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Fashion company is environmental fit, Pittsburgh-based designer runs eco-chic line

By Richelle Szypulski

The Pioneer

A pink bandeau top and high waisted, white skirt from the Jonäno collection. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Siefers
A pink bandeau top and high waisted, white skirt from the Jonäno collection.
Photo courtesy of Bonnie Siefers

For designer Bonnie Siefers, the combination of sustainability and fashion just came naturally.

The Strip District-based founder of Jonäno, an environmentally conscious fashion house, was raised in Pittsburgh by a family that placed high value in honesty, hard work and all things natural, long-lasting and creative.

“As far back as I can remember, my own mother taught me to knit and sew free form,” Siefers said. “By the time I reached adolescence, I was creating my own fashion from sketch illustrationto finished piece.”

In 2005, Siefers turned these personal passions into Jonäno: a contemporary women’s ready-to-wear company that strives to be innovative and forward thinking in terms of fabrics, style and business ethics. The word Jonäno
itself means “live well” in the Sami language of Scandinavia.

“I developed an enduring belief that clean, hard and honest work that also celebrates creative talents can ultimately bring true joy to my daily life, and also give long term satisfaction that life has been a meaningful journey,” Siefers said.

And the journey thus far has been one of many miles. Jonäno’s production and design team has traveled extensively throughout the US, Europe, Africa, Central and South America and Asia seeking out the best farms, mills and factories to
create their collections.

The first collection officially debuted on the runway in August 2006. Each collection is an interpretation from Siefers’ travels, and collection names like Dansk, Taos, Vienna and Majorca pay homage to destinations that continue to provide inspiration for her and the line.

“These visits are very important to me as I strive to incorporate local talents and crafts into each collection in honor of the artisans who keep the craft alive,” Siefers said.

A great example of cultivation of this talent can be found in the fields of Brazil. There, Jonäno eColorgrown Collections were created with inspiration from the skilled artisans who offer handcrafted tatting, embroidery and macramé learned and passed down through the generations.

“There are lots of great new eco fashion designers as sustainability continues to grow in popularity,” Siefers said. But Jonäno is unique both in design style, as well as fabric. Streamlined design has always inspired me and lain at the heart
of my creativity.”

Siefers defined the Jonäno signature style as a “mélange of romantic design with Scandinavian modernism.” The
fabric used is among the highest quality in the industry.

“We specialize in creating trademarked eco fabrics, many of which are on display in the textile libraries of Material
ConneXions located in New York, Bangkok, Beijing, Cologne, Daegu, Istanbul, Milan, Seoul, Shanghai and Skövde,” Siefers said.

Siefers believes people should purchase sustainable fabrics and clothing not as a benefit to themselves, but out of love for “Mother Earth.” With the recent rise in “fast fashion,” the effects on the environment are not to be ignored.

“Pesticides and herbicides from textile production contribute to the contamination of ground water,” Siefers said. “Organic and eco textiles are grown without using toxic pesticides and herbicides and play a part in lessening
our impact on the Earth.”

Fabrics are not alone in sustainability at Jonäno. The business practices are
all based in reducing effects on the environment and creating a quality product with virtually no waste.

Jonäno makes only enough fabric to meet production needs and production takes place in vertically-integrated facilities to minimize carbon footprint. The chemicals and dyes are recycled and properly disposed of according to ISO regulations. Any fabric scraps are recycled or made into other products. All fabrics are biodegradable, and the designs
themselves are timeless as opposed to trendy, lengthening the life of each piece.

Siefers believes “green” isn’t just an industry trend. It’s a lifestyle that’s here to
stay and also a source of creativity. “New business challenges and opportunities have arisen to adapt to both climate change as well as environmental stresses that continue with the ever- evolving industrialization and
population expansion trends,” Siefers said. “In the marketplace, businesses that conduct Corporate Sustainability
Reporting (CSR) have a competitive edge and the process has spurred innovation.”

Pittsburgh in particular is working to become one of the world’s most sustainable cities in Siefers’ eyes, with a wealth of environmental and sustainable organizations to cultivate an overall eco-consciousness, but there are still many challenges to face.

“The growth of sustainable organizations and businesses locally continues to trend, but there is room for more growth and expansion,” Siefers said.

“While most grocery stores offer organic alternatives, GMO labeling is still optional. The rise in bicycle commuting citywide has led to new share the road challenges. Cutbacks in public transportation
funding continue to plague our region and alternative fuel vehicles are subject to a special tax here in Pennsylvania.”

From “Seed to Sewn,” Siefers is working to overcome these challenges with inspiration from family, friends, the
Jonäno community and a daily Frenchpress of organic, fair trade coffee.

“A personal passion to make an impact that speaks to my values and ethics is the driving force behind Jonäno,” Siefers said. “ … True happiness does not come from without but instead from within.”

Jonäno is currently sold online at www.jonano.com, at Pavement in Lawrenceville and other eco-friendly stores and
boutiques worldwide.

Jonano offers everything from tunics to active wear. According to their website, dresses range from $73 – $227 while ecoKashmere tops start at $43.

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