Nnadi by Nature

  • A Love Letter to the Seventies Butterfly Collar

    As much I as I try and shake it, there’s a nerdy seventies vibe that is intrinsic to my style. My closet has had brief moments with the nineties (grunge baby doll, club kid), a random flirtation with eighties power dressing, but my default setting almost always boils down to high-waisted wide leg jeans, a little shrunken knit tank, and a chunky low-heeled platform sandal. Think more Freaky Friday than Saturday Night Fever, and Jane Fonda in Klute on my chicest days. 

    Of all the period gems in my closet though, my butterfly collar pieces are the things I cherish the most, and arguably the hardest look of the era to pull off, after the polyester leisure suit. Thrifting for them is a piece of cake, mostly because the only other shoppers I’m usually competing with are looking for clothes to wear with a disco wig on Halloween. I guess I’m just a sucker for fashion that teeters on the edge of the ridiculous, in that so-bad-it’s-groovy kind of way.

    From left to right:  Proenza Schouler pre-fall 2014, Miu Miu spring 2014 photos coutersy of Vogue 

    Now let’s just imagine that our starchy little button-down shirts spread their wings. Take a look at the spring collections, and that idea isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds. At Prada, almost every look was finished with a tidy butterfly collar and my heart almost skipped a beat when I saw them the appliquéd ultra suede coats at Miu Miu. Proenza Schouler continued the seventies mood of spring (remember those hip-swiveling Lurex dresses? Very American Hustle, come to think of it,) with pre-fall, and I can see myself swanning around in one of their fuzzy butterfly collar jackets and a pair of leather culottes in the not-too-distant future.

     In the meantime this sparkly bundle of joy (pictured below) from the Meadham Kirchhoff for Topshop collection has been keeping me company, and I’ve been wearing it with and without a beret since it arrived in the mail last week. In fact I would have bought the whole collection if I could. Star-shaped buttons! Tomato-red Lurex! Call it a flying start.

    Photo: Ian Reid


  • Heading North: Stylist Claudia Cifu Gives a Lesson in Finnish Fashion

    Photo: Ian Reid

    People tend to think of Stockholm as the epicenter of Scandinavian design (H&M, Acne), but the Swedes don’t have the last word on Nordic style and there are lots of new and interesting things percolating in the region fashion-wise. I know this because one of my dearest friends, stylist Claudia Cifu (pictured here), is always keeping her eye on what’s next—she was the first person to put the name Mary Katrantzou in my ear before the British designer had graduated Central Saint Martins, for example. And as well as introducing me to the delicious world of Finnish snacks (buttered rye toast, chocolate-covered licorice) she’s recently put me on to homegrown fashion talent.

     

    As Claudia tells it, there’s an underlying arts and crafts vibe to Finnish style and it’s something that is resonating with the new wave of young designers there right now. She spotted Saara Lepokorpi at the Aalto University’s graduate show in Helsinki a few years ago, and her work has been on Claudia’s radar every since. A quick glance at Saara’s new collection for her line, Lepokorpi, and you can tell that she has a way with sculptural shapes—which look fantastic in pictures—but ultimately are probably a wee bit intimidating to wear for my Monday morning commute on the subway. That said, I knew that Claudia would be able to show me how to make the look work in the real world, so I asked her to pick her favorite piece from Saara’s spring collection and style it up with her own wardrobe. She chose one of the beautiful hand-woven pieces, and the material is a nod to Finnish rugs known as räsymattos, traditionally made from leftover fabric ends and the kind of thing that kids throughout the country will learn to make at some point along the way from elementary to high school. Thanks to its tassels and tactile heft, it doesn’t take much to bring the tunic to life: A pair of black skinny jeans and a crisp sleeveless collared shirt are the only ingredients you really need.

     

     

  • Pleats? Yes Please!

    Photos: Ian Reid

    Issey Miyake's Pleats Please book had been sitting under a pile of press releases on my desk until two things made me dig it up this week: First off, the explosion of pleats on the runways for spring, and secondly, photographer Rachel Chandler Guinness who showed up to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund awards last week in a superchic belted jacket by the Japanese label.

    The Pleats Please archive is roughly 20 years and 576 pages deep, and the introduction to the book reads like a manifesto for utilitarian fashion. Miyake conceived of the line for practical reasons—the fabric and be twisted and turned in any direction without losing its signature mirco-accordion shape—and if you're the type of person who leaves her clothes in a crumpled heap on the floor and/or, like me, is allergic to ironing, it might be the ultimate wradrobe. 

    I've bookmarked the chapter dedicated to a guest art series that was started in the mid-nineties, back when the idea of a designer collaborations was still relatively new. A self-portrait of Japanese Yasumasa Moimura's image wrapped in crimson netting and fused to a Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres nude is really striking done life-size on the body of a dress, but it's Nobuyoshi Araki's cheeky photos on the signature crinkled tank tops and dresses that I've been trying to hunt down on eBay. My favorite part of the book though, is photographer Yuriko Takagi's portfolio of Pleats Please imagery in far-flung corners of the planet over the course of four years. There are gorgeous pictures of people on the sacred river Ganges in Benares, India, actors who've traded their elaborate opera costumes for simple Pleats Please tunics in Beijing, and women walking across sand dunes wearing the label's brightly colored scarves in Morocco. It's eough to make you want to pack a suitcase of pleats, and strike out into the sunset. 

