Fashion revolves around speed. It’s often driven by the next trend, the next bag, the next piece for Instagram, faster, faster, faster. Depending on the time of year, my account balance and Instagram usage, I’ll let myself get swept away and want an off-the-shoulder blouse / some mirrored sunglasses / a Jane Birkin tribute picnic basket RIGHT THIS MINUTE. And I do get a kick out of it. But more often than not I find the frequency with which fashion moves product exhausting. The faster it moves, the less I enjoy my purchases for long and the more I’m left feeling like I can’t keep up anyway. If you read yesterday’s post, you can probably tell that I’m thinking a lot about being more discerning about how and what I shop. And I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way. There’s been a change in the industry lately towards creating more essential and lasting pieces.
Designer Nobieh Talaei is at the forefront of that movement.
Her designs are the opposite of fast fashion: pieces that are meant to last not for a season, but for years, in easily combinable colours and versatile cuts. For instance, the trousers that Nobieh wears at our meeting can be tied in a multitude of ways and fit whether you wear a size 34 or a size 42. And while her designs are easy to wear, they’re also instantly memorable.
„The fashion that I want to design isn’t superficial or loud“, she says in a reassuringly calm voice. „I often start with a simple geometric form, a rectangle for example or a triangle, which I then start arranging into shapes. The basic forms are quite rigid, but they take on an almost painterly quality through the draping and the fabrics. I often think of my grandmother when I’m designing. She was a seamstress with nomadic ancestors and turned the same simple pieces into ever new silhouettes simply by wrapping and tieing them in different ways. Just like her ancestors had done.“
Nobieh Talaei – she shortened her name to Nobi Talai for the label – was born in Teheran and moved to Berlin when she was eleven years old. She refers back to her heritage in every collection and is surrouned by it daily. Her studio is filled with antique felt rugs that she has hung as tapestries and books on the nomadic lifestyle. „They had to adapt their clothes to travelling and make them as simple and comfortable as possible. A blanket would be turned into a cape. A cape into a skirt“, she says. „I’d like to inspire women to be just as creative and decide for themselves how they want to style their clothes. My pieces are meant to become favourites that you can pull out of your wardrobe again and again. I pay a lot of attention to adaptability.“
You can tell how relevant her convictions are by how quickly her label has taken off: Founded in 2015; exhibition and solo show as part of the Berliner Mode Salon in the summer of that same year; debut in Paris in September 2016, where she has been showing during Prêt à Porter week ever since. Still, she took her time. 13 years to be exact. After completing her studies at ESMOD in Berlin she worked in retail and interior design. Her taste is evident in every corner of the atelier, which she has furnished with a mix of mid-century modern designs and Persian art. Personal pieces that radiate the same warmth that her clothes do. And while the years in interior design have schooled her eye, the retail experience fostered her entrepreneurial sense. „It was always my dream to have my own label, but I didn’t feel ready straight after school“, she says. „The advantage of the years I spent doing retail: I got to know that side of the business inside out.“
Despite her experience it took some courage to strike out on her own. At 38 Nobieh is older than a lot of her colleagues occupying the Berlin fashion scene. But also more steadfast. „You have to be very aware of what you want to achieve and stick to a plan. Having a plan helps when things aren’t moving at the pace you want them to and you get frustrated. It makes you realise: OK, I can take a few steps back without giving up everything.“
Nobieh hopes that her plan will lead to her own store. One day. „It takes time to introduce buyers and customers to a new brand and to the message behind it“, she says. „It’s different when people can come to your store, feel the pieces, see the workmanship and get a sense of how I shape the fabrics. I imagine it’s going to be like my living room, where Nobi Talai tells her stories.“
Pictures taken at the Atelier Nobi Talai und from FW 2017 presentation in Paris.