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In conversation with Nathalie Trad

Lebanese-born, Dubai-raised accessories specialist Nathalie Trad has become known for her asymmetric clutch bags inspired by our natural environment. This season, as she introduces leather for the first time, she shares with us how the brand came about and her source of inspiration, among other things

Fani Mari
Fani Mari,

Your designs are now available all over the world. What inspired you to create Nathalie Trad? And how has your previous experience helped you establish yourself as an accessories designer?
I developed a strong penchant for the asymmetric designs that today form the basis of my line while studying for a BA at Esmod in Paris. It was then, in 2007, that I discovered my personal design ethos: to take classic shapes – ubiquitous in our natural environment – and radically transform them, deconstructing and always trying to redefine the boundaries of fashion aesthetics.

In 2008, I relocated to New York to further pursue this vision. There, I obtained a BBA in Design and Management from Parsons School of Design and worked under the mentorship of an industry-leading accessories designer at Proenza Schouler – a highly regarded New York-based womenswear and accessories brand.

My time spent in the two international cities, coupled with the expertise gained through my degrees and my quest to re-examine the foundations of traditional accessory design, helped me forge a unique signature style laying the foundation for my inaugural collection.

From a design perspective, New York and Paris definitely served as a breeding ground for creativity. I got to reflect, absorb and take stock of my surroundings, then redirect this new flow of energy into my own work. Being in those cities truly pushed me to expand my thought processes and explore the realms of possibilities within my designs.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I like to think of my creations as architectural works on a small scale. I look to architecture from a physical aspect – geometry, proportion, 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 the Polygonia and Opiona 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 these pieces in particular is that they morph into something completely different every time you look at them from a different angle or perspective.

What is your favourite part of the creative process?
Every aspect of the creative process feeds my soul. Designing for me involves questioning everything in my surroundings in an attempt to re-interpret what I already know, being observational, and always trying to discover something new.

Accessories design gave me the puzzle I had been seeking: how to take traditional shapes, ubiquitous in our everyday lives, and radically transform them, deconstructing and recreating them from a new perspective.
Our collections fuse fine materials and techniques to produce artisanal gem-like clutches that we hope are destined to become collector’s pieces that are both irresistible objects of desire as well as timeless precious heirlooms that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

Each season, we experiment with our materials and work towards discovering new inlay techniques, striving to push the boundaries of design conceptually and technically according to the theme of our collection.

Does your personal style influence your designs? How would you describe your style?
My clothing style is quite simple; I usually wear monochromatic or solid colours and non figure-hugging shapes. I like to make a statement with accessories. What I wear is a reflection of who I am, so it is important that my look represents my personality. My clothes are usually the canvas and my accessories the paint.

Do you have a favourite style out of all your designs since you started?
It’s difficult to choose, but if I had to pick one it would be the Polygonia. What I love most about it is that it was one of the first sculptural clutches I created and truly embodies what I aim to achieve when I create a piece.

Do you find that women in the Middle East buy different things from your collection compared to those in Europe?
The Middle Eastern woman of today is starting to embrace regional designers, opening up to wearing emerging talent and making bolder fashion choices, especially when it comes to accessories. We are starting to notice that there is now a certain pride for local consumers in wearing home-grown talent. Their support is extremely important for boosting the rapidly expanding local fashion industry and, as a designer, very exciting to witness. The European consumer has been equally supportive thus far and I feel has truly understood what our brand stands for and appreciated the story behind our clutches. Indeed, our design philosophy is one that attributes the highest importance to innovation and the creation of unique pieces.

What is your biggest accomplishment since founding your brand in 2013?
My biggest accomplishment is having a brand that has an international presence, loyal customers and followers from around the globe and a wonderful team that works tirelessly and passionately alongside me and that truly believes in what we do every day.

And your biggest struggle?
Our clutches are now sold in over 20 cities around the world. We are present in many different markets across the Middle East, Asia, North America and Europe with our label displayed alongside the most respectable international brands.

Every season we strive to create sculptural, innovative clutches that are both irresistible objects of desire as well as handcrafted precious heirlooms that can be passed down from one generation to the next.

However, it cannot be denied that the accessories market is a crowded one and that in order to stand out, one must create an uncontested market space. This is specifically what we work towards. In my mind, it will never be an accomplished achievement but one that is a constantly evolving goal that drives us and encourages us to keep progressing.

Which are your favourite restaurants and shops to visit when in London?
My favourite shops are Browns, Selfridges and Joseph, and for restaurants Nac and The Palomar.

If you could go on a shopping trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I think Tokyo or Morocco could be very interesting destinations; they are high on my bucket list at the moment.

What’s next for Nathalie Trad?
We have lots of exciting projects brewing which we cannot wait to reveal in due course. In the meantime, you will find that our next collection is a great new departure bursting with new shapes, colour, fun and positivity.

It is very important for us to maintain the design ethos that is at the core of our brand: a design philosophy that attributes the highest importance to innovation and the creation of unique and timeless pieces that speak to the modern woman of today. This is a woman who is fluent in the language of art and design, and who is not necessarily looking for trends so much as special pieces to add to her wardrobe and hold on to. 



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