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Interview: Na Di

Tuesday 03 March 2015

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Words Ailis Mara

After London Collections: Men, Spindle were left with nothing but sweet thoughts of Na Di Studios’ Autumn/Winter 2015 collection. The designer relocated to London seven years ago where she then expanded on her love for menswear design.

Na Di‘s AW15 collection comes in tow with academia related inspirations and a helpful recap of school days beautifully mixed with classic men’s tailoring in an innovative approach to menswear. The childlike essence to Na Di‘s designs means that whilst the pieces are loyal to her original passions of mens tailoring and executing pieces suited for the classic gentlemen, they also allow her personality to shine through. And that is what sets her apart from the rest.

What originally made you want to study menswear design?

Men’s life and dressing styles influenced me a lot. I found that there are lots of ideas in my mind to play around with menswear designs from the inspirations, designing, fabric sourcing, pattern cutting, fitting, to the manufacturing etc. I found that every process is very interesting for me. I love menswear design not just because of my interests but also because I was so inspired from London as well.


How was your time at LCM a few weeks back?

It was first time to show at LCM, I felt very excited but a little bit nervous too, because it means more people will see my collection and meet my brand.

How do you feel your AW15 collection developed from your summery and colourful SS15 pieces?

Autumn and winter collection is always a challenge for me, but I love to design winter clothes. I can use more quality, textured fabric, and materials to represent my designs. In my mind, every season of clothes can be used with either warm or cold tones. But I decided to adopt more warm feeling of colors for the AW15 collection, because my philosophy for men’s winter clothes is to avoid cold feeling. Moreover, I used more neutral colors, because the university atmosphere inspired me, especially the university professors who specialized in mathematics and physics studies. In addition, as I always keep the classic gentleman’s style in my mind, without a doubt, this collection has quite strong vision sense of modern gentlemen’s feeling. At same time, classic-tailoring techniques always have been involved in my collections.


So the AW15 collection is a translation of the classic gentleman of today, so based on that, what do you see as the classic gentleman of today?

Today, gentlemen keep the classic and elegant dressing styles but with something slightly different, it can be the details on clothes and accessories, such as little creative details on collars, cuffs, pockets etc. many people call them modern gentlemen. However, in my opinion, classic gentleman is kind of a life style and a philosophy at today, not only just the aspect, but their behavior is very important too. For example, if a man dresses classic and elegant, but doesn’t have a classic gentleman’s heart and attitude, then he’s not a real gentleman for me. Additionally, I think men should wear properly but with something a little different which is more eye catching.

I feel like the modern man needs a lot of stationary based on your pieces, which I also adore by the way. You were inspired by university Professors, were these of your own university Professors?

No, my own university professors did not inspire me because I studied in the arts and design department. I was inspired from university professors who specialised in teaching mathematics and physics. One of the reasons is because I watched a recent released movie called “The Theory of Everything”, which was talking about the Cambridge University student and physicist Stephen Hawking.


What made you what to combine this stationary aesthetic with Na Di’s classic tailoring?

Stationaries were one of inspired elements of my AW15’s collection, as I mentioned above, I was inspired by university atmosphere and university professors that specialised in mathematics and physics. I adopted stationary aesthetic based on my design philosophy: classic tailoring.

Which new techniques have you used in your fourth collection?

I developed various techniques in my AW15’s collection, from different embroidery techniques to pattern cuttings. For instance, I applied many types of embroidery skills in this collection, even on one piece, such as embroidery patch, applique, and imitation hand-embroidery. For pattern cutting, I reinvented standard bomber jacket to extension the length to cuff, and filled with white goose down, then became long bomber down coat. Also, the detachable down coat, leather biker jacket combined with blazers are all signature products of this collection too. One of the most iconic products that I created was the reversible jumper made with 100% cashmere, seamless, contrast colors, and with the most difficult techniques, which is the restricted colors and patterns, because it is very difficult to knit bright colorful pattern jumpers by using natural cashmere threads, and they’re very costly.


There is a very childlike feel to your designs, how do you keep the balance between that and ensuring it stays suitable for the men your brand aims at?

Childlike feeling is kind of the method that I would like to represent my own sense of humor in my brand. Also I’d like to involve something not too serious in my designs to make them look more relaxed. A mixture between classic and contemporary is my design philosophy, and keeping the balance between classic, traditional, and high class with creative and artistic ideas is my mission of designing. My goal is to innovate classic gentleman’s style, and my target customers are the same with me, they love classic but also can’t lose creativeness. I really respect classic tailoring, bespoke, and hand made processes.

Where do you see your classic tailoring style take you in the future?

I respect and admire classic gentlemen’s style, I will use my own way to innovate modern gentleman’s style. I’ll keep studying and developing traditional tailoring skills in the future, as I know there’s still lots of skills and knowledge that I have to learn from predecessors. My aim is to inject contemporary elements to classic items.