Founded in 2017, Ninfa is an accessory project designed and hand crafted by artisans and artists in Porto, Portugal. In manipulating different mediums such as glass, metals, porcelain, pearls and resin, Ninfa creates bold and ethereal statement jewelry that will never fail to put a smile on your face. Recently, we had the chance to sit down and chat with Ninfa's designer, Agustina, and discuss all things Ninfa, slow fashion, her creative process, what she misses from her childhood and more.
Who is Agustina Fortunato?
Agustina is Ninfa's founder & designer, a Latina from Buenos Aires, Argentina, now based in Porto, Portugal. She also runs a café in Porto called A Certain Café, is married and has a cat.
Can you tell us about Ninfa Handmade's beginnings and how the brand has since evolved?
Ninfa started as a side job while I had my regular 9-18 work. I was working and studying at the time, and all those processes in my life felt very mentally exhausting, abstract and long. At a certain point, I felt the urgent need to start and finish a project by myself in a relatively short period of time. That's when I started creating jewellery.
After that, Ninfa as a brand started growing locally and internationally quite organically from Buenos Aires until my partner and I decided to emigrate from Argentina due to the economical crisis there. Even though we were quite privileged back in Argentina (white, heterosexual and both employed), we could feel our options shrinking. So we decided to move to Portugal and base Ninfa there. Now, we have our atelier in Porto, Portugal where all our pieces are made and shipped from.
What does slow fashion mean to you? How do these principles shape Ninfa as a brand and business?
For me, slow fashion is primarily a way of caring: for others and for myself.
In Ninfa we don't produce per season, and I certainly do not design by season. Our styles are atemporal and are meant to stay as long as we consider. Usually, we only produce per order so as to not have dead stock, and what gets my heart full is to have a solid and fair relationship with our suppliers and collaborators.
What are some of the barriers you've encountered while running a socially-conscious business?
Lack of investment and capital mostly, even a baby step is a challenge but in the end, it is very rewarding.
What was the original mission behind Ninfa, and over the years, how has it changed?
Ninfa was made by women for women and we used to only work with She creators and collaborators. I still believe that the fashion world has privileged cis-males for the past centuries and we need to give those jobs to other minorities, but last year I started questioning myself and my strictness towards this and recently decided to open the game also to cis-gender males. As I explore the notion of femininity, I think it's important to encourage everybody to embrace it regardless of their gender as I believe this can facilitate important change in the world. Yeah, I know, very f*ck the patriarchy of me.
What's your fashion philosophy?
Wear comfortable shoes. Treat your feet with respect, they'll get you places.
What have been the greatest lessons you have learned since beginning your career?
Read the contracts carefully. Set boundaries. Create a community to nourish and rely on is imperative.
How are you sustainable in your day-to-day life? Do you have any sustainable goals you're working towards?
Because I live in a small city, I love walking to my destinations. When buying clothes, I opt for second hand or independent designers. I also love old street stores, where you can find pieces made in high quality fabrics at really good prices and produced locally, especially here in Portugal.
I come from a South American city where recycling is not as convenient as it is in Europe, so I don’t know if recycling can even be considered a sustainable choice or is more of a norm at this point, but I do recycle. Back in Argentina, I used to ride my bike for 10 minutes to get to the recycling bin in my hometown so I'm still amazed to have a recycling bin just in the corner of my apartment now.
My goal for 2023 is to consume less meat, as I think it should be considered a luxury and not a day to day regular option.
What is your proudest accomplishment? I can't say I have one. Ninfa itself is one of my greatest accomplishments. I'm proud of the relationships that it has created, and proud of the products we bring to the world.
I have been in a stable and loving relationship for the past 6 years with a partner who teaches me about stability, patience, and tenderness. I didn’t know all this could exist. But the ultimate lesson was that it does exist within myself – that I’m not only an eager recipient but also a capable giver. So I would say that to be able to see myself with a tender and loving eye is a great accomplishment.
And from another side, I come from an economically challenged home – my mum was a single mum that had a morning shift, an afternoon shift and a night shift every day for 20 years. And even through this, I was very privileged. I grew up in a country where almost half of its population has no access to three meals a day.
My mum worked very hard for me to have options. And from there, I have had the chance to create a different life. Amazingly, I'm lucky enough to have choices and stability. So being up to that task is also something I am proud of. What does your creative process usually look like? It is very playful and it usually starts with sketching and drawing. Then we start running samples. Usually there's a back and forth during this process and I am very open to whatever happens between my first sketch to the final sample in shape but not in technique. This is never a short process and it usually takes me between 6-12 months to develop a new piece. I'm never just focused on one style so there are small pauses here and there. I guess I’m unconsciously letting my brain breathe and take a break or maybe it's just my ADHD – who knows. Then one day, voilà, it is done. What are your favourite Instagram accounts to follow? @teget, @themuseumofmodernart and @agustinaros_glassartist. Name three things you miss about your childhood? My granny, mostly, the lightweight of time, coming back home from school, and watching cartoons while taking la merienda (usually cookies or pancakes and chocomilk).
“As I explore the notion of femininity, I think it's important to encourage everybody to embrace it regardless of their gender as I believe this can facilitate important change in the world.”
What does a typical day in the life look like for you? I put the kettle on around 8 AM and I prepare our Mate – you know, this Argentinian drink we drink all day that looks like dried grass with a straw. I usually bring it to bed for my partner so he can get some sips prior to his start of the day. We then have breakfast together and try to avoid talking business until we start talking business as we have a Café/Store together (check it out at @acertain_cafe). Then he takes off for work and I spend some time replying to emails or have meetings for Ninfa or A Certain Café. Some days, I walk to the café for lunch and stay there for an hour or two, then head to our atelier where we go over production, more emails, shipping orders, computer stuff, et al, until I go back home around 8pm. We'll fix a quick dinner and watch some series together with Matias. My "prime time" is going to bed at 22:30 as I consider myself not my best self if I sleep less than 9 hours -That's what my body needs and I won't fight it. What makes you most excited about your work? Everything glass related. I'm obsessed! Dream person to work with? @TEGET! Three apps you can't live without and why? Instagram because it's work. Google Maps because I'll get lost immediately. And lastly, Idealista. I don't know why but I LOVE checking house prices everywhere I go, and it is super satisfying when I find the house I found in the app in real life and say "oh that house is on the market for $..." Can you describe your classic and ideal weekend? Going for a hike with my partner, having some coffee and then sitting somewhere under the sun to have lunch, followed by more hiking. During the evening, we'll go to an art gallery or to the movies. And then after, having a barbecue with our friends and spending the rest of the day chilling in the garden. DREAMY!