Namilia’s spring ’18 show was the only one I teared up to this season, and perhaps ever. But I wasn’t alone—directly across the runway, “Volcano” singer Brooke Candy and nightlife notable Gia Garrison were both visibly wide-eyed and in awe, perhaps because the collection catered specifically to powerful femmes like them, with its straightforward vaginal detailing, stripper overtones and juxtaposing Disney princess soundtrack. The opulent range reclaimed “slutty” style and infused it with a storybook romance that simultaneously tapped into our childhood memories and innate desire for sex—an erotic, alluring experience that was career-defining for Namilia and undoubtedly deserved a standing ovation.
Berlin-based designer duo Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl wanted to tackle the way society demonizes promiscuity, while pop culture actively promotes the virgin/whore dichotomy. This contradiction was clearly defined throughout Namilia’s NYFW presentation, with severely dramatized breasts, decorative nipple tassles and cheek-baring thongs. As gorgeous instrumentals from classics like Beauty and the Beast soared, metallic, machine-like explosions were spliced in with a girl repeatedly declaring, “I could get dick anytime I want.” Queer allusions to mermaids with whimsical makeup and towering platforms both twisted and softened Namilia’s nod to sexuality, echoing the way porn delivers wild, unrealistic fantasies.
Watch Namilia’s spring ’18 spectacular, above, and read Out’s exclusive interview with the burgeoning designer duo.
OUT: I saw sex, I saw mermaids, I saw Asian influence. Talk me through your spring ’18 inspiration.
Namilia: This season all started with research on female stereotypes in media and pop culture. It basically boils down to the holy virgin/whore dichotomy. We looked at Disney princesses, which stand for the ultimate traditional feminine image of a beautiful, passive girl waiting to be rescued by a man. On the other side, the objectification of women in the porn industry, which, in our opinion, has become the new sex education since sex is still such a taboo topic. We must start treating [sex] as a natural, celebrated aspect of life. Young people should be educated about it in all its complexity from the wonderful to the weird, the intimate to the insane, the prayerful to the powerful. When we create a healthy sexual culture, then we’ll be able to appreciate porn for the wild, unrealistic fantasy that it was always intended to be.
The Disney soundtrack was major. How did you hope it would amplify the collection?
We worked with Lukas Heerich on the soundtrack, who did amazing research. The clothes are so porn and on the edge of vulgar that we wanted to amplify that by laying these super sweet, childlike orchestra tunes on top of it to make it even more wrong and questionable—then to contrast it with the “I could get dick anytime I want” punchline to turn these classic Disney melodies into something contemporary and feminist.
You’ve previously featured penises on the runway, but this season saw a strong focus on vaginas. Why the shift?
For the last four seasons, we used male genitalia to bring down the patriarchy, and we wanted to move into a softer, more couture vibe. We felt it was about time to tackle the vagina motif and to worship and celebrate it. This collection is all about the hyper-feminine goddesses of the Namilia world. The impact that we would like to achieve with this, or any other collection, is simply to trigger a thought process in our audience. You may love or hate it, but you should stop, have a look at it and think about what it makes you feel.
The show was provocative and sexy, but still somehow romantic. Was this balance intentional?
Yes, definitely. This is also a reflection of the virgin/whore dichotomy we wanted to portray—the crazy contradiction pop culture is telling women to be. We wanted to visualize this by mixing something very very romantic and sweet, such as the rococo Disney princess references, with the most vulgar and cheap aesthetic of strip dancewear.
You collaborated with Kurt Johnson on styling. What were the goals there?
We just started working with Kurt and it was a truly great experience. He helped us on collaborations with jewelry designer Vicki Sarge and sunglass designer Poppy Lissimann, and it all came together to a great work of art. We would like to give a special shoutout to Kira Goodey Footwear, who handmade these beautiful venetian chopine platform heels. They were used back in the days when shit was piling up on the streets to keep the wearer high above the ground and we thought given the current political situation, it would be an ironic touch.
Who do you picture wearing these spring ’18 looks?
This collection is truly about the pure expression of our art. It’s not designed for anyone to wear, but rather to be seen as a visualization of a concept and story. We will work on more wearable pieces this fall to showcase a more ready-to-wear collection in February 2018. Like all other Namilia collections, we want to keep the conversation going about feminism, women’s rights, rebellion, freedom of expression, sexual freedom and simply to encourage people to be who they are and be able to express that through our pieces.