In Conversation: Nayaab Tania

As Andrew Davis comes to the end of his tenure as oki-ni’s first guest editor, we’re excited to welcome the next creative taking the reins as part of our series of takeovers – step forward Nayaab Tania.

Stylist and creative director Nayaab has worked with some of the biggest names in the fashion industry, with shoots featured in publications including Dazed & Confused, Wonderland, Paper, Highsnobiety and Hunger to name but a few.

It makes sense that Nayaab would end up working in fashion – “my mum’s a tailor, so I’ve always been interested in clothing” she says, “I studied womenswear design at the London College of Fashion but when I graduated I realised it wasn’t the route I wanted to take, I didn’t want to be a designer. That’s when I started working as a freelance stylist – I’ve been doing it ever since, for about two-and-a-half years now”.

Though age is nothing but a number, the level of success she’s achieved at just 21 is impressive to say the least. She’s part of the new generation for whom social media has played an enormous part in their career, “it’s been implicit – I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. It’s such a fascinating medium, you know, it’s just moving so quickly – five years ago it was nothing like it is now” she says.

Her Instagram feed is a considered edit of personal style posts and the editorials that make up her repertoire; unique, often street-cast boys and girls in Gosha Rubchinskiy and Supreme mixed with Acne, Thom Browne and Maison Margiela, “I really like to blur the line between high fashion and streetwear – it’s basically non-existent now, which I think is really exciting. Who would have thought that Balenciaga would be creating the most hyped sneakers or that Gosha would collaborate with a house like Burberry? It would have seemed unfathomable a few years ago, but now it’s happening” says Nayaab.

Now, as her first shoot, Lock, goes live, we’re handing over to Nayaab. Read on as she reveals the inspiration behind her two AW17 editorials, the importance of diversity in fashion and where she sees oki-ni going from here.

Nayaab – welcome to oki-ni. Thank you very much!

Tell me a bit about your relationship with oki-ni. It’s not your first (oki-ni) rodeo is it? No it’s not, I’ve worked with oki-ni quite extensively actually. I built up a really good relationship with the in-house creative team through a number of shoots I was working on for various publications. Then I actually worked on a couple of features on the brand for Highsnobiety, one of which was shot in the Tate Modern. And I also contributed to the first two issues of oki-ni’s printed publication Volume. So we’re quite well acquainted, really.

What was your first experience of oki-ni? I remember looking at the site and the oki-ni Instagram and thinking I would love to work with them – the products really stood out to me amongst other digital retailers and historically they were really innovative. It was also one of the first places to really explore that line between streetwear and high fashion, and I loved the concept of the store, although I never actually got to go.

Your social media presence has been a key factor in propelling your career forward at a pretty impressive rate. Tell me a bit about how it has contributed to your success… It’s been completely integral. Instagram has basically become a CV for creatives. Pretty much all of my clients have approached me after seeing me on Instagram and some of the biggest projects I’ve been part of have been booked on the platform via DM – it’s the complete package, there’s no real need to even take it to email a lot of the time.

At first, I didn’t really take it that seriously to be honest, but once I realised how much of an impact my work was having when I did post it, I started to invest a lot more time into it. I had people like A$AP NAST, Vetements and MISBHV re-posting my work and over 100k notes on Tumblr. The power of social media is unparalleled now I think – it shouldn’t be underestimated!

Why do you think it has been so successful? And how would you suggest someone utilises the power of their own social media? Instagram allows you to completely art direct your own feed, curating it however you think best represents you or your brand – if those things can even be separated these days. A$AP Rocky has really invested in his – he actually has an art director that controls his feed and it’s the coolest thing ever. Otherwise, for me consistency is key, really honing your aesthetic and sticking to it – I mean, If you’re not in the position to hire your own social media art director that is (laughs).

You work with a diverse range of people in your work – people of colour, older men and women and so on. How important is diversity and inclusivity to you? It’s so important, more so now than ever – and I think the industry is really shifting and starting to reflect that. One of the best-received editorials I have ever worked on was a story for Idol in which we dressed the older generation in this generation’s streetwear. It was meant to be fun and humorous, but actually ended up making quite a bold statement as to the fashion industry’s fixation on age. The models we chose looked just as sick as the younger models I usually work with – they brought real character to the clothes and the story. Even now, a year or so on, it’s still getting posted and I’m still being tagged in it – Post Malone posted it a while back and all the brands we worked with did too. I hope people will take note and this is something we’ll start to see more of as time goes on.

Your first editorial, Lock, just launched your takeover. Tell me a bit about it, what was the inspiration behind it? I worked on this shoot collaboratively with photographer Hamish Stephenson and we wanted the story to feel very ‘British’, just four brothers roaming the streets of East London. The palette is quite muted and there’s quite a bit of Acne, J.W. Anderson and Margiela in there. It’s understated and pared-back – and inspired in part by Gucci’s pre-fall ’17 campaign. I wanted it to feel real, not staged – and it wasn’t really. The boys have a natural rapport and it was all very relaxed and easy.

Why did you choose those four particular boys? Why did you choose those four particular boys? I knew three of the models – Kelvin, James and Marcus – personally and knew that their brotherly relationship would portray exactly what I wanted from the story.

And what about your second shoot? The beautiful boy in that story is called George. We saw so many models throughout the castings and none were quite right – then George walked in and I knew he was the one. We wanted a kind of ethereal vibe and a lot of green open space, and George has this kind of angelic quality about him. He was perfect for it.

What were your stand-out pieces from the two editorials? I love the Margiela coat with the contrasting stitching. It’s totally classic but with the kind of twist that the house just does so well. And the wide-leg Comme des Garcons jeans too. Great wash, great silhouette – I’ve never seen anything like them from Comme before.

Who do you think the oki-ni man is? I don’t think there is such a thing to be honest, it could be anyone – the buy is really diverse. Margiela sits with Sunnei, Lanvin with Gosha, and Acne with Nike and adidas – it’s a real balance of influences that draws in a wide variety of guys. I think it’s great. Why limit yourself?

Where do you see oki-ni going in the future? I hope we’ll continue to see really strong editorial and that the brand list will grow again as the site re-establishes itself – the line-up is already strong but I can see it getting better and better as time goes on. I’d also love to see an oki-ni store open again. I saw Andrew said the same thing, so I’m going to back him up on that! It would be great to have a real destination for menswear again – there’s just nothing like it at the moment.