This month, we are talking about design, innovation and disruption, and therefore have invited a special guest: Ioannis Kritikopoulos. He is the founder and Creative Director of INTONATU, an innovative Greek sleepwear brand. We met with Ioannis to talk about business, and inspire us with his story and what he has learned in his business journey. Let’s learn more from him!
Better Magazine: So let’s start from the beginning, how was INTONATU born? Where did the idea come from and how did it become the business that it is now?
Ioannis: I was born and raised in Athens, and I have a long career in the fashion industry working within creative roles and leading creative departments of sportswear brands and lifestyle houses since 1995. In 2002 I managed to secure one of the four places at Bristol Old Vic Theater School and went to the UK to be trained at a postgraduate level in professional theater design. Straight after that, I joined the freelance world and started working as a theater and fashion designer. In 2010 I returned to Greece and founded TailorMadeArt, which is a design studio that specializes in made-to-measure design and product development, covering several areas such as fashion, interior, theatre, and bespoke design areas as well. During the pandemic, I completed an online course at INSEAD University which was related to innovation in disruptive times and that is what inspired me to develop the INTONATU concept. INTONATU is a startup, slow fashion brand that deals with wellness wear and sleepwear for a conscious living.
BM: We are very curious to learn more about the design process behind each garment, can you tell us a little more about it?
I: I want to share first a little bit about the vision of our company. It all starts with our name, INTONATU, which means practically ‚into nature‘. The idea behind it is that whoever buys our product is transferred immediately into nature. You can see our logo as a Chamber Nautilus shell or as a spiral – which are the symbols of evolution, revival, and rebirth – or even as a golden ratio, which is a mathematical ratio that is commonly found in nature; and when used in a design, it fosters natural-looking and organic compositions that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Under our logotype, you can find our ’slow living‘ motto, which is a smart acronym of the words Sustainable, Local, Organic, and Whole (not processed) – the four elements that we always have in mind when we are creating our collections.
We use our values, such as creativity, authenticity, evolution, innovation, and uniqueness, to create some self-care products that are inspired by nature and intend to help people sort out some of their problems. Especially after the pandemic, anxiety and stress levels have risen greatly. With our products, we are trying to offer our consumers a better quality of life and change the way that the fashion industry operates so far.
The self-care apparel capsule is based on three main pillars: certified sustainable raw materials, handmade eco-botanical prints, and aromatherapy on the garments. We use eco-certified raw materials and then apply eco bundle techniques onto the fabrics, where natural elements, such as leaves, herbs, and vegetable or fruit skins are used as dyes creating abstract printing patterns. The original prototype is always handmade and is then transformed into a digital format, to create some custom patterns, and through digital printing, we produce our printed textiles for our collections. The last element is the aroma patch, which is actually an adhesive patch that has micro-capsules infused with essential oils that create a relaxing effect. This personalized patch has been produced by Larus Pharma, which is also the pharma lab that developed, in collaboration with us, the signature fragrance for our brand.
Basically, you squeeze the patch, the aroma is released and then you place the patch in the small pockets that are sewn onto the garments, usually at the back of the neck, in the chest pocket, or into the side and waistband seams.
The production is made locally, in Greece, while the fabrics are either imported from Italy, Germany, and Spain. When it comes to natural silk though, we get it from Soufli in Greece, the hometown of Silk.
BM: That sounds amazing! So many people could benefit from a garment like this. How was it that you came to this idea, mixing design & fragrance?
I: I’ve been in the fashion business for the last 25 years and I always wanted to create something different and unique, to design something that would have an impact. The sleepwear and wellness segment is relatively new in the market and has a lot of potential.
BM: Could you explain a little bit more in detail how your sourcing process looks like? We can imagine this is all obviously the process takes much longer than a regular t-shirt.
I: I have used some suppliers, especially fabric suppliers, that I already knew from the past and are eco-sensitive. I also have to admit that your platform was very useful as well. You offer a connection with all the sustainable European suppliers at once, and that is helpful too. At first, we find the raw materials, do some tests, and end up with the prototype, strike-off prints. Then we carry on with digital printing variations to create the random patterns that we will use for our collections.
BM: Let’s go back to your intention. You were telling us a little bit about the values behind your brand, how did you come to the decision to make a brand with environmental impact?
I: Well, to me sustainability is not a trend. It’s our future and I think we are on our way to restructuring the whole world and setting some new rules.
The reality is that sustainability is here to stay, and even though it’s challenging at the moment, it’s something that is going to help us in the future to have a better quality of life. There are also of course the new regulations coming for Europe regarding sustainable practices within the fashion industry and transparency. It’s easier to start a new sustainable brand from scratch than trying to do it later on. I think we should create a better future for ourselves and our children and if you intend to start a new brand, I believe it’s wiser to start it within a sustainable frame.
BM: What piece of advice helped you at the beginning when starting your brand? Did you have any Mentor or someone who guided you?
I: I’m still in the beginning phase, but when I started my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve been told that I should always be flexible to pivot. It’s very good advice, because if you consider pivoting as a part of the process, and not as a step back in the journey, then everything gets easier. So yes, pivoting is good advice, especially for new brands.
You start with a dream and a vision, but you shouldn’t be stuck with that, you should focus on your values and your creativity, but keep in mind that the final product might change. For example, we created a small production of dresses, intimate tops and shorts, and cardigans last summer, and we directly brought them to the market. We then learned what our consumers actually want. The feedback that we received was that they were more willing to buy dresses and cardigans rather than shorts and tops, as they can wear them everywhere, not only at home. So, more one-piece night dresses and cardigans needed to be included in our collection rather than the two existing styles, which changed our approach completely. And we were ok with that, usually, there’s a lot of growing and learning, and changing in the first five years of a new business.
BM: Is there anything that you now look back from 2019 or 2020 and you say well maybe I should have done this differently or handle this differently?
I: In my entrepreneurial journey I would say that I should have found a mentor first, and then form the team. When you start as a team of one there is always this kind of isolation that makes things more complicated for making more wholesome decisions when in doubt and having no support system. If you are going to be an entrepreneur, having a team to brainstorm with is really essential; you have people to lean on, who share the same values and vision as you.
I’m turning 50 in a couple of years and I want to share something that I have felt lately. You should listen to your inner voice, because you know, there is an inner child which always shouts at us when things don’t go well. If you’re not happy in your business life, you need to change that. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes, because mistakes are part of the learning process. As long as you have this in mind, you can see this in a constructive way and you will feel more at peace and with trust in what you are creating.
INTONATU is a wellness wear apparel brand featuring unique patches, infused with natural therapeutic essential oils. The garments are made of certified sustainable raw materials, based on eco-natural printing techniques and organic textile dyes, while the ‘aroma’ feature enhances the wearer’s feeling of well-being and freshness and allows her/him to relax, reducing stress and preparing for a stress-free sleep. INTONATU is part of our community of brands that are producing through Manufy!