Nao Serati | Championing Unapologetic Self Expression
Photographer Obakeng Molepe | Model Chris Maghoma | Styling Neo Mofammere
Through his fashion brand, Nao Serati, Neo Serati Mofammere is championing unapologetic expression of self in a country that’s still largely conservative. His elevated athleisure and glamorous statement pieces aren’t designed with gender in mind but rather subvert what is considered acceptable mens- or womenswear. His lookbooks further shine a disco-light on the possibilities of masculinity.
As an introvert, Neo designs clothes that do the talking. Often made with reflective materials Nao Serati designs literally shine. “I’ve tried so many times to make a plain t-shirt,” he says, “but I always wake up mid-way and feel the need to add, to distress, to push.”
We spoke to him about overcoming shyness through fashion, exploring the freedom of expression that was so hard won in South Africa, and the spirit of rebellion in his clothes.
Who do you make clothes for?
I make clothes for people interested in living, people who love having conversations, humans that are not afraid to tackle self image. I make clothes for people interested in fantasy and being the fantasy. Anyone, really.
How does living in South Africa affect the fashion you create?
Well of course there are small obstacles like finding the good quality this and that or not being able to fully push your creativity because of production, but there are many, many interest points in South Africa; many stories to tell which is exciting as a young creative. South Africa is very conservative and as a person I’m quite shy but through fashion I can express. It’s almost as if the conservativeness pushed me to flip the coin.
How is playing with gender cues through fashion perceived in South Africa?
I’ve found that people are very welcoming and warm towards us and if they are offended they unfollow. I think more than anything it starts important conversations and helps with acceptance via visibility.
Photographer Lesedi Mothoagae | Model Hakim Nkengurutse | Styling Neo Mofammere
There’s a sense of freedom and rule-breaking in the designs you create – is this intentional?
It’s my alter ego, as a shy, introverted person I somehow still see myself as Beyoncé and fashion is a great way to express that. We spend so much time trying to be acceptable and trying to focus on being small and unseen. It’s not healthy. Freedom in South Africa was worked on very intentionally. We need to explore that freedom and what it means to us to be free and I think I’m in that space. If it happens to be controversial, so be it.
How has your work evolved from collection to collection?
With every collection I’ve made more connections with people and been able to speak to people openly so I think the collections have grown in character as well as focused more on customer needs. When I first started I wanted all buttons and zips in the back of the garment, I’ve learned that people are single and want to zip up their own jumpsuit.
Where does a collection begin for you?
Normally with a mood, something will put me in a mood and I sit in it and then start questioning what the mood needs to feed it.
What is Nao Serati 2018 all about?
Nao Serati 2018 is all about experience and experiment, I want to experiment with new shapes and colours but also with new strategies hopefully improving the customer experience.