The New Intimacy with Designer Nensi Dojaka

07.05.2020 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

Designer Nensi Dojaka’s vision is strictly about the modern woman – and that means embracing her in all her polarities. AW20 marks the designer’s first season with Fashion East, and already it’s clear her message is as powerful as the designs it informs. A recent Central Saint Martins MA graduate, it’s her BA in Lingerie Design that serves as the underpinnings of a delicate interplay, where strength and vulnerability are held together by the finest thread, or just-concealed among collaged layers of sheer silk. Talking to Twin about subverting sensuality with a female-first mindset, the Albanian-born creative tells us just why empowerment is shaping her approach to femininity. 

How did your label begin?

After finishing my MA, SSENSE contacted me about buying the MA collection, and their trust and support pushed me towards working on my own brand. I followed with another capsule for SS20, and now AW20 with Fashion East, and things started to evolve naturally.

Where do you find inspiration?

At the beginning of each collection, I always have a ‘mood’ I want to convey. My woman is out there to stun, but she does it discreetly and this gives her a flavour of danger and fun. After that, I start to drape it all on the mannequin and it comes naturally as a result of visual research. My references of ‘90s fashion will always be there as most of my fashion research stems from ‘90s magazines, and looking a lot at designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Jean Colonna. 

Your designs are intimately feminine – what made you want to explore femininity through your collections?

I studied lingerie during my BA so naturally, my work is about silhouettes that complement the female body. It is about embracing the strong and the soft duality of modern womanhood. I love working in the same amount of detail and scale that lingerie has, the mini details like straps, rings, which I use a lot. 

I like the way lingerie contours the body because of the way it’s constructed; how some delicate straps can hold and create the dynamics of the whole piece. There’s always some bra elements in my work. I try to come up with unconventional shapes like the circle bra part of a top in AW20, which is held together by a contrasting elastic strap and goes across the bust in a very graphic way. 

There’s both a strength and a vulnerability to your designs. How would you describe the message behind your aesthetic? 

I think my woman is complex and her beauty stands in the fact that there is a perfect marriage between severity and delicacy in her, and I try to translate this idea onto my clothes. By distorting the perception that comes along certain materials; creating delicacy from severity, and vice versa. 

To mirror that duality of softness and severity in women, I work with different levels of transparency intermingled together in every piece; some bolder drapes against lighter bits which are placed next to each other in an asymmetric, more erratic way. The way the drapes fall onto one another in a more “unexpected” way is to distort that notion of being just pretty and give it a twist into something more aggressive. The sheer fabrics also allow for me to play around with layers, which gives a more ethereal look and also serves as an “armour” by covering up despite being sheer.

Why do you feel fashion is the best way to communicate your message?

Because it is the wearer that brings that message to life and I love the relationship between the wearer and the garment and the meanings attached to it.

How do you want women to feel when wearing your pieces?

Beautiful, strong, alluring yet mysterious. 

How has your connection to London and Albania shaped your design approach?

Both places have shaped the way I think for sure. In Albania, I had the luck to have the help of amazing tutors who contributed to my well-rounded knowledge. And when I came to UK, it opened up even more possibilities for me. Both places have a nice juxtaposition of chaos and order that really inspires me and is reflected in my work and the way I see things.

How do you see the fashion industry adapting in this time of uncertainty? 

The pace is suddenly much slower but I see brands passionately trying to move forward despite the difficulties, and of course adapting to finding ways around it without having the comfort of being at the studio with the team or the usual cash flow. 

What have you got planned for your next steps? 

I’m looking forward to showing my next collection in September, and figuring out the best way to do it to ensure safety during these tough times. 

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A Note on Modern Irish Design

20.03.2020 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

What is modern Irish design? For a such a small island nation, it’s a complex answer. There mightn’t be an obvious linear evolution of what we might consider a region’s design history, in the way we can trace design movements in say, Germany, Scotland or Sweden. Instead, there exists a rich heritage of crafting and making, which, over time, has resulted in an aesthetic that is rich, roughly hewn and distinctly Irish. 

