For Houston-based model, designer, and stylist Nanci Olebe, her clothing brand Temporary, which releases its first collection later this summer, was supposed to be an interim passion project. It was just going to be something to do and then discard once the 21-year-old got back on her feet after quitting a bad job earlier this year. However, as she learned more about sustainability in the fashion industry, Olebe felt her vision for the brand change.
While researching fabrics for another project, Olebe discovered the destructive environmental impacts of fast fashion, especially from stores like H&M and Zara, which manufacture inexpensive clothing made up of non-biodegradable synthetic fibers. The clothes simply are not built to last. Every time we wash clothes made from these types of fabric, like polyester or nylon, microscopic pieces of plastic are flushed down the drain and into the ocean, where they travel up the food chain and, inevitably, into your smoked salmon. As she realized this, Olebe became determined to chart a different course and start offering consumers clothes that would reuse the materials already in circulation.
“The fashion industry plays a huge part in damaging the earth,” Olebe says, “and I decided I don't want to be a part of that.” Olebe says sustainable brands like hers can help reduce future damage by encouraging people to buy secondhand or up-cycled clothes rather than new fast fashion.
Temporary features a line of up-cycled clothes sourced from local vintage and secondhand shops. Because Olebe’s redesigning already-constructed clothing, each of the collection’s 50 pieces will be both sustainable and one-of-a-kind. “You’re never gonna see it again,” she says. “You’re never gonna see it on anybody else.”
Letting her creative intuition guide her for her line, Olebe selected items with unique patterns to transform into pieces that fall into one of three styles: street, minimalist, or high fashion. From daring asymmetrical designs to oversized silhouettes, Olebe hopes to make Temporary’s first collection as radically unique as it is responsibly sourced.
For inspiration, Olebe has drawn on the glamour and grunge of the 1990s, specifically iconic Black women from the ‘90s and early 2000s, such as the women of Destiny’s Child, Halle Berry, and Donna Summer.
But the clothes she is creating are shaped by her own story as well. She’s been looking back to the streets of Atlanta, Georgia, where she spent early childhood after immigrating from Sudan for ideas. The women in her family and the many communities she’s been a part of—from Atlanta to Saudi Arabia to Vermont to Houston—are all woven into Olebe’s sense of style and self, which she spins into every piece she creates.
“I don’t think it’s really about where I live, but rather where I’ve come from,” Olebe says. “As I go, I realize that Black and African cultures are so connected, especially when it comes to art and beauty and styling and fashion. So, I really go back to my roots when I need inspiration.”
Pulling from her own cultural history and communities for style is not simply an act of homage, though. For Olebe, it’s also an act of reclamation.
“With everything going on with the injustice against Black lives, a lot of people have been talking about supporting Black-owned businesses, which also shines light on non-Black businesses and how they have exploited Black skin, the Black community and just Black culture in general,” she says. “I feel like a lot of brands—Gucci, Dolce Gabbana, Chanel, Versace—that have stolen from the Black community have never given recognition that that’s where their styles often come from.”
Olebe feels that her new sustainable fashion brand is a step in the right direction. “I want Temporary to be a place for Black women where they're able to create with their culture among people who actually respect them.”
To shop and stay updated on Temporary, follow @tempatelier on Instagram.