Nnadi by Nature

  • Why Clarks Are A Girl's Best Friend

    Photographed by Mario Testino for Vogue, March 2007.

    Every now again I’ll come across an image that reminds me why I need to dig up my Clarks again, like this one of Natalia Vodianova that ran in Vogue a little while back. I remember stopping on this these pages in the issue a few years ago before I started my job as a Fashion Writer at the magazine. The idea of kicking through sand dunes in a sparkling white suit and some Wallabees just felt so real and cool, even though the Sahara was million miles away.

     

    Personally I think they still work best against a Caribbean backdrop, and flipping through Al Fingers’s great book, Clarks in Jamaica, gives a sense of the style and the flair of the reggae artists, like Half Pint and Vybz Cartel, who wear it best. If I can make them look half as good as they do, then I’m on the right track. Designer Chitose Abe of Sacai clearly has the same soft spot for these shoes that I do, and her spring menswear collection featured rubber-painted desert boots which I’ve been eyeing on thecorner.com for the past couple of weeks. Before I take the plunge and buy, I'm thinking it would be nice to do a little DIY experiment first and give my old pair a lick of new paint. If it works they'll be strokes of genius.

    An spread from Clarks in Jamaica by Al Fingers via One Love Books

    Clarks Originals X Sacai boots. Photo via Fashion Press

  • Child's Play: Taking Cues from the Cool Kids

    Photos from Tricofield.

    When I look inside my closet I see an ocean of clothes borrowed from the boys (hand-me-downs from friends, brothers and lovers) and then those other choice pieces, like a pair of camo overalls sprigged with daisies, that could have easily been lifted from the wardrobe of a  three-year-old girl. It first dawned on me a couple of summers ago while shopping at Hidden Treasures my favorite vintage store in Los Angeles, when I came across a fantastic baby-sized military jumpsuit. It was a teeny-tiny version of what I wanted to wear in that very moment: weatherworn and finished with army patches that each tell their own story. My best friend persuaded me to buy it for future generations of Nnadis, which of course I did in a heartbeat.

     

    The kid's tattoo transfers by Mini Rodini

    Survey the kindergarten playground these days and you'll notice that most of the kids look cooler than their parents by miles. I interviewed Sienna Miller for Vogue a few months ago and she seemed more excited to talk about her little daughter Marlowe’s wardrobe of fun, stripey leggings than her own. Alexander Wang’s pintsized niece has been known to steal the thunder of many a street-style star when she walks into his shows, decked out in what look like miniature versions of her uncle’s designs. It also feels like children are developing a stronger sense of their fashion likes and dislikes at a younger age, and I’m strangely anxious about buying clothes for my six-year-old nephew after the last T-shirt I gave him set off a flood of tears. (Apparently he’s going through a phase of wearing nothing but superhero graphics and clearly his aunt did not get the memo!)

    Boots by Akid

     

    The fact is there’s so much more fun happening in the kid's department than there was when I was a toddler. I came across a new line of shoes that I could have sworn was made for adults until I visited the website—although the label’s name, Akid, should have been a dead give-away. Their mountaineering and Timbs-like boots would have been just the right thing to stomp through the snow this winter. I’ve  found myself tumbling down an internet rabbit hole browsing Mini Rodini’s blog. Created by Swedish illustrator Cassandra Rodini, the clothes capture the playful and hilarious aspects of being a kid, like putting on hot-dog temporary tatto transfers, which is so much more appealing than little boys and girls who are dressed to look like grown-ups. Then there’s Tricofield, a Japanese children’s store in SoHo, a brilliant place to get new denim ideas, even if their largest size would barely make it past my ankle. I guess I'm a big kid to the bottom of my soul. 

  • Start her Up: The Story Behind This Street-Style Moment

    Photo by Phil Oh for Vogue. 

    This image is one of my favorites from Fashion Month so far, mostly because the story behind it is just as good as the street style itself. I remember running into stylist Daphne Javitch, pictured here, the day it was shot in the midst of shows.  She was dressed super chicly, as always—but her poor hands were trembling from the cold. Few people understand the art of winter layering better than Vogue street style photographer Phil Oh, and the vintage bomber draped over her shoulders actually belongs to him.

