LIFE BY THE SEA – New Waves: NATHAN MOY
Nathan Moy is easily recognised for his incredibly fashionable exterior. He helped making an outfit for Beyonce while interning at Alexander Wang, and for his graduate collection, he presented a procession of industrialised sea-nymphs, seeking to bridge the gap between business and pleasure. We spoke to Nathan about life by the sea, luxury/hoarding dichotomies and white favoritism in the international fashion industry.
Nathan was born in Chicago, but grew up in Hong Kong, only to return to the States for boarding school during high school years. From an early age, he was passionate about drawing and illustration, and when discovering fashion aged 16, he returned to Hong Kong to do a more suitable art program to work on his portfolio. He was finally admitted at Central Saint Martin’s foundation course, and later, Fashion Design with Marketing.
Besides the sewn garment, Nathan particularly loves expressing himself through photography, “particularly with film since I lean more towards the low fidelity side on the aesthetic spectrum,” he comments. “But my favorite creative expression is any form of illustration, even digital; sadly I don’t get much time these days to just sit and draw.”
Nathan’s graduate collection took coastal life as a starting point, and his girls can best be described as a kind of aestheticised, industrialised mermaid stranded on the beach in 2015, caught and adorned in the waste products of industrial fishing. For his initial research, he gathered historical images of English and Guernsey fishermen in their work attire, amalgamating it with references to Hawaiian traditional clothing as well as ‘50s surfing culture, seeking “to bridge the gap between business and pleasure,” he explains.
“I HAD THIS IDEA OF A GIRL WITH HOARDING TENDENCIES WHO TRAVELED BY A FISHING-TRAWLER SHIP TO HAWAII IN THE FIFTIES, NICKING BIKINIS AND SARONGS ON THE BEACH, GETTING LOCKED-IN AT A NIGHTCLUB SO SHE YANKS DOWN THE CHANDELIERS AND FASHIONS THEM INTO CLOTHING, AND SCURRIES OFF WITH HER ISLAND REMNANTS FROM SHORE BACK TO SHIP.”
“When traveling along the southeastern English coast of Dungeness, and interviewing fishermen who worked on trawlers, I was captivated by the way they layered their workwear, like those inspired by Henry Freeman’s cork vests worn over pea coats and oilskins.” The idea of outerwear layered underneath accessories or clothing traditionally considered as undergarments features throughout the collection, with hints to Pacific tropicalist prints and traditional tropes of leisure here and there. As such, his collection evokes the rough naval culture simultaneously with the transatlantic tropes of vacation, without being ‘historical’ as such: “To me, it was always more important to re-contextualize historical garments and construct an atmosphere with varied references,” he says. “I was drawn to the irony, and having a narrative, along with the off-beat-ness of wearing bras over knits and outerwear. I had this idea of a girl with hoarding tendencies who traveled by a fishing-trawler ship to Hawaii in the fifties, nicking bikinis and sarongs on the beach, getting locked-in at a nightclub so she yanks down the chandeliers and fashions them into clothing, and scurries off with her island remnants from shore back to ship.” Get it?
His choice of fabrics similarly negotiate the dichotomies of seaside life, as he recontextualizes traditionally ‘poor’ materials, like recycled plastics and tarpaulin, by treating them as luxurious textiles. “I backed it with fusing, but you had to be very careful in bonding it by hand by section as the heat would shrink the plastic regardless, causing the fusing to bubble,” he explains. “Yet too much heat will entirely melt it, not enough heat would not bond it together. It was quite frustrating as the fusing kept peeling off!” The industrially-made plastics were headache-inducing to say the least, but as the materiality of work- and leisurewear merges, the ‘functionality’ of functional clothing is mocked, and perhaps rendered pointless.
“ I THINK TOTAL GENDER NEUTRALITY IS BORING. IT’S FUN TO HAVE THOSE GENDER ARCHETYPES AND PULL AWAY FROM THEM, AND THROUGH DESIGN, MOCK THEM. MEN IN BRA-ESQUE CLOTHING SEEMED SO WRONG BUT FELT SO RIGHT.”
Amidst his strong conceptualism, Nathan shows a clear savvy for the functionalities of the fashion industry. He interned at J.W. Anderson during the making of the SS14 collection at a time when the company was experiencing fast expansion, being picked up by LVMH while Jonathan Anderson was appointed as the creative director at Loewe. “You got to witness a smaller mid-size firm’s transition through funding, opening of other departments, affording better machines and materials,” he explains. Quite differently, with his stint at Alexander Wang he encountered a full-formed large-scale company, working on the main RTW women’s line. “The atmosphere was always positive,” he recalls. “What I took from this internship was knowing how to make edited design decisions, but the most impressive part of working at Wang was always the last two weeks before the show; the design team would work intensely with stylist Karl Templer and construct an image and mood with the many pieces we made, including footwear and accessories, and suddenly a distinctive look manifests itself, seemingly out of thin air.”
Nathan Moy’s casting for both shoot and show saw the insertion of male models in a womenswear universe. Gender is similarly articulated in his designs: the bra as a classically gendered sexual trope was referenced through Hawaiian coconut bras, while others types were embedded within shirts as over- or undergarments. “I suppose I consider myself quite genderless,” Nathan speaks of himself, “but I think total gender neutrality is boring. It’s fun to have those gender archetypes and pull away from them, and through design, mock them. Men in bra-esque clothing seemed so wrong but felt so right.”
He never got to see his male models working his women’s lingerie, however, as the backstage monitor was broken on the day of the show. “When it was over, my models and I did a little luau dance on the bridge, it only seemed appropriate we kept it authentic,” he adds jokingly. Since his graduation, he’s enjoyed a great deal of exposure, lending garments to publications like British Vogue and i-D, as well as making custom pieces for celebrities, performers and private clients. Open to ideas, Nathan is determined to pave his way through a predominately white fashion industry: “Although I acknowledge the racism and favoritism within this industry, I am optimistic that there is room for a new wave of Asian or international designer growth,” he concludes.