Interview: Fashion Designers, Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl of NAMILIA
Photos / Eva Tuerbl
Model / Katie Kuiper
Hair + Makeup / Eva Dieckhoff
Story / Alyssa Hardy
While the ‘anti-fashion’ movement is still quite underground, it’s exactly what the fashion industry needs right now. NAMILIA, a brand started by two young students Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl in Berlin, has taken this concept and made it thrive. The collections of NAMILIA are almost cartoon-like with each piece serving their season’s manifesto to “join the resistance,” “feel the heat,” or “my pussy my choice.” In the last two years that they’ve been around, the brand has burst onto the scene, showing at fashion week, and getting the industry buzzing about the two newbies making major waves in the fashion world. We get a chance to talk to these shining stars about how their creations have garnished the world with design and wonder.
How did you get into fashion design?
NAMILIA was founded in 2015 by myself and Emilia Pfohl. We met while attending the University of the Arts Berlin. After the BA I went on to earn a Master’s degree from the Royal College of Art London and returned to Berlin to launch NAMILIA with Emilia. Fashion has always played a significant role in our lives, and already in our 2nd year of BA, we decided that we would start a brand after school.
For being such a young brand, you’ve seen so much success. Why do you think that is?
Thank you! We have had two incredibly successful years since we started the brand. I think that’s because we have a very strong and specific vision and don’t compromise that and follow trends or other movements which are currently out there. We want to create something truly on our own and define our own world and aesthetic rules. I think we have been working very hard and were lucky enough to meet some incredible people that supported us along the way to help us where we are today.
What inspires your work?
I think themes like girl power, youth culture, rebellion and questioning existing rules and expectations are always the main driving force and for each season we visualize this through different visual worlds which we clash together. Every collection we do as designers evolve and grow with the world around us. We always want to reflect on the issues and events happening right now.
Your collections have a loud, almost cartoony style but yet it’s wearable. Can you explain the aesthetic a little bit?
NAMILIA operates two brand directions. One is the runway collection with super over the top pieces which are for show, editorial and runway purposes only. These one-off art pieces tell our story and concepts in a very loud way and we aim to make them as impressive and elaborate as possible. Then after each show, we translate these conceptual pieces into more wearable garments which are super important for our customers. For us, fashion also has to function and to really connect to the wardrobe of a real person and by producing a couture and ready-to-wear line we can balance both sides, the fantasy and the reality.
You are anti-fashion in a way, but yet you participate in fashion week, why is that? Do you feel like your brand has made a statement by participating?
Fashion Week is the most covered platform for a designer. As young designers without a lot of financial possibilities, we are extremely grateful to even be offered a spot during fashion week to showcase our work. Of course for the future when we get bigger and have more impact we would love to reinvent how to present a collection and what a collection means anyway. There are already lots and lots of exciting ideas which we can’t wait to turn into reality sometime in the future.
Who would be your dream NAMILIA fan?
On one side we really look up to the pop culture icons wearing our clothes which also inspire our collections. It is always an honor to see our pieces on the biggest contemporary influencers of youth and pop culture which gives a lot of awareness and credibility to our brand. But we are also extremely happy and excited about every single person out there saving up their money to be able to purchase a piece from us. From the feedback we get from a lot of our customers we can provide a product with a lot of message and meaning and it makes them feel empowered wearing it which is what NAMILIA stands for.