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OMNIA EX NIHILO
By: Jessica Fillak
OMNIA EX NIHILO is a NYC based brand creating effortless and ethical garments. Its unique name is a Latin phrase meaning “everything out of nothing.” Co-founder and lead designer Ashley Wheat explains, “This is the philosophy of the brand, which means everything starts from something very small. So, if you want to make a big change to something, you’ve got to start small. Our fabrics start from a seed. We would rather take small, positive steps towards our growth, instead of taking shortcuts or compromising quality.”
Ashley Wheat, designer, and Coleman Downing, photographer, merged their talents to create OMNIA EX NIHILO, a brand committed to localizing production. Ashley continues, “I want to see the people sewing the clothes that I’m designing. I want to make sure I am reducing the amount of fabric waste, and to address the negative aspects of the fashion industry.” To reduce its environmental impact, OMNIA recycles and repurposes all fabric scraps left over after production into building insulation.
Production takes place in NYC's Garment District, where workers are paid livable wages and are afforded all the protections provided to workers in the USA.
“We do all of our production with one factory here in the Garment District in a family-run factory. I visit frequently during production to see if they have any questions, or just to check in. It's important that we make sure our garments are produced in a factory with fair wages, safe working conditions, and fair labor practices.”
Coleman continues, “Localizing production is positive on many fronts. First, it reduces our carbon footprint. We also localize production because with trans-Atlantic shipping, you don’t know the conditions or pay wages of the people that are on or that are servicing those ships. There are a lot of factors that you can’t account for, that you might not even think about. But when you localize production, you can shake everyone’s hand who is making your clothing, wish them a Happy New Year, and build a relationship.”
OMNIA uses sustainable 100% natural fibers, most of which are organic and employ low water dyeing techniques. “We use organic cotton because it’s much safer for both the ecosystem and the people who are growing and creating the fabric. This way, farmers aren't exposed to harmful chemicals. It’s all around more ethical.”
OMNIA pulls inspiration from various Japanese designers as can be seen through the clean, minimalist design. Ashley comments, “I’m also into workwear utility and super functional design. All clothing should have a purpose.”
The duo are currently in the process of developing their new Spring 2021 collection. Ashley and Coleman hope to start working with a new fabric mill, further committing to total transparency within each step of the production process. OMNIA EX NIHILO will continue to work with people who value the environment and commit to reducing inequalities.
Shop OMNIA EX NIHILO at The Canvas Williamsburg, The Canvas Antwerp, and our online store.
Photos are credited to Alex Free @alexfree_hii