    Oh’s eye for fashion is just as keen when it comes to his own wardrobe which is filled with interesting and cool things he’s picked up on the road. I’ve always secretly wanted to raid his closet, and at a recent dinner in London he caught me eyeballing his new Umit Benan suit—belted, pinstriped and just my size! And now I have designs on his collection of vintage Starter jackets.

    I know he’d have no qualms about loaning me the piece, but the idea of something borrowed can’t ever replace the rush of new ownership. Up until last fall, the Starter label had ceased to be, but thankfully now you can actually buy a handful of the old styles brand-new. Since I've lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, you’d think the first one I’d rush to buy would be the Nets jacket, and yet… I’m ashamed to say my allegiance to fashion always comes first. That bold Miami Heat typeface is cooler from whichever side you look at it.

  • London’s Coolest Purveyors of Style Are Setting up Shop on the Same Chic and Discreet Street

    Photos coutesy of Mouki.

    I’m pretty familiar with the shopping lay of the land in London, but every now and again, a new fashion enclave pops up out of nowhere. Growing up in Fitzrovia, I always remember Chiltern Street as a sleepy row of Georgian buildings (in fact, a childhood friend lived in one of the tall apartments). So revisiting the block this past week was eye-opening to say the least. André Balazs’s new hotel on Chiltern Street, a beautiful converted fire station, hasn’t officially opened yet, but all of the chic parties were held there during Fashion Week. And there’s already plenty of stylish things happening within spitting distance: British heritage label Sunspel have a store here (J.W. Anderson recently designed a collection of T-shirt dresses, kilts, and sweaters for them), Tyler Brûlé’s Monocle Café, and a new boutique called Mouki, which opened last year.

    Japanese notebooks, Adieu shoes and Coral and Tusk cushion from Mouki. 

    Mouki was a dentist’s office in a former life and has a rabbit warren of little rooms filled with labels from all over the world, assembled by owner Maria Lemos. There’s definitely a traveler’s spirit in the selection of artisanal leather sandals by Italian label Henry Cuir, easy summer dresses by Californian eco-label Dosa, and Sacai Luck’s adorable broderie anglaise raincoats. I was surprised to find organic solid perfumes by beauty line Mox Botanicals flown in all the way from Portland, Oregon, of all places. Some of my best discoveries were in the basement, including Parisian shoe line Adieu, which makes really great loafers and brogues on a chunky sole. Lemos isn’t planning to launch an e-boutique anytime soon, and in a way, it’s a jewel-box of a store that’s best seen in living color. 

  • Three New Rainwear Labels to Pack for London Fashion Week

    Photographed by Chris Von Wangenheim, Vogue, 1973. 

    The good news is I didn’t forget my toothbrush. The bad news is that in my last-minute packing frenzy, I forgot to throw anything remotely water-resistant into my suitcase for London Fashion Week. I have spent the last two stormy nights holed up in my hotel room in Mayfair, longingly browsing the internet for at all the great new rainwear labels I could be wearing.

    The first is Wanda Nylon, a new French line that has the chic rainwear thing down pat (people often forget that Paris gets the same heavy grey skyline as London). Its see-through moto jacket with colorful piping would have been a lifesaver on Friday night when I got soaked waiting in line for Nasir Mazhar’s show.

    Spring looks from Wanda Nylon.

    Previewing Alasdhair Willis’s new collection of waterproof coats and boots for Hunter earlier that day put me in the mood for something a little more outdoorsy. I’ve had my eye on Swedish label Stutterheim Raincoats for a while now, and their old-school fisherman’s rain macs had the same sleek vibe as the new looks at Hunter.

    Coats by Stutterheim.

    Another label with British heritage-worthy roots is Hancock. Named after the man who invented vulcanized rubber, its wool, cashmere, and silk coats are bonded in a Victorian factory in Scotland. The new collaboration with Pierre-Louis Mascia, a textile designer who has made designers for the likes of Chanel, gives the traditional Mackintosh-style a seventies world-of-interiors finish that is right up my street, come rain or shine.

    Hancock's signature coat (left) and with a print by Pierre-Louis Mascia (right). 

