‘In loving memory of my sugar daddy’. Exploring the archetype of the Gold Digger, up and coming brand Namalia ruffled some Aligator skin last month.
Berlin-based designers Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl founded the boundry pushing fashion house in 2015. “The Namilia identity is always about reworking common understandings of femininity and masculinity, clashing strong and sensual elements to present a more modern understanding of gender expression. As a brand built upon an aesthetic of unapologetic, bold political statements, sex-positivity is woven into the DNA of Namilia.” Debuting at the Vfiles runway in October 2015 with “My Pussy, My choice”, the duo have continuously explored the nuances of youth culture and disparities found across communities.
Entitled ‘In loving memory of my sugar daddy’, Namilia challenges the Madonna-Whore complex using pleather, lace, graphic phrases and reconstructed birkin bags to champion the self-made-millionaires which span across generations. Sugar Babies, Trophy Wives and Sex Workers across the spectrum are the muses of this collections; Namilia celebrates the act of rebellion that is to use your body for means of capital. “Sex work is the most literal application of capitalism, of selling our beings and our bodies to survive. In this era of digital identity, late-stage capitalism, and neoliberal politics, sex work should be decriminalized as one of the oldest forms of labor.”. In the notes for their collection Li and Pfohl go on to explain that women have been held to an unfair standard since Genesis, when Eve was held accountable for humankind’s fall from grace. In Western society rigid gender conventions are still in place allowing women to be scrutinised if they dare try to break the mould, hence the bold and evocative motifs of this collection.
The ensembles that have gained the most traction are those including Birkin bags reimagined as corsets and mini skirts. The Birkin Bag by Hermes has become the utilmate status symbol. One can’t just simply buy a Birkin, you have to be selected. Only after building up a purchase portfolio and rapour with Hermes employees will you then be offered the option to purchase a Birkin bag for upwards of $10,000. They are entirely reserved for the elite.
Namalia used the Birkin as a commentary on how women have become objectified as status symbols themselves. What was intended as playful pastiche and innovative redesign, was mistranslated as an attack on Hermes’ brand integrity – consequently, Namalia was served with a cease and desist. Moreover, this isn’t a first time offence, a lawsuit was filed previously against the creator of MetaBirkins (a set of NFTs which reimagined the bag in a digital space) Mason Rothschild, in 2021. Their stifling attitude towards evolutionary fashion is in many ways a backwards step for them. For Namalia to affirm their brand as one that is still connoted with status and power in 2023 should be welcomed, not fought against.
Fashion week is all about celebrating how we continuously find new ways to construct clothing and the power clothes can hold, when the creativity of up and coming brands is stifled by the titans of the industry it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Was this the move Hermes thought it was?
By Rosa Macvicar