Wearable sculptures

07 Nov 2016
5 min read
FOUR catches up with Beirut-born designer Nathalie Trad, who is making waves on the international fashion scene…

Culture is embedded in me, it is running in my veins, imprinted on my identity. This is where my passion for design was born, this is where my journey began..

Nathalie Trad is a fashion accessories designer and the founder of her own label, NATHALIE TRAD. Born in Lebanon, she has lived in Paris and New York and now resides between Dubai and Beirut, while her architecturally-inspired accessories line takes hold on an international scale.

How does your background inspire your brand and designs?

I grew up in a particularly creative family, my father is in advertising, my mother owns a beautiful flower shop and my sister is also a fashion designer. The environment I grew up in, witnessing the transformation of a city and being part of a family and environment of art and design contributed tremendously to my appetite for the design world.

You have connections to Beirut, Paris and New York—how does each city inspire you?

I was born in Lebanon and grew up in the Middle East. Culture is embedded in me, it is running in my veins, imprinted on my identity. This is where my passion for design was born, this is where my journey began. At the age of 17, I moved to Paris, then to New York City, which served as a breeding ground for creativity. I got to reflect on, absorb and take stock of everything I saw and lived. When I create accessories, my personality seeps into every aspect of my designs. My entire collection is a true reflection of my identity. My aesthetic is undeniably middle-eastern with western touches, a marriage of East and West.

You were mentored by Proenza Schouler in New York. How did Proenza Schouler influence you during this time and later?

At Proenza Schouler in NY, I worked in the accessories design department under the mentorship of an industry-leading accessories designer on every aspect of the creation of the accessories collections for shoes, handbags and jewellery. From the research stages, to the birth of a concept, the drawing and designing stages to the production stages. It was a hands-on experience that provided me with the building blocks to start my own accessories line. It really allowed me to gain a grasp of the nuts and bolts of working in a small business and an understanding of the challenges I may face in the future.

What is your design philosophy?

The basis of our brand ethos is to take classic shapes—ubiquitous in our natural environment—and radically transform them, deconstruct and always try to redefine the boundaries of fashion aesthetics. My aim when designing is to first and foremost create unique sculptural pieces that invite curiosity, fusing contrasting material combinations that yield an overall design style that is architectural, experimental and highlygeometric.

Aside from fashion, what influences your work?

I look to architecture from a physical aspect: geometry, proportions, ergonomics, structure for inspiration but beyond that, I study architectural principles and ideologies as a means to create context and drive my process. Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Walter Gropius, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are some of the architects whose aesthetics and philosophies have impacted my design thinking and some of my pieces. There is no direct translation between a specific architectural design and my clutches. Nevertheless, I would say some of our clutches embody a concept frequently applied by Zaha Hadid: “There are 360 degrees, why stick to one?” This principle of multiple viewpoints also known to cubists is what I strive to apply in my designs. What I love most about how this applies to clutches is that it allows them to morph into completely different pieces every time you look at them from a different angle or perspective.

Was there a moment when you d

ecided to focus on accessory design or was it more of a natural progression?

I never envisioned myself designing solely creating accessories. I wanted to create wearable sculptures that broke away from the mold. When I put pencil to paper I let my imagination take an unrestricted journey of its own and it led me to handbags.

Please tell us about your latest collection and its themes.

In search of Utopia 2.0, we set off from an almost uninhabitable earth on an exploratory voyage through a wormhole, through space, through time, across the cosmos, emerging at the other end, on the outer edge of the Milky Way.

Moving further and further away, a dwindling picture of Earth, the shimmering rings of Saturn, the explosive nebulae formations fill us with wonder. Infinite, mirage-like scenes, where science and art seem to converge and leave us pondering our place in the universe.
Emerging from the wormhole, surrounded by vivid erratic whorls of deep hues, a pulsating halo of dust and light skyrockets past us like an echo, abruptly revealing a surreal, almost incomprehensible planet.

The new world rolls into view: a desolate world of eroded mountains and charcoal peaks, coated with a layer of black powder and rocks. Over time, violent winds have tortured and sculpted these soundless zeniths into surrealistic shapes, like icebergs in an ocean of sand. Covering the surface of this deserted planet, the macabre and dramatic landscape slowly creeps up to the city’s edge. Towering monoliths preside over the abandoned metropolis with strong streamlined forms. Bold lines and pure black surfaces contrast with shining metallics of steel and gold. These industrialised art deco structures command the city with an air of futuristic machine age architecture.

Utopia 2.0 is a depiction of every step of our transcendental journey from Earth through intergalactic skies, finally stumbling across an unfinished city swathed in unreality, built as big and tall as possible for no defined reason.

Tell us about the design process for you—what goes in to creating a Nathalie Trad piece?

Designing for me is a process that involves questioning everything in my surrounding in an attempt to reinterpret what I already know, being observational and always trying to discover something new. Accessory design gave me the puzzle I have been seeking: how do I take traditional shapes, ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and radically transform them, deconstructing and recreating them from a new perspective.

Who is your greatest inspiration?

I would say my muse is my surrounding environment. I am inspired by everything that I see in my day-to-day life and by my travels. I constantly push myself to observe and scrutinise my surroundings, and to constantly question and reinterpret what I see. In order to do so I like to go by the motto: “smell with your eyes, hear with you nose, see with your ears and taste with your hands.”

On a more personal level, I look at the people that are in my everyday life for inspiration, from my husband to my family, friends, colleagues and even passing encounters. There are qualities in each of these people that I admire and aspire to, passion, selflessness, work ethic, loyalty, creativity and ambition. It is a combination of the qualities I get from all of these people that pushes me to be the best person I can be in every aspect of my life.

What items do you always pack when travelling?

A pair of jeans, one of my clutches, sneakers and my Kerastase shampoo!

What are your favourite cities?

Beirut, New York and Tokyo.

Where is home?

Beirut and Dubai.

Find out more about Natalie and her design here |nathalietrad.com