Notam: Digital Design, Real-World Community

“When I left university I’d never used email,” says Jo Martin. “Now we’re here using digital design!”

A black hooded raincoat with four buttons down the front against the backdrop of dark clouds and raindrops.
Digital design reduces the waste from physical sampling. Image: Notam

Jo is the brains behind Notam, a British casual menswear brand that launched last year in the midst of the pandemic. Beginning with t-shirts and iconic coats the range will eventually grow to include midlayers such as hoodies and sweats – everything to get consumers through a typical British summer.

Where Notam sets itself apart from tradition is in its digital-first approach to design, as one of the first British menswear brands using 3D technology to design every garment. To do this the brand draws on the talents of Maggie Mattioni, a freelance menswear designer for over 20 years who believes passionately that digital skills will support a more sustainable fashion industry.

“So many samples are made before a garment goes into production, and it generates huge amounts of waste along with a big carbon footprint,” Maggie explains. “We’re cutting down on that by refining all our designs with realistic 3D models, and it ensures we are moving towards being a truly sustainable brand.”

Though sampling and production are directly impacted by the digital-first approach, the 3D designs are being worked into Notam’s marketing, too. A quick look at the brand’s Instagram page shows barely any physical garments unless they are actually being worn, reducing the overheads associated with traditional photoshoots and fashion promotion.

Digital design may reduce the impact of physical manufacturing, but Notam is committed to making a positive difference in the real world. To that end the brand is partnering with the Coventry Music Hub, a charity that supports children and their families with access to musical instruments and education, on its latest t-shirt.

A virtual retail store with wooden floor in which black raincoats, jackets and t-shirts are hanging from rails
Notam’s virtual store. Image: Notam

Printed with a design by a local graffiti artist, the garment is embedded in the local community. In turn, the strength of that message has helped to widen its reach in the music community. Music Producer Nick Nittoli, rapper Dex Man, and Sarah Blackwood of indie band DubStar are all among the musicians who have worn Notam’s t-shirt, raising awareness of Coventry Music Trust as well as of the brand.

“Fashion and music have always gone hand in hand, so it felt like a very natural partnership for us,” says Jo. “Music should be open to everyone and we want to support the topics we’re passionate about through the brand.”

Testament to the success of the partnership, Jo will be attending the charity’s next trustee meeting to offer further advice and support.

Rapper DexMan wears a white Notam t-shirt with hand-drawn motif of a cartoon animal blowing a trumpet
DexMan wears Notam’s Coventry Music Trust t-shirt. Image: Notam

Community relationships have been vital to Notam’s early growth. With decades in the fashion industry between them Jo and Maggie have been able to reach out through their extensive networks – though in some cases the greatest help has come from people they have never met.

“This has been a constant learning curve, but people have really gone the extra mile to help us. Partially it’s a result of the pandemic – people wanted to give something back. We want to do the same and continue that spirit of sharing and collaboration,” Jo says.

“These are such challenging times for everyone. We need to pull together if we’re going to get through this,” Maggie adds.

Developing and expanding Notam’s community partnerships is high on the agenda, as is pushing the potential of 3D digital design in future collections. To do that, Jo says that it is also important to educate consumers about the challenges posed by waste in the fashion industry, and how technology can enable more sustainable practices.

“I think the industry is aware of fashion’s landfill problem now, both in the sampling and post-consumer stages, but consumers don’t see the scale of the challenge,” she adds. “It’s down to this generation who understand what has been going on to start to solve the problem. We can only do this with the whole industry pulling together as one common voice.”