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Last Thursday night Hampden Clothing hosted a private dinner to welcomed to the store designers Nary Manivong and Alexandria (Ally) Hilfiger, of NAHM, with a kick off preview of their trunk show which took place on Friday. Sadly, I was wrapping a long shoot and missed both events. So how cool is it that both Ally and Nary made a special trip into the store on Saturday to grant me an interview and chat more about their SS12 collection? Way cool and incredibly impressive. This design duo is keen on their style senses and very personable when it comes to embracing their customer, a very fresh approach to this business riddled with fame seekers. Of course, Ally, being the daughter of Tommy Hilfiger, has fashion in her DNA but also proves to stand on her own vision with a well matched partnership with Nary, both of whom adore shop owner Stacy Smallwood. As I walked into the boutique I noticed that they were wrapped up in an exuberant conversation with Charleston Fashion Week Model KiAnna Drayton who later told me that she stumbled in after spying a NAHM dress from the window!
As I approached I could see that Ally was using Nary to do a full style presentation of the collection and he was such a good sport wearing a massive detachable bow from one of their stunning jackets. Shortly after it was my turn to gush over the collection and steal a great moment with the designers and Stacy!
AL: How did this collaboration come together with Hampden?
NM: I was on a road trip with some friends and one of our stops was Charleston. I had heard of the store before and decided to come in and check it out. Stacy happened to be in the store and I introduced myself and chatted with her. From there she came up to the show in New York and now we are here!
AL: Do you think coming from a smaller fashion community like Charleston that it's important for boutique owners to go to New York and really get into the flow of the industry there?
AH: I think it's really important because I think it broadens your perspective of what's going on. What is forward thinking and how you can transfer it and adapt it to the town and what they are comfortable with. I think Stacy has a really great understanding of her customer and knows that to have that forward thinking it's definitely necessary to go to New York and Paris to see what's out there and how her customer can adapt it to their daily lives.
AL: We were talking earlier about 'print on print'. What is your take on this trend?
AH: As a designer we love vintage prints! We are very inspired by vintage prints and old paintings that can be transformed into prints and coloring prints and definitely mixing them. Either two different prints together or the same print in different colors and fabrics. Today I'm wearing stripes on stripes! I think that we are allowed to have more fun. It's more acceptable to be more daring in what you mix. Plaids, stripes and polka dots in one outfit is acceptable now. People think you can't mix black and navy and this is one of the chicest things you could possibly pair.
NM: You can break all the rules and really go forward and take the risk!
AH: There are no rules anymore!
"This print is the inspiration for our Fall collection" - Ally
AL: Stacy what do you love the most about this collection?
SS: I think the coolest thing is having our customer come in and there is a 65 year old women obsessing over the same dress that a 25 year old girl is wearing as well. They both bought it. I also love having Ally and Nary here... they want to know more about the fit, who's buying it, why is she buying it and where is she wearing it. So they can continue to evolve which is so nice and humble of them to say they always want to keep learning and growing.
NM: The customer is the heart of buying the product. They want to give us a response and comment on what is going to be better for them and how it's working out.
SS: The number one mistake that I see young designers make is that they get too obsessed with getting their name in the press and forget about their customer. If they want their customer to love their collection and they love their customer, the press will come. This is why NAHM will continue to be successful.
AL: How do you two work together. What's your process like or roles?
AH: We are only in our first year so we are still trying figure out what our positions are. As a team together, as a company, we definitely work creatively together. It's funny when we are in a vintage store looking at prints we both gravitate towards the same thing. That's rare! We are also like brother and sister. It's all about compromising and trail and error.
AL: What has been your best moments in Charleston?
NM: The dinner!
AH: Yes, the dinner here at Hampden! It was really really special! Also going out to dinner at FIG with Stacy, her sister and her husband was really awesome. We laughed a lot. It's been great!
Learn more about the NAHM designers and collection by visiting http://nahm-ny.com/. Also get a peek into the touching story of NAHM designer Nary Manivong by watching this trailer for the documentary DRESSED in which his personal journey is featured.