  • The Quest for a Cozier Fashion Week

    Photo: Ian Reid

    I’m not one to be a Debbie Downer but I do feel like I’ve started New York Fashion Week on the wrong foot. Last year I sprained my ankle after a clumsy episode with a Tracy Anderson video in my living room just days before the shows in Paris and this time around I injured my knee trying to master a tricky Pilates move with a resistance band; all of which leaves me wondering: Is the universe trying to tell me something?

     Well, it’s not exactly all doom and gloom. The fashion gods have been merciful, at least, in terms of the current mood towards a slouchier, cozier look. There is plenty of room in these wide-legged Dries Van Noten pants for my leg brace and my favorite Harbison coat has the snuggly, comfy parameters of a bathrobe—only far, far, far more luxurious. And given that most fashion editors have already come down off the death-defying platform heels of seasons past, my flat Chelsea boots are not at all out if step. I feel good about the overall effect (even Tommy Hilfiger remarked on how nice and cozy I looked at a recent preview of his new collection)—so at least I’ll be hobbling around the shows in style.

  • Lupita Nyong'o and the Transformative Power of a Neatly Cropped ’Fro

    Lupita Nyong'o in Vogue, January 2014. 

    People tend to think of Afros in towering, halo-like proportions, but there are few who trully understand the power of a neatly cropped 'fro. It's probbaly why I haven’t quite taken my eyes off Lupita Nyong'o since she burst onto the scene last year. In an age when so many starlets favor fantasy Rapunzel-like tresses, there's something eye-opening and refreshing about hair that’s barely an inch deep.

    It’s been decades since I had the same 'do myself, although as a kid I spend most of the time stuffing my afro into a pair of tights, running around the house with long stockinged feet trailing down my back, imagining what it might be like to have hair that blows in the wind. Looking at Lupita makes me a little sad that I didn’t fully explore the myriad possibilities of an Afro when I had one. When she first appeared in the pages of Vogue back in November for example, she wore the classic rounded 'do, a stylish calling card straight off the bat. Fast-forward to that spellbinding red-carpet moment at the Globes in a Ralph Lauren, though, and she was already evolving the look, with a side part and very chic reimagining of the asymmetric Bobbi Brown Gumby. Then, a trim and a matter of days  later, at the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, and she'd reinvented herself yet again—albeit in a very subtle way—with asculpted devil’s peak  to match the curvilinear line of a white Calvin Klein dress. More than just a pretty ’fro indeed. 

  • #SneakersWithEverything: The Imitable Style of Neneh Cherry

    Photos via Garywarnett

    My first and most important claim to fame was a puppy love romance with Neneh Cherry’s second cousin. They might have only been distant relatives but it was the closest I would get to the woman I idolized for the better part of my childhood. Apparently it’s a lifelong girl crush that I share with Riccardo Tisci, something I recntly discovered while interviewing the designer for a story on his new collaboration with Nike in Vogue’s February issue. As the story goes, Tisci was inspired to buy his first pair of sneakers as a teenager after moving to London and being completely seduced by the singer’s buffalo style (he listed her alongside Erykah Badu and Sade as one of his all-time favorite muses), a look engineered in part by stylist Ray Petri, and one that Cherry grounded fantastically well with a pair of box-fresh kicks.

    Neneh Cherry's "ManChild" shoot by Jean Baptiste Mondino

    Cherry has a new album coming out next month but that sneakers-with-everything idea has been percolating in fashion for the past few seasons. And if Chanel, Christian Dior, and Atelier Versace’s recent collections are anything to go by then even hand-spun haute couture dresses are fair game. Revisiting the styling in some of Cherry’s first videos, like the one for “Manchild,” shot by Jean-Baptiste Mondino against a digitalized beach landscape, it all still feels a step ahead.

    Kicks sandwich: some of my many sneakers, photo by Ian Reid

  • From Russia with Love: Getting to Know Three New Moscow Labels

    Designer Vika Gazinaya photographed by Phil Oh for Vogue.

