Within their extremely busy schedule, we found the time to sit down with one of the most promising upcoming fashion brands: Ninamounah.
Originated in Amsterdam, the brand focusses on the animalistic instinct of the human and translates it into fashion that is thoughtful as it is meaningful to society. With the believe to be stronger by joining forces with other creatives, they elegantly blur the thin lines separating fashion, art, performance and everyday life.
Ultimately portraying the human as an equal animal, all while utilizing typical human innovations that reflect power structures, Ninamounah challenges the recipients to use their brain in every way.
The label eloquently strives away from slightly dull tendencies often witnessed within the fashion industry. Showing what we can learn about ourselves when looking at nature, their creations serve as a perfect example of critical thoughts entering the runway.
In this conversation, we discussed past fashion shows, the meaning of classic looks as well as the sustainability of collaborations. An Interview by Julius Pristauz.
There is a lot happening for you right now. You just presented your collection during Amsterdam Fashion week and your show Pheromones was happening during Paris Fashion Week SS19 - where you presented for the first time. Was Paris a lot different compared to your experiences in Amsterdam and previous ones in London?
Every city brings something new and not every habitat is the same, and naturally, we adapt to our surroundings. In London, there are a lot of young labels and it’s very packed. Paris is interesting because there is so much history and respect for fashion, the city really breathes fashion.
Our design practice is rooted in investigating and transgressing the cultural implications found in fashion design and expose how the dressed human is simultaneously celebrated and suppressed throughout history. Paris is the perfect place to do this. It can be very traditional, but you also feel that they are hungry for fresh meat and can’t wait to be shaken out of their comfort zone.
Amsterdam will always be our home, where our closest friends and blood family live. It was very special to present Celebration of Species during Amsterdam Fashion Week, a collection reinterpreting our first three collections. We wanted to give our work back to the city where it all started. It was the ritual closing of our first year and marking the beginning of a lot of new projects to come.
The titles of your shows Celebration of Species, Pheromones, Hormones are very distinctive. What draws you to using these biological phenomena thematically for your fashion?
We often forget that humans are also animals. The first stage embryos of many different kinds of species are almost identical. We like to consider ourselves biologists using fashion to dissect the deeper layers of the cultural mantle. By referencing narratives and themes found in the animal world, we can learn a lot about ourselves. For our newly released Animal Love T-Shirts, we have portrayed three very different love stories: the praying mantis where the female eats the male after mating, to become strong enough to give birth; snails, who are both male and female and who’s mating ritual couldn’t be more poetic and horses, where so much force and power comes free. If you draw parallels to the human mating ritual, it turns preconceived notions of love upside-down completely.
To me, the recent collection brought associations with looks of the corporate world, giving me office and business with a twist of fetish to it. Is this your interpretation and visualization of modern communication and mating mechanisms?
We are always drawn to stereotypical »uniforms«. They represent the height of cultural and modern society and have such a clear message, which gives a designer a lot to play around with.
Uniforms are in some ways also meant to represent a function or stage in one’s life and to take the personal desires out of one’s visual representation. It’s ironic that most uniforms (school girls, men in suits) have become highly sexualized as a result.
It seems like in a lot of the pieces you kind of changed their initial connotation or narrative. Do you want to give new purpose and meanings to classical looks?
We aim to release the animal inside all of us and subverting and perverting classical looks loans itself perfectly for that purpose. Certain looks are classical for a reason, but it’s time that they evolve, just like all species do.
You collaborated with other creatives and brands on the shoes, jewelry as well as on some latex pieces. Do you think that collaborations offer new ways of success in the fashion industry?
Collaboration is a way of ensuring craftsmanship and quality, and to build a community around an artist’s practice. We have worked with DeMasK on latex, they have years of experience in that field. Naomi Hille is a specialized shoe designer, with whom developed our Duck Toe Pumps and Boots, and the Motorcycle Boots and Chaps. She found a way to produce them without too many stitches, and in a very sustainable way. We also collaborate on our collection videos, we have one coming up made with Florian Joahn and JeanPaul Paula. On the same video, we worked together with a dancer/choreographer, a spatial artist, and a furniture sculptor.
It’s these collaborations that give a new life to the garments and take them out of the realm of merely clothing design. Next year, we will release an Artist Series. Whenever we have shot a campaign or look book with a photographer, we have given them total creative freedom to shoot material outside of their briefing. These photographs represent an uncensored view on the brand and border more on autonomously produced art photography that fits into the style and practice of the photographer who shot it.
Do you feel like collaborative success is sustainable for all parties?
Collaboration is a way of enriching the practice and artistic direction of all involved. A lone wolf also needs to re-join the pack at one point.
Very signature pieces of yours like the motor suit garments were revealed once again. Redoing stuff can show continuity and develop a strong brand aesthetic. However, do you think it can be problematic to sell from the same set of looks over time?
Riffing on uniforms and craftsmanship, we will always be inspired by the tailored suit and motor garments. The way they are found in the collection changes every collection though. It also enables us to specialize in certain skills. The clothes slowly evolve over time, and maybe in the future, we will see them completely differently. We think a slower approach to fashion makes more sense. Evolution also did not happen overnight. We work without traditional seasons, instead opting for numeric collections (001 Mother Nature, 002 Hormones, 003 Pheromones) that transcend winter or summer. Why do we need a completely different look every 3 to 6 months?
In Paris, you also held an after-show party in collaboration with local La Toilette club nights which also included a performance. Are you interested in focusing more on performative aspects of your work for the upcoming seasons?
Paris and Amsterdam were actually our first time doing a runway show. In London, we collaborated with Ryan Chappell on a performance that reflected the collections inspiration of the collection. We just presented an installation by Royal College of the Arts artist Anna Gray in Berlin. There based Gruppe Magazine has curated the space and drummed up a team of very talented performers that interacted with the clothing, the installation, and the scent that we developed with CPL Aromas. For us the performative aspect isn’t so much of a choice, it simply explores the full sensual range of our work. We aim to push art beyond institution, and fashion beyond apparel.
I feel like your brand works at the Intersection of art and fashion. Where, for you and the brand, does fashion end and art begin, and vice versa? Is there even a clear line?
This is an interesting question, as fashion is such a broad concept. Fashion can be found in museums, as well as on the street. We definitely aim for an intellectual approach to fashion, with a focus on craftsmanship and conceptual value. We solely have been focusing on developing our practice for the past year and are now slowly thinking about what our position and voice will be in the commercial fashion landscape. Our answer is to work in small capsules that transform our collection’s message into people’s daily life, freeing them of social stigma. It is definitely our aim to bring fashion closer to art. We strongly feel that tailoring should always be made-to-measure, which is why we invite people to send us their sizes before purchasing one of our suits. This way it becomes like a cocoon or second skin, something very personal that you carry with you.
What does Ninamounah stand for now? What does it want to represent in the future?
Ninamounah stands for embracing your animalistic instinct to emancipate yourself and in turn society. What the future holds? Only evolution can tell.
You had a crazy busy and also successful year. However, I have the feeling that you could already tell us what is coming up next?
We will keep on showing in Paris and we just had a collaborative performance in Berlin last Friday, we will do more pop-ups where people can purchase made-to-measure pieces, and projects in different cities, to be able to connect with diverse crowds and atmospheres. Instagram is great, but sometimes we feel like a bunch of caged animals because of it. We can’t wait to roam the streets of Vienna …