Design has been an integral part of Nathalie Trad’s life. “It was in 2007, while I was still studying at Paris’ ESMOD International, that I discovered my personal design ethos: to take classic shapes – stemming from our natural environment – and radically transform them, deconstructing and redefining the boundaries of fashion aesthetics,” says the accessory designer, whose fixation with asymmetric designs forms the basis of her line. “A year later, I relocated to New York to further pursue this vision.”
Nathalie stepped out into the big wide world of fashion, armed with a BBA in Design and Management from Parsons The New School for Design. She was quick to realize how much hands-on work would help hone her skills. Internship at Yves Saint Laurent in Paris and working under the mentorship of an industry-leading accessories designer at Proenza Schouler, served her well.
Time well spent in the two fashion capitals, Paris and New York, along with the expertise accrued through her work encouraged this young designer to “reexamine the foundations of traditional accessory design”. It also helped Nathalie forge her signature style – one that went on to gain instant praise. In 2013, she conceived the idea of a debut collection and turned to books at the Strand Bookstore in New York for inspiration. “I came across Albertus Seba’s book of illustrations, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities and was immediately drawn to the kaleidoscope of colors and patterns. I vividly remember being completely mesmerized by the complex forms, shapes and patterns captured in the book,” she recalls. Nathalie decided to create clutches that were luxurious and invited curiosity. This became the underlying theme of the accessories for her eponymous label.
Not many designers get as lucky a break as Nathalie did. Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz, Saudi Royal and Director of D’NA – the Middle Eastern fashion galleria, has an incredibly sharp eye for spotting promising designers. “Deena believed in the brand and was our first buyer, just one month after the launch. Collaborating with Deena on a capsule collection for D’NA is not only an honor but also a source of pride and a project that I hoped we could achieve from the beginning,” says Nathalie, referring to D’NA’s pivotal role in her label’s growth. The luxe statement making clutches are now sold in 12 countries.
So, how much does her heritage shine through her designs? Quite a lot, says the Beirut-born and Dubai-based designer. “When I create accessories my personality seeps into every aspect of my designs. My entire collection is a true reflection of my identity, my aesthetic is undeniably Middle-Eastern with western touches, a marriage of East and West.”
Nathalie loves to experiment with various materials and gravitates towards shell as a base material to fashion the clutches. “I source it from the Far East region – a treasure trove of exquisite materials,” she says.
Nathalie complements it with wood, stone, resin, brass and stainless steel – successfully marrying the seemingly incompatible materials. Suffice to say, deliver high on the sophistication and timelessness that celebs crave for. Olivia Palermo, Siena Miller and Amber Le Bon love these luxurious clutches and the fan tribe has been steadily growing across the globe.
On closer observation, Nathalie’s collection reveals a strong influence of architecture, while mirroring the essence of geometry, cubism and art deco. “I like to think of my creations as architectural works on a small scale. I look to architecture from a physical aspect: geometry, proportions, ergonomics, structure for inspiration but beyond that, I study architectural principles, and ideologies as a means to create context and drive my process,” she enthuses.
Architects like Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Walter Gropius, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid have, with their aesthetics and philosophies, inspired Nathalie’s “design thinking” and some of the pieces. “Though there is no direct translation between a specific architectural design and my clutches, I would say the Polygonia and Opiona clutches embody a concept frequently applied by Zaha Hadid: ‘There are 360 degrees why stick to one?’ This principle of multiple viewpoints also known to cubists is what I strive to apply in my designs. What I love most about these pieces in particular is that they morph into completely different versions each time you look at them from a different angle or perspective,” she explains.
This year is set to be exciting for the brand with its new SS15 collection, DINÉ 1938, expanding on the concept of multiple viewpoints. “This collection, more specifically, draws upon the nature of reality and echoes the visual manipulation of Op Art,” she explains. “DINÉ1938 is meant to be held, explored and constantly rediscovered.”
The Nathalie Trad clutches are by no means traditional. They are objects of luxury and above all, wearable art. A joy worth holding, as you will discover.