    If street style were an Olympic sport, then it’s fair to say that Russia would have a pretty strong team. Between the tiny but perfectly formed Buro 24 founder Miroslava Duma and her chic circle of friends, including model Lena Perminova and stylist Anya Ziourova, the country has a formidable league of head-turning dressers. Arguably one of the most imaginative in the bunch is designer Vika Gazinaya. The adorable Moscowite manages to tread the line between playful and ladylike, and steps out her signature voluminous ball skirts with a pair of Nikes and a cheeky smile. She's hands-down the best advertisement for her quirky and colorful clothes, and swans around the Tuilieries in Paris wearing samples straight of the racks of her presentations (The blush-pink suit pictured here from is from her new spring 2014 collection).

    Looks from Vika Gazinaya Spring 2014.

    As far as plugging directly in to the true grit of the street though, Gosha Rubchinsky is an interesting new name to watch. He’s been on my radar lately for a couple of reasons: first off because this season marks his first foray into women’s wear, and secondly because the punk spirit of his designs is reminiscent of outspoken young Russian activists like Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of the band Pussy Riot. Rubchinsky started out making clothes for his skateboarder friends, and his website is littered with images of the post-Soviet concrete landscape where gilded spires of orthodox churches share the same skyline as curling skate ramps. The slouchy skater-boy-meets-girl attitude of the new collection feels totally in step with my wardrobe of slide-on sneakers and baggy suits, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that his collaboration for Vans will be Stateside. Thankfully you can buy his own designs at the new Murray Hill outpost of Dover Street Market, alongside other great emerging labels like Proper Gang.

    Looks from Gosha Rubchinsky Spring 2014.

    I made my third and final Russian discovery shopping for new jeans at Opening Ceremony. Walk of Shame (yes the name leaves something to be desired, so let's call them WOS) has a bunch of cool denim skirts, and I’ve had my eye on the buttoned maxi below for a while. The real WOS showstopper at the store right now though is a striped curly hair wool coat. A quick Google image search of the label throws up a pretty impressive fashion footprint—in other words, a slew of street-style pictures of Duma and her crew showing support for the home team in their clothes.

    Looks from Walk of Shame at Opening Ceremony

  • High Trek: Mountaineer Style for the Extreme Cold

    Photographed by Craig McDean, Vogue, June 2011

    There is a certain point on the thermometer when the idea of looking cute gets put on ice quite literally. The polar vortex was enough to freeze out the most stylish regions of our wardrobes, and although I did spot someone trotting through the snow in high heels and sheer, 40 denier tights just days before the cyclone hit, it has certainly been a week of droopy long johns and amorphous puffer coats as far as my own look is concerned.

    Now that Mother Nature has had a few days to thaw here in New York, I’ve been thinking about the chicer aspects of extreme weather and performance clothing. An outdoorsy influence has been showing up in the most unexpected places all week; on the runway at Balenciaga for pre-fall with snowboard-inspired jacket and pants for example, and in the form of fantastic fur-trimmed hiking boots at Louis Vuitton

    It’s the mountaineering look of the sixties and seventies, pioneered by the likes of rock climber, environmentalist, and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard that I find most appealing. As the story goes, Chouinard and three of his climber friends piled into a secondhand van and drove 5,000 miles from California to Patagonia to conquer the infamous Fitz Roy mountain back in 1968, the most dramatic peak in South America, and it's from this death-defying excursion that the brand gets its name. Mountains of Storm, the documentary about their epic journey, is a useful point of reference, full of rugged, primary-colored looks that are probably only half as effective as the high-tech specialized fabrics we now have today but which are doubly good-looking. I will always have a soft spot for a vintage deep pile fleece jacket, and thankfully they still make the retro vest which, styled right, can look great peeking from under a blazer.

    As far as newer discoveries go, Westerlind, an e-shop dedicated to mining the sweet spot between the great outdoors and all things fashion, is my latest obsession. I have my eye on the Woolpower base layers (did you know wool insulates just as well as any of the manmade stuff?), Eskimo-inspired mittens by Frost River and their awesome, chunky hand-knit hats, not to mention the all-natural Juniper Ridge trail soap (just because you’re trekking doesn’t mean you can’t smell good). So if polar vortex number two decides to show up, I’ll be sitting pretty.

    A selection of stylish outdoorsy goodies from Westerlind.