Nao Serati’s fearless approach to fashion designing has made him a trailblazer in the fashion world and he is ready to bend more rules with his upcoming fashion line.
Nao is soft spoken and reserved but his designs roar with personality. The young designer has been mesmerising fashion lovers with his gender bending and unisex designs since 2014 – forging a unique path for himself as a black designer. But, he reveals that he simply wanted to make beautiful clothes without any agenda.
“I think making beautiful clothes is more important than holding on to gender identity,” he explains.
“Do you feel beautiful? Do you feel comfortable? Those are the questions that are important to me because I don’t intend it for anybody or gender, and that’s why it’s perhaps seen as gender bending or non-binary.”
Last year, the designer published a look-book that was hailed on social media. It showcased masculine models in androgynous clothes which included bodysuits.
Nao explains that since he launched the line, in 2014, he is beginning to learn that he can use clothes to communicate his opinions.
“As you grow as a designer you become clearer about what you want to communicate with your clothes and it evolves over time,” he shares.
“I want to make sure that we are living in our true skin. I believe having access to something that is visually different will give us access to our true selves.
All the conversations we are having right now are conversations we should be having. How do we define masculinity as young people? Is the way we dress based on what we discover on our own or are we still being forced to wear a suit and tie? Those are very important questions.”
Despite winning over fashion critics and conquering runways, Nao reveals that people still have this perception that his clothes are not wearable on regular days. “I think they are wearable, you just have to be confident and be someone who is interested in living.”
The LISOF (School of fashion) graduate says he fell in love with fashion while studying art at the National School of Arts in Johannesburg. He loved the concept of bringing his ideas to life.
“I found fashion to be more giving because people get to take those ideas and becoming the art, instead of me creating the picture.
It’s much more gratifying when people create their own pictures in the clothes because it’s them pushing the story forward in their own way. It’s like going to the movies but you are the movie,” he says.
As a progressive designer, Nao says his process includes living and meeting new people. “You can’t just rely on the internet for research; you also have to get that education directly from life.”
He adds that his designs come to life in the pattern and fabric phase, not while sketching. The designer believes that when you are psychically creating a garment you are able to implement interesting ideas and you also see what does not work.
Nao states that he is not afraid to call himself a young designer because he is still hungry to learn.
“There is a big problem where we as young designers think we are big designers just by getting a few likes on Instagram.
We must humble ourselves and always be open to learning and also challenge ourselves. It’s also important to treat our brands as businesses and not play around because people can tell when you are serious about your work. You have to treat it like a nine to five,” he shares.
The designer believes that there are a lot of great young designers but there is a huge lack of support.
“There is support that we don’t even know we need as young designers,” he adds.
“Financial support is the big one and it does not mean a huge lump sum of money, just buy our clothes at the correct price. Don’t negotiate, support me first.
Sometimes it doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be marketing.
Because we lack such support, we tend to do things ourselves, which is dangerous, because it’s not just the designer that makes the brand – it’s a team.”
Nao will be showcasing at the upcoming South African Menswear Week (Spring Summer 2017) in Cape Town. The designer says spaces like the fashion week are a great challenge for a young designers but terrifying.
“As a young designer there is a still a lot I need to learn and it’s hard when there are deadlines and also the pressure of being watched by critics,” he explains.
“At fashion week, every designer is out to kill, and if you are going to slack, you will be left behind.”
When asked what to expect, he is shy about the details but does mention that people will see his growth as a designer. He urges people to drop expectations and rather keep an open mind.
As a businessman he shares that this is just the beginning for the brand because he wants to conquer Africa.
“Being respected as a mainstream fashion brand in the continent would be great.
As much as I would love to make it big in Europe I wouldn’t be comfortable if no one knew me in Africa because charity begins at home. I need to know that whatever happens, I am good at home.”
Nao will be showcasing at the South African Menswear Week on 07 July in Cape Town.
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