardrobe and take notes of what is missing. See if you have complete outfits, if not buy a few to get started. Invest in quality staple pieces from sustainable fashion brands of your choice. The sustainable capsule wardrobe concept is tending for a good reason. If you have heaps of clothes you don’t wear, and you always feel like you have nothing to wear, it’s time to do a wardrobe cleanse and continue it as a practice a couple of times a year.
And if you are buying new clothes always ask yourself if you would wear them for years to come and buy only what you need.
Tip – clothes made of organic quality material are better for your skin and the planet!
Thank you, Justyna, for taking the time to share some valuable insight and perspective on sustainable fashion.
One last question. Is there a physical store one can buy Mynalable products from?
Yes, you could visit Zoe Boutique to purchase our products, buy them on our website or visit the WAMP designer market. You could also inquire about our products on our Instagram account as well. If you follow us on our Facebook and Instagram, you can stay up-to-date on our offers, upcoming events, and collections. Most of all, you will see the behind-the-scenes and what truly inspires Mynalabel.
And thank you Maheshi, it was lovely having this conversation with you. I hope we take forward this conversation, through collections and seasons, because like you said, every little effort matters…