As far as aspirational and inspirational women go, for me it doesn't get any better than Nadège Winter. I don't know how this happened but it seems like all the females I look upto are under 5'6 and proud flat footwear-lovers (I know you see Oprah in her Loubs, but she takes 'em off as soon as she hops off of that couch, trust).
I got to know Nadège Winter about 8 years ago through the old Colette-affiliated blog "We Love Paris". She was Head Of Communication of the planet's best store. Why did I immediately fall for her? She's got incredible style, it was (and is) obvious she's insanely good at her job, she seemed to have a really big heart (trying to save the planet y'all!), but most of all : this girl injected everything she did, touched or talked about with a huge dose of FUN (Colette Dance Class? - If you wouldn't want to dance off your hangover to MC Hammer on a Sunday afternoon, I don't even want to talk to you)!
So when the people at Timberland asked me if I would be interested in a skype session with the self-proclaimed Nana With an Attitude, I was nervous for three days (I always get like that. Remember Taz Arnold, Fonzworth Bentley, Pharrell, So_Me). Of course I said some dumb things and I totally went off-topic, plus the badly installed office fire alarm went off in the middle of our conversation. But I think it went well. Little Lola, Nadège's 2 1/2 year old daughter came to say the most adorable "Allo" and at the end of our talk Nadège said : "Bye! Love you!" I know it was an American "Love you", but it took all my might and strength not to scream "I LOVE YOU TOO NADEGE!!!" whilst jumping up and down and doing high kicks. But if you are reading this Miss Nadège : I DO, THO!
Alright, this is what we discussed:
KNOTORYUS : Congratulations on the Timberland x Nadège Winter drop. It’s Paris fashion week right now. How has it been? What has the feedback been like?
NADEGE WINTER : Thank you so much! It’ s been great! It’s sold at Colette right now and I was there yesterday and Sarah told me that people have been calling and visiting the store just for my shoes. Twitter has been buzzing as well. I loved the tweets saying : “Woah, back to the 90’s!” and “I need to get these!”.
KNOTORYUS : You sound surprised!
NADEGE WINTER : Haha, well yes, I’m very humble and maybe a bit naïve when it comes to something like this. I never expect anyone to just love something because I do. I am not a designer. You know my background, I am a Creative Director and a Communication Consultant. I do many things, but I am not a designer in the noble sense of the word. Timberland made sure I could experiment and express my vision and I really enjoyed delivering my inspiration and see and help make my project come to fruition from beginning to end. I am very happy about that.
KNOTORYUS: Am I wrong when I say that your love for hiphop totally shines through this collaboration?
NADEGE WINTER : Timberland came to me because they wanted me to design a full new eco-friendly women’s collection from scratch. And I said to them : you know what, I am not a stylist or a designer but I would love to do something with the yellow boot. The yellow boot to me is an essential wardrobe item from when I was a teenager and an iconic staple from the hiphop culture that I adore so much. The way I designed the new yellow boots was mixing manly workwear and iconic fashion prints for women. The girls that are completely addicted to their stilleto’s will probably never be into the yellow boot. But the girls like me who are a bit more casual and love hiphop and street culture like Rihanna, Azealia Banks and Fafi : they are all really into the yellow boot. This boot is cultural : it’s about the way you carry yourself, your sense of style. So yes, I put a lot of hiphop flavor into my design.
KNOTORYUS : Was that your biggest challenge? Making the Timberland more girly without taking away from it's original ruffneckness?
NADEGE WINTER : Yes, that was the million dollar question. How do we take this boot that is the epitome of ruggish workwear and turn it into something more feminin without losing any flavour? So that's when I thought about all the iconic prints that anyone who loves fashion knows and likes : leopard, polka dots, the Liberty print and my all-time favourite : the bandana-print, which besides the obvious hip hop connotation also carries a rockabilly and country reference. And I think it was a success because the past couple of days, all the nana’s told me that they had been sceptical about it working, but seeing these prints on the boot made all the difference.
KNOTORYUS : Did you listen to a lot of hiphop growing up?
NADEGE WINTER: I listened to all kind of music like hiphop, soul, electro and rock but because I love dancing I am really into hiphop and black sounds. I used to be a not-so-very-good DJ (laughs) and I always played old hiphop tunes and all the the groovy stuff that makes everybody dance.
KNOTORYUS : You used to DJ. Quick question, what was one of your go-to jams?
NADEGE WINTER : Well my company’s name is NWA, you know?
KNOTORYUS : Yes, I am well aware of that.
NADEGE WINTER : (Laughs) Ok, well, I loved to play Straight Outta Compton.
KNOTORYUS : Have you ever met Ice Cube or Dr. Dre?
NADEGE WINTER : NO! And I don’t want to! I am so scared that they will come up to me and say : “We have heard about your business. Shut it down.” (laughs). But it all started out as a joke. The first letters from Nadège Winter Agency – NWA – Nana With Attitude. I think that I am part of a tribe of women that like playing with boyish styles, they listen to hiphop but they also like melodic love songs. The NWA x Timberland yellow boot at the end is the result of the clash between the ruffneck attitude we girls can have sometimes and the femininity that’s inside us as well.