This is not to say that Irish fashion designers can be described as a neat coterie. Modern Irish designers are just as likely to be influenced by the wild craggy cliff faces of the west as they are the urban grit of Limerick city; they reference folkloric narrative, as Simone Rocha did for SS’20 when she reimagined the Wren boys with their gaudy painted faces and straw suits; and they pursue the horrors that emerged from the sinister allegiance of Church and State, the tentacles of which still grip some parts of modern Ireland, as Roisin Pierce’s explored in her debut collection Mná ì bhláth (Women In Bloom).

Underpinning this storytelling is the tangible history of textile making that can be found in nearly every corner of the country. Linen from Derry, lace from Carrickmacross, tweed from wild north-west Donegal, and of course, Irish wools. These ancient traditions of weaving and spinning are both ancient and thoroughly modern, at risk of being a dying art yet vital to the industry well beyond the borders within they are created. Ahead of her SS’20 collection for Alexander McQueen, designer Sarah Burton decamped to Northern Ireland for several days to study the techniques of local textile makers. 

And what of the next generation of designers? The aesthetic of the young Irish designers poised on the edge of the industry cannot be contained in a few words. It is a motely mix, a heady combination of Celtic tradition and ‘foreign’ influence; for this is no longer the homogenous Catholic nation it was half a century ago.

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Talent Watch: Sophie Harris-Taylor

05.02.2010 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Sophie Harris-Taylor, 21, Londo
What: Photographer

On her work: “I use a documentary process to capture the lives of the people closest to me. I like looking at the mundane – moments of intimacy, vulnerability, boredom.”

Influences: “My friends – I love the intimacy I share with the people I photograph, every one of them inspires me to take more and more images.”

Inspiration: “Nan Goldin and the painter Gerhard Richter have definitely inspired me the most over the years. More recently I’ve been looking at the incredible work of Maarit Hotheri and Nigel Shaffran.”

Sophie’s favourite photographs: “I change my mind on a daily basis. At the moment I’m working on my first book – these are the first images I’ve chosen to start the book – I haven’t got bored of these yet!” (See above and below)

Not many people know: “I don’t actually know how to use cameras!”

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Boy (talent) watch: Grant Thomas

27.01.2010 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Grant Thomas, 17, London
What: Fashion photographer

On his work: “Some of my best ideas for shoots have come from the most mundane situations. The other day I was smoking on the ledge of a second storey window with Debbie [his stylist] and I decided to base a shoot on that.”

Influences: “The insanely talented Sebastian Kim, and the few close friends I surround myself with.”

Grant’s favourite photograph: “I’m a sucker for liking my most recent work – so at the moments it’s an image of the strong-faced model, Georgia Davies (below). She’s standing tough, but elegantly, wearing a vintage floral dress, a white leather corset and the tallest shoes known to man. Truly good photos have the ability to make me cry – so I like people to feel something from my photography too.”

Not many people know: Grant’s originally from Wales and moved to London by himself when he was 16 years old.

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Talent watch: Somang Lee

12.11.2009 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Somang Lee, 27, Stuttgart
What: Illustrator
Where: Royal College of Art

Somang says: “There is a certain magic about illustration. It allows you to tap into things that go under the surface; inner worlds that you can take from a piece of paper. One of the pieces of my work pictured is taken from a series I did called ‘An Arctic Tale’ (picture above), which were displayed at the Bargehouse earlier this year.  The other is part of a series of etchings inspired by Jonathan Safran Foe’s novel ‘Extremely loud and incredibly close’ (below). This was an exploration of two people who are physically close but have vast inner distances to cross to be truly close to each other.”

Inspiration: Stories – writing combined with illustration make the perfect pair.
Not many people know: Somang takes ‘Free the inner voice’ classes to explore the subconscious in her voice and to help connect with her inner self, which she can then express through her illustrations.

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Talent Watch: Alice Moloney

30.10.2009 | Art , Blog | BY:

Who: Alice Moloney, 22, London
What: Illustrator
Where: Royal College of Art

Alice says: “This watercolour portrait (pictured) is from a series entitled ’10 til 3′. It’s based on a week spent at Newent House Day Centre for the elderly. My final degree show piece is based on criminals. I like the fact that you can never tell who really is evil, and who isn’t, just by looking at mug shots. Some of the characters look completely innocent, but they’re not.”

Influences: Marlene Dumas and Uwe Wittwer.

Obsession: Collecting unicorns, vintage glasses and old photographs from car-boot sales.

Projects: Illustrating a set of commissioned books; one of which is based on the county of Middlesex.

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