Inside Ninamounah's Paris Fashion Week Runway Debut

Inside Ninamounah's Paris Fashion Week Runway Debut

On the final day of Paris Fashion Week, quietly sandwiched between the Chanel and Miu Miu shows on the official schedule, Ninamounah made a bold statement for their first runway outing in the French capital.

It was the latest milestone for the Amsterdam-based label founded by designer Ninamounah Langestraat and brand director Robin Burggraaf. Held inside the Garage Amelot in Paris' hip 11th arrondissement to a techno-punk soundtrack by Aux Raus, the show was a continuation of the label's signature experimental and subversive codes.

This season, the low-cut trousers, hairy tailoring and slashed silhouettes were heavy on animal textures like silver feathers and fishlike, neon yellow sequins. Some new additions include their first handbag and hipbone-baring trousers in leather, denim and virgin wool.

Here, the duo explain the ideas behind their Fall 2022 collection, having muses Richie Shazam and Mark Bryan walk the show, the meaning of that Ukraine t-shirt and more.

The show opened with a model walking down the runway in silence, wearing a t-shirt condemning Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Can you tell us about the significance of this moment?

Robin Burggraaf: The invasion started less than two weeks before our debut was scheduled, and it felt very strange to be working on the show while seeing our friends either taking up arms to defend their country or flee to neighboring countries. It was like splitting my mind in two: one half was spreading information, researching where best to donate money, gathering supplies to send over the border, and the other half was thinking about casting and guest lists.

Obviously the second half felt quite frivolous and unnecessary. But then there came a moment that we realized that we could use our platform to shine a light on the situation, raise funds and use our skills and expertise to do whatever we can to help. In times of crisis, creativity and culture can and should not be erased, but used to inspire people to come together and speak out against evil. The t-shirts will be available online soon and all proceeds are going to United Help Ukraine and the UNHCR.

What was it like to hold a runway show at Paris Fashion Week for the first time?

Honestly I don’t remember that much of it. We were planning a presentation but a month before Fashion Week, Betsy Johnson kind of convinced us to do a runway instead. It was a whole thing, because officially the FHCM does not allow first time brands to do a runway immediately. You’re supposed to do a presentation event, and then a whole commission looks at your work and judges if you’re ready to do a runway show. But in our bones we felt that after two years of Covid we were ready to come to Paris with a bang.

It felt like everything we have been working on for so long finally came together. Richie [Shazam] and Mark [Bryan] walked, Betsy [Johnson] brought her beauty people Charlie [Le Mindu] and Anthony [Preel] with her. It was quite the whirlwind, and we were in this medieval cellar with no sunlight making sure all the details were just right. I was so high on adrenaline, my perception of time got completely warped. The week before feels like one long day and I’m still not sure if the show didn’t only happen in my dreams.

What are the influences that inspired "The Hunt"?

Ninamounah Langestraat: We adopted a big dog from Cyprus, he is quite wild and has never been in a city before. He started to hunt inside the studio, this was so fascinating to watch but also very scary. Bear (Bear is the name of our dog) even started hunting people down. In order to understand him better I dived deep into the hunt, which was so inspiring to me I could not stop. Noticing that even I was hunting.

We found out that hunting is not only a physical need for food but also a spiritual process that includes a lot of rituals. Metaphorically speaking people nowadays also feel the urge to hunt, only the quarry is much different and the process itself is much more complex. We adopted another dog, this time from Spain. She is a Greyhound which are the best hunters from the dog species. She is so slender and elegant, we called her Deer.

Can you tell us about how the "animalistic side" of humans was explored in the collection?

Ninamounah: Humans are the only animals that wear other animals' skin. Dressing in fur can be interpreted as dressing as exotic prey, a trophy or a conquest. Thereby transforming into those who are pursued and overpowered by humans. "Fur stands for the pubic hair," wrote Freud.

Since fur is a sensual object: soft, exotic, transformative, ripe with animal-otherness — it’s a highly sexualized symbol. Fur allows humans to safely explore behaviors often characterized as ‘animalistic’ at the expense of the non-human animal, especially their sexual animality.

In sex, human animality is laid bare. We tried to translate animalistic textures into garments throughout the collection. The wrinkles and gathering of the hair and wool represents when the hair of a predator goes up on the spine, it's a sign that it is aroused, stimulated or excited.

Mark Bryan walked the show at Paris Fashion Week in a black and white top with matching knee-high boots and a mini skirt. Can you walk us through this look and your relationship with Mark?

Robin: It’s funny because when Mark started blowing up two years ago, we immediately messaged him on Instagram. We shot our Spring 2021 campaign with him, and it was the second time ever he stood in front of the camera. How insane! We always kept in touch, and shot a mini campaign with him last year. When he told us he would be in Paris it was a no-brainer; our debut and his first time walking a show. It was beautiful to share these milestones.

Ninamounah: Mark's look really represents both sides of the concept to me. No animal is one or another, they all exist in purgatory between the two, being both at the same time: the predator and the prey. The black and white cowhide spots are camouflage of prey. The faux hair mini skirt has wrapped seams, roughly topstitched like scars of claws, wrapped around the body. Mark is also wearing our first bag ever, inspired by our hoof shoe and the square shapes of nature.

Photography: Rémy Guerra