The spirits don't care what gender you are: Nao Serati on his new collection

The young SA designer, who revels in breaking the rules, gives us some insight into the collection he showed at AFI Joburg Fashion Week

14 October 2018 - 00:00 By Nothemba Mkhondo

Where did your fashion journey begin?
I can't remember the moment I decided I would do fashion forever, but I do remember selling paper clothes for my friend's paper dolls in primary school. I studied art in high school and then went back to fashion because it felt like the most natural and exciting thing to me.
What is the Nao Serati aesthetic?
It is strength, glitter, non-binary, and story-telling, and it's generally disrupting the norm.
Tell us about the new collection you showed at the recent AFI Joburg Fashion Week.
The new collection is work from my heart. I'm really working hard to mean what I say and say what I mean. So with this collection, I studied and worked hard to bring back the things that made me love fashion. How the clothes move was the key for me.
The show was about ancestral spirits and how spirit doesn't care what gender you are, you just come as you are for them to use you. I wanted the show to highlight a side of South Africa's gender conversation we have never discussed.
What is your creative process?
I normally get an idea, do basic research and check if I'm really interested. All of a sudden it's two weeks before the show and I go straight into patterns and do sketches, only to show my team what I'm thinking in real life. My friends and I will normally then have a styling party a few days before the show.
What is the story behind your new lookbook?
It was a collaboration between Tatenda Chiodora, Galerekwe Maimane and me, and the story is a love story. It's about the good guy and the bad girl. Love doesn't win in this story.
Who is the Nao Serati consumer?
Firstly, my customer does not like to be gendered. They love fashion; they don't like rules and that doesn't necessarily mean they want to look like punks but they do love to fight the norm. They are strong.
What are you trying to express with your designs?
As a young designer, I'm trying to express to the South African consumer that high-street fashion is wearable and should be supported and bought with an open heart.
What's it like working in the South African fashion industry?
The local fashion industry needs teamwork. External funding is hard to get so I would like to think that if we all work together to get the things we want, and stand by the things we need, we would all get much further.

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