Sense and Sensuality

Welcome the sun and respect the environment

Etwas Sinnvolles tun: Nathalie Prieger gründete Mandala im Jahr 2000.
To do something meaningful: Nathalie Prieger loves Yoga, Fashion, and Sustainability.

Nathalie Prieger founded her yoga label Mandala back in the year 2000 before the yoga wave hit its peak here. But her second pioneering achievement is even more important: Mandala was one of the first German brands to prove that ecologically-conscious clothing can also be vibrant and sexy. One of the biggest hits in the label’s current collection is its popular leggings…made of recycled PET bottles!

Nathalie Prieger demands that the pants and tops on her yoga-wear label fit perfectly in every position. She tells us, “They shouldn’t slip or pinch anywhere. The wearer needs to be able to concentrate on breathing and the asanas without these kinds of distractions”. And Nathalie’s fitting room models have to be just as limber as the boss herself, who has been an ashtanga yoga practitioner now for 20 years. Nathalie explains,

“I work out at least three times a week right after I get out of bed. Then I drive out to my office on Lake Starnberg feeling revitalized and in a good mood!”.

Form-fitting eye-catchers

The comfort factor is one of the best things about Mandala’s sustainable yoga and casual wear, made from supple functional fabrics including Modal®, merino wool and organic stretch cotton. And the luxurious feminine lines and attention to detail that are characteristic of Mandala clothing are no coincidence. These properties are design expressions of Nathalie’s own appreciation for the sensuality of the female form. “I especially love ankles, but also shoulders, collarbones, the throat and the neck, so I guide the eyes there”, she explains, smiling slyly.

For instance, her “Twist Leggings” are truly something for simple ankle fans and full-on fetishists alike! The leg fabric splits into two strips roughly halfway down the calf that then wrap around the rest of the leg and are tied into an enticing bow just above the ankle. With the “Cable Yoga Top”, beautiful backs are the star: Six shoulder straps are playfully crisscrossed, knotted and interwoven at the rear, while a support bra cleverly concealed inside the top eliminates the need for additional support or straps that would disrupt this sleek look.

Mandala’s very latest new articles are leggings with mesh fabric inserts designed for cycling, running and other sweaty activities. Nathalie has kept a classic black-&-white color scheme for these pants to emphasize the elegance of the mesh elements. On the other side of the spectrum, her “Fancy Leggings” feature all the colors of the rainbow. The “Kaleidoscope” and “Wanderlust” patterns are virtually psychedelic with a touch of Goa flair!

From superficial chic to a yoga fashion mission

Nathalie Prieger loves what she does for a living as much as she appreciates it. That wasn’t always the case. After graduating from the Esmod Fashion Academy in Munich she began her career as an assistant at the glamour label MCM, gradually working her way up to the position of Head Designer. She designed clothing of all kinds, ranging from women’s sporting wear to business suits to party dresses. And according to Nathalie she did it all successfully, but ultimately without an ounce of passion. She explains,

“The MCM style was never my thing! I was serving a market segment of the nouveau riche I wasn’t a part of myself. I eventually grew tired of pretending and began thinking about a new mission, something that would actually mean something”.

After ten years at MCM she threw in the towel and initially headed off to southern India for a sabbatical and volunteer work for a small NGO there caring for local widows. During this career break she also practiced yoga regularly.

“One morning during yoga I suddenly knew what I wanted to do back home: run my own yoga clothing line embodying the principle of respect for people and the environment”.

Once the ancient Indian practice of yoga began conquering New York and winning over stars like Madonna and Sting, Nathalie was certain that it was also time to bring yoga to Germany in a big way! But it wasn’t that simple. “When Mandala hit the market in 2000 many retailers were still skeptical. Some were even convinced that yoga was a cult! So I decided to start out marketing my collection as ‘Wellness Clothing’”, she explains. The thing that sealed the deal for many retailers was that Nathalie was offering ecologically-conscious fair trade clothing, but in a surprising variety of attractive colors and looks that contradicted the stereotype vision of dirty beige, scratchy old potato sack-like eco-clothing!
Munich’s acclaimed Ludwig Beck department store jumped on board right away, positioning Nathalie’s yoga-wear in the lingerie department. Today, buyers can find Mandala products in 120 stores throughout Germany and in more than 20 online shops. And as the cherry on the cake, in 2014 Nathalie Prieger opened her own flagship boutique in downtown Munich.

Eye-opening experiences in textile factories

All Mandala clothing is manufactured in Turkish and Chinese factories in accordance with strict environmental criteria and fair social standards, guaranteed by Nathalie herself through regular on-site inspections. During her time working for MCM, visits to a number of textile factories abroad often proved to be shocking, eye-opening experiences. Nathalie elaborates,

“I was shocked in India by the exploitative working conditions. People, especially women, are not highly valued there! And in China I saw with my own eyes how factories simply dumped their polluted wastewater full of chemicals from dying, printing and waterproofing straight into the rivers, untreated. What a stinking, poisonous mess”.

And it’s not just “fast-fashion” discount retailers who have their products manufactured in these hellholes. Luxury brands do as well. On the upside, 79 companies have now made a voluntary commitment to “detoxify” their supply chains by the year 2020 as part of the Greenpeace “Detox” campaign.

12 PET bottles go into every pair of “Fancy Leggings”

Potentially dangerous chemicals are not used in Mandala clothing. The organic cotton used by Mandala is GOTS certified, the merino wool comes from mulesing-free New Zealand sheep and the wood-based materials Modal® and Tencel® are manufactured in a resource-friendly process by the Austrian company Lenzing.

The recycling material Mandala uses for its “Fancy Leggings” is particularly creative: polyester made from PET bottles! Nathalie tells us, “We buy the raw material from the US-based company Repreve. They pulverize the bottles into flakes. Then they melt these flakes and produce fibers from them. My husband Philipp Langer has an ecologically-friendly textile factory near Shanghai, and all of its suppliers are also certified sustainable, proving that this is also possible in China! At the factory they make yarns from these fibers and weave them into fabric. Then the final pieces are sewn together in Philipp’s sewing workshop”.

Recycled polyester is a far better alternative than making it new, because recycling doesn’t call for any more petroleum or increase the level of new plastic in the world. But why doesn’t Mandala boss Nathalie Prieger just use another material altogether? Nathalie explains,

“To be honest, colorful digital prints only look their best on polyester, because it allows the colors to shine. And great looks are part of the appeal to Mandala buyers. As soon as I find a better alternative to polyester, I’ll jump on it right away!”.

Photos: Mandala (4)
Text: Nicoline Haas (Kopfkino)
Translation: John Jeffrey Collier