“When I was in school, I didn’t wait for things come to me. I went out of my way to get them,” says Natalia Allen, founder and CEO of the successful and innovative sustainable fashion consulting firm Design Futurist. Allen, BFA Fashion Design ’04, combined her Parsons fashion education with an intensive social science program at The New School and extracurricular research on ecofriendly technology and textiles. Her quest for knowledge took her straight to the fashion industry’s fast lane. Upon graduating in 2004, Allen was elected Designer of the Year by her program (with Ashleigh Verrier); shortly thereafter, she was hired as an innovation consultant by Donna Karan to develop new products for the company’s men’s collection.
Since then, Design Futurist has continued to create ecofriendly high-tech textiles and clothing for companies like Calvin Klein, Quiksilver, and Saks Fifth Avenue. “As an entrepreneur, I would categorize myself as a doer,” Allen says. “I like the idea of being a thought leader, but for me it’s not enough. As a designer, you have to materialize your concepts, goals, and visions.” Allen’s achievements quickly attracted notice. In 2009, she was chosen by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, one of a worldwide group of 200 to 300 outstanding entrepreneurs, politicians, civil servants, artists, and academics under 40 who seek innovative solutions to global problems. “Being part of this community is very encouraging; I’m amazed by my colleagues and the work that they do,” says Allen. The honor has inspired her to work even harder. Allen is currently working on a range of products under her own label, which she hopes will serve as a model of sustainable and fair clothing production. “I want to make the case that change is possible, and here’s how. We can heal the world through design.”