KNOTORYUS : This is the second shoe you have designed, right?
Yes, years ago I did a shoe for Monbianco . But that one was really really limited. Since I've started talking about my eco-projects – I started a green blog and website when I was still at Colette- people have been asking me to develop projects like that. So I did the sneaker, then I’ve designed eco t-shirts with the help of Pierre André Senizergues from ETNIES and I am also working with an ethical French jewelry brand called JEM.
In interviews you mention your friend Pierre-André from Etnies a lot. What would you say is the most valuable lesson he taught you?
Six or seven years ago they slowly started to talk about eco-friendly products in France because but it was still at very early stages and it moved really slow. The discussions Pierre Henry was having were already at another level and it was really interesting to talk to him about managing a big company ethically, trying to push projects differently, to break the rules and to invest money in a new way of production. It was very inspiring to hear him talk about the challenges he faced and when I started to work on my project he was the first one I called. I said : Hey, I have this idea of designing eco-friendly t-shirts. And he said : Go ahead, I am going to help you. It is very rare for a CEO of his level to share advice and guide someone else. That is why Timberland is such a precious collaboration for me ass well. This is a very sincere project. Timberland really wanted to collaborate with a green thinking woman. And for me it was really important to be sure that the company I was working with was certified eco-friendly. I trusted them and they let me do my thing.
What are you taking away from this collaboration. Have you learned anything?
I think this is a very specific collaboration because everyone – the Timberland team as well as myself- had to deal with the limits of the product because I wanted to work with recycled materials so I had some specific ideas in my mind. I had to deal with the materials I found because it was secondhand fabric. For example, I wanted to use lace but when we found it, we couldn’t make it work because the lace was too fragile. So I had to abandon that idea and adapt, but it is because of this project almost being that it is almost a “handmade project”. Each pair is treated differently, so it is kind of couture. It would have been much easier to manufacture the exact prints and fabric I wanted, like the perfect leopard or fluo bandana or strong lace, but I wanted the vintage feel and I still think it makes all the difference.
KNOTORYUS : Plus, it makes it more unique and real.
NADEGE WINTER : Exactly, a lot of people don’t understand, but each pair is different. It is a precious pair of boots that nobody else has.
KNOTORYUS : Time for my final questions! They might be a bit embarrasing. I call them my "Oprah Questions", because well, they kind of are Oprah's questions...
NADEGE WINTER : (Laughs) Okaaaay...
KNOTORYUS : I have gotten to know you guys via your old blog “WeLoveParis”...
NADEGE WINTER : Wow, you really do go way back.
KNOTORYUS : Remember that picture where all of you guys (Sarah, Nadège, Linlee Allen, Pedro Winter, Julien Cahn, Michael Dupuoy) are lined up? When you think about that picture, could you tell me what you have learned since then?
NADEGE WINTER : Again. WOW. My life changed a lot. Personally and workwise. I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I am stronger than I thought and that I can be independent and get things done. The last six or seven years have been amazing. It was like growing up again. And in terms of work I feel I am still on the same road trying to push things I personally love. Like very spontaneously organize things to do with fashion and entertainment and create a fun way to see the business with joy and sincerity. "WeLoveParis", well, I still love Paris. Even though my team is smaller nowadays, but I still try to have a couple of people that I trust working beside me. I am really into collective projects like Brunch Bazar that I organize in Paris or Big Festival that we do in the South. Being able to bring talent together to create something strong. But even though I love Paris, I feel international. I think that we need to keep an eye on everything around us and I would love to travel more and more to pick up ideas or sniff the “air du temps” somewhere else but I want to bring my French point of view to other countries as well.
KNOTORYUS : You're daughter is 2 1/2 years old. Her mom is trying to make this planet greener and a lot more fun. But what is your dream for her? What do you wish for her when she’s 16 or 17?
Hmmm. Well, like every mom, I wish that she will feel proud and confident enough to live her passion. I wish that she grows up to be a great person and that she will be strong enough to say no to things that go against her beliefs. I wish she won't be too much of a follower. I hope she has personal opinions, values and ideas and that she will be brave enough to fight to make them happen. And I wish she has fun while doing that and that she will become a smart and a nice person. But she is so great already, I love the way she dances! She’s got some good hiphop moves, you know. So we’re on our way!
KNOTORYUS : Well Nadège, thank you so much and enjoy the rest of your day. Are you going to go to any shows?
No, actually doing fashion week, I’m much more behind the scènes because I work with the people from Kenzo amongst others. I am collaborating with them as creative director for events and othe things. I am also collaborating with a little brand called Thomsen. We are going to do a sing and dance performance with them to present the clothes. It’s going to be fun and that’s the way to go, non?