Phallus patterns, emoji prints and inflatables, Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl are redefining femininity for 2015.
You probably shouldn’t wear Namilia’s designs to dinner with your Nan. Phallus shapes layered into patterns, latex and emojis, even if your Nan was down with the feminist attitude and genitalia garments, you’d probably have to spend a good half hour explaining the intricate differences between a 😉 face and a 😛 face.
Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl created the brand together after completing university in Berlin and brought their clothes to life with the attitude, ‘my pussy my choice’. Clothes with inflatables, as seen in their latest collection, are unfortunately not always going to be appropriate for everyday wear, but you can take on their ethos any day of the week. After looking to any girls who go against the body perception grain for inspiration, from Arvida Byström to Kim Kardashian, their collection is a loud and ironic declaration of what femininity is for youth in 2015 and all the more intriguing for combining hyper-feminine fabrics and styles with digi-prints and unabashed sexuality.
Here, we take a look at their not-for-Nans collection – shot by Millicent Hailes – and learn who the ultimate Namilia girl is.
You met at University of the Arts in Berlin, how long did it take for you to realise you wanted to work together? What attracted each of you to one other?
The first time we worked together was on our 2nd year of BA for a collection project in 2011. During that time we realised creatively we function almost like one person. We have the same expectations, spirit and drive and of course there are often discussions and arguments but that just makes the decision making process and development so much more fun and faster. It’s a constant exchange of ideas and thoughts and we really push each other to our limits. It is so rare that you meet someone with the same work ethic and ambitions for the future that it just felt right to start our own thing after college.
How do you go about designing as a duo, do you find you often have to compromise? What does each of you bring to the brand?
For us the design process is a constant discussion and research. We talk about everything that concerns, inspires and drives us in our lives and that all influences the visual outcome in the end. If you are alone with your thoughts you often get stuck and need someone else’s opinion just to move on so it’s great to be two people bouncing off ideas all the time. I would say that Emilia’s focus lies more in the garment and she focuses a lot more on things like details, quality and finishings whereas I am more about the big scales, fantasy and the story of the collections.
At what stage in the creation of your latest collection did the idea for an inflatable element come in? What are you trying to create with this unconventional aesthetic?
It came to us during one of the first stages of research. We were researching a lot about how clothing can be symbols of power and the representational value of historical garments like the 2D silhouettes of Rococo court gowns with the sole purpose to demonstrate the wealth and power of the wearer. We wanted to recreate that feeling of a larger than life silhouette in a modern and fun way so instead of using the traditional construction method of boning we wanted to play on the emptiness and illusion of clothing by using air to literally blow up the silhouette.
What’s your favourite piece from your latest collection?
We would say that the Kimi dress (inflatable latex dress with trompe l’oeil velvet heart effect) is one of the most successful silhouettes in this collection. The inflatable element in printed velvet really merges with the latex garment and floats around the body to create an optical illusion of a floating heart. Also the embroidery „think outside the cocks“ which is done in traditional goldwork technique on top of a sexmoji vinyl print is one of the main slogans of the collection.
Namilia describes itself as an ‘empowerment and celebration of a radically new, ironic and youthful understanding of femininity’, what’s your definition of femininity in 2015?
We feel that the word feminism has become this really heavy almost negative expression which is intuitively connected with a really aggressive, man hating movement from the past. For us feminism in 2015 should simply mean that you should be able to be whoever you want and to celebrate that choice.
Who’s your ultimate pin-up figure for the brand, who would you love to design for?
Each outfit in the collection is based on and dedicated to one of the leading characters in current pop culture like Miley Cyrus, Nicky Minaj or Kim Kardashian. We’d say that they are definitely our icons at the moment that we would love to design for but besides that we see any girl with the right attitude and spirit as part of our Namilia gang.
How do you imagine the typical Namilia girl?
For us the Namilia girl questions and rebels against common rules and perceptions of femininity. She stands up for what she believes in and ideally wears our clothes to demonstrate that be it on stage or on the streets.
You play with emojis for one of your prints and speak about how social media has empowered us to speak up, what is the most significant way social media has impacted your lives?
Instagram has been a major part of this project during almost all stages. In the beginning our research was almost entirely done via Instagram to look at really recent and instant material and the phenomenon of fan and stardom nowadays. Now as we are establishing a „brand“ it gives us the possibility to be in direct contact with our customers and fans. We get direct feedback from all around the world and can connect with them instantly and now Instagram has become our main presence in the internet.
If you were an emoji, which would you be?
Definitely the explosion emoji and you will find out why during our fashion show as part of Los Angeles Fashion Week in October so stay tuned!
What are your plans for the brand for the future, what are you working towards?
At the moment we are trying to figure out our own approach on how to establish a fashion label in 2015 and to really push the boundaries between reality and virtuality and art and fashion because for us garments, just like a piece of art are a visual platform to proclaim beliefs, conflicts and dreams as young creatives.
Words: Lily Walker
Photography: Millicent Hailes