  • Under Wraps: Aramidé Diallo’s Spellbinding Cloaks

    Aramidé Diallo cloaks

    Of all the people I follow on Instagram, costume designer Eniola Dawodu’s account often stands out in my feed the most. Scroll through her archive of posts and you’ll find pictures of Man Ray muse Helen Tamaris swathed in a silk robe, elegant Omani women from the turn of the century, and personal photos tracing the ancient textiles of the Rabari in Gujarat, India. Recently, a snapshot of a girl wearing an intricate embroidered robe caught my eye. It looked like something out of another time, but somehow startlingly modern. The hashtag read #aramidediallo and wasn’t a label I recognized, but after a little more Internet digging, I realized that Dawodu herself was behind it.

     

    Photos taken by Eniola Dawodu on her travels in Gujarat, India.


    Photos of Dawodu's grandpa in his traditional agbada robes.


    It turns out that Aramidé Diallo was inspired by her Nigerian grandfather, and the portraits she e-mailed me the next day were beyond stunning: The details of his agbada robes against a tiled floor looked like something out of Malick Sidibé’s studio. It was her research in Indian ethnographic textiles and costumes a few years ago that first got her thinking back to the fabrics in her family history. When she came across a stash of antique Nigerian Asoke remnants at the atelier of an antique dealer in New York dating back to the 1930s, it seemed like just the right time to rework the elegant look of her grandpa’s tunics in her own way. The designs definitely pay homage to the originals, and she works closely with a Senegalese artisan to achieve the curling embroidered borders on her cloaks. Dawodu has a great sense of style and manages to layer up her pieces with handfuls of Rabari jewelry and colorful scarves from her travels in India. On a dreary winter morning in New York, her handwoven cloak is a gorgeous bright spot in a sea of gray coats.

    Eniola Dawodu in a cloak of her own design. Photo by Ian Reid. 

  • Blue Is the Warmest Color

    Designer Lyndsey Butler of Veda photographed by Ian Reid 

    As much as I like playing around with print and mashing up Crayola colors in the closet, there was a time in my mid-teens when all my clothes hung around the same bluesy note: navy sweatshirts, frayed indigo jeans, and not much besides. On a certain level, that monochrome uniform was weirdly comforting when my body was moving in weird and unfamiliar directions and, years later, I still have a big soft spot for an all-blue look (I fully endorse the idea of the Canadian tuxedo, for example). Léa Seydoux’s glowing cerulean mane is, as far as I’m concerned, as good a reason as any to watch Blue Is the Warmest Color.

    Film still from Blue is the Warmest Color

    Designer Lyndsey Butler of NYC label Veda dyed her hair blue earlier this summer, and when I showed up to see the spring collection last week, her signature biker jackets were swinging from the racks in shades of turquoise. Although I’ve dabbled in blue-black, my curls could never withstand the amount of bleach it would take to alter my color so dramatically, which is why I’m living vicariously through Lyndsey. Blue has been her favorite color since she was a kid. It’s her dad’s favorite too, so you could say it’s in the genes. She will look great in her turquoise leather jackets come spring, and if I were her, I would also take a look at the blues that are bubbling up for resort right now, like Alexander McQueen’s patchwork-denim suit or Marni’s ode to Yves Klein. The Row worked with denim this season, and its midi-length skirt looks best when it’s paired with cropped baby blue sweaters and a mess of matching blue hair. 

    Left to right: The Row Resort 2014, Marni Resort 2014 and Alexander McQueen Resort 2014. Photos courtesy of Vogue


  • Picasso Baby: Getting A Head Start of Spring 2014's Painterly Prints

    Photo: Ian Reid

    Seeing the new collections on parade is always a bit of a tease. Personally, I like a sugary hit of instant gratification in my bowl, and I’m always itching to try a new look the moment a designer has taken their bow on the runway. That antsy wave came crashing down on me pretty heavily at Chanel and Celine a few weeks ago. I’m a sucker for a bold painterly print and both collections were covered in gorgeous freeform brushstrokes: at Chanel they were either made to imitate the gradations color on a nineteenth-century sample palette or graffiti sprayed walls, and at Celine they had all the energy of a tribal artwork.

    Left to right: Celine spring 14, Chanel spring 14. Photos courtesy of vogue.com

    Entering those keywords into a google search for clothes a couple of weeks later didn't throw up anything much. I did manage to find a vintage hand-painted sweater on Etsy that used the same primary colors I had seen at Celine, but when the package arrived in the mail the overall effect was more wacky outsider art than abstract expressionist masterpiece. 

    It was only after randomly rummaging a rack of samples at my friend (and menswear designer) Aurelien Arbet’s studio in Brooklyn that I found something that came anywhere close—a black button-down shirt printed with splashes of Yves Klein Blue. Etudes, the label Arbet co-founded with Jeremie Ergy, encompasses a lot more than just clothes: the pair regularly pull together photography books that fly off the shelves at Colette, and share a background tracing back to the Parisian graffiti scene.

    Left to right: Etudes shirt, pants and hat. Artwork by Pia Howell. 

    This particualar print was made in collaboration with a young Brooklyn-based artist called Pia Howell specifically for fall. Arbet spotted her work in a gallery in Philadelphia and commissioned her to make a few custom patterns based on the exhibit. The print comes on a baseball hat, baggy pants and a men’s button-down that is so oversized it basically drowns me to the knee—which I kind of love. It's actually what i'm looking forward to wearing over ripped up Levi’s this winter…while I patiently wait (and save my pennies) for spring.