I walk past the door at first, looking for a sign. You can tell I’m still getting used to this London life. After a couple of steps I stop and backpedal. I look again at the open door, black paint bubbling and peeling, stairs leading down a scarlet corridor inside. I check the address. I’m in the right place.
This week saw uber cool Mayfair haunt Cafe Kaizen throw open its doors for the launch of pop up fashion boutique Nine.Six.One. I enter the venue through the heavy door at the foot of the stairs and am met with a strange and wonderful sight. The room is dimly lit, the fairy lights strewn around picking patches of colour from the bright walls. The roof is a knotted mass of exposed piping. An enormous blossom tree stands in the centre of the room, clothes and jewellery hanging from it like fruit. A bar stands to my right, laden with cupcakes and cocktails. And all around, I’m surrounded by beautiful clothing, jewellery and accessories.
Nine.Six.One aims to showcase a unique and eclectic collection of work from exciting up and coming designers, and do they deliver. From the stunning fusion handchains of Trousseau Jewels, to the incredible boxy handbags from Peau Feroce, there is enough on show to please the palate of any discerning fashionista…as well as the imposters like me, of course. But there is one designer who knocks my little socks off: Nour Najem. Nour is one of those women who is almost too beautiful to look at. I finally understand what Carly Rae Jepsen was on about. And if it sounds like I’m fangirling, it’s because I am.
Nour was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, and uses this cultural identity as inspiration for her designs. In an industry absolutely rife with cultural appropriation, it is amazing to see a culture being represented in such a subtle, authentic way, inviting us to share in and appreciate it. Nour’s whole ethos is about preserving and celebrating her local heritage. In fact, she has set up an NGO, Kenzah, which aims to make sure that traditional artisanal crafting skills are passed down through generations of women in Lebanon. Where these skills were traditionally honed by men, Nour is inspiring marginalised women to develop them, and using their skills to add accent and heritage to her collection. And what a collection it is. Both the colours and the fabrics clash and contradict beautifully. Rough wool is layered over fine satin layered over pretty chiffon. Burnished gold lattices and details lift the inky tones of the clothes. They are wonderfully unusual and oh so gorgeous.
This is my absolute favourite piece from the collection – I’m pretty sure it’s the dress that Nour herself is wearing at the launch event. It’s basically perfect in every way, and I am devastated at my Broke Girl status, which sadly puts it well out of my price range. Some day. Some day.
As a bonafide angry feminist, I love to see women empowering and supporting other women…and when that support results in clothes this beautiful, you better believe I’m on board. I’m still amazed that I’m being invited to events like this…I keep expecting someone to turn around and be like “Hey, are you lost?”. But everyone is so unbelievably lovely, and I leave with a handbag full of business cards and a head full of pretty pictures. Thanks for having me, folks.
Did any of you make it to the Nine.Six.One event? What was your favourite thing from the night? Get in touch in the comments or at @EscapologistGl.