It’s a Thursday night, and inside the ivy-covered Fred Segal on Sunset Boulevard, there’s a small, stylish celebration brewing. Tequila-infused cocktails flow freely, and tacos are freshly made just around the corner. The mood is relaxed, even with the music thumping so loudly I can practically feel it pulsing through my chest. Everyone’s here to toast this year’s Season Zero design contest winner: T1TAN Studio.
Fred Segal is no stranger to new names in the industry. For the 60-plus years that the fashion landmark has existed, it has been offering retail support to young talent and smaller, independent boutiques within its expansive spaces. Over those years, the name has become almost synonymous with the look of West Coast style. Come here for all the coolest, up-and-coming new labels — cool, like T1TAN Studio. But also, deeply relevant.
Born in Zambia, raised in Queens and based in Brooklyn, founder and designer Madelen Nyau has a conceptual approach to fashion that aligns closely with science and psychology, with a penchant for clean lines and sophisticated tailoring. Every garment is a piece of storytelling, a material exploration of the world around her, rife for creative repurposing.
Although her brand lives in a universe dotted with planets awaiting discovery, this particular collection is inspired by something closer to earth — no, even closer than that. “What inspired my collection was learning to evaluate my own personal space,” says Nyau, who’s decked out in a billowing, tiered plaid skirt from another New York-based brand, Vaquera. Transitioning from working in a studio environment post-graduation from Pratt Institute, Nyau had to adapt to making garments in her own room, plucking inspiration from the objects around her.
One particular muse: an Ikea chair with a clear body that floats on a steel leg frame. She began chewing on its form, its relationship to the human body. She noticed shifts in her posture, productivity, and focus. “I illustrated how I wanted it to make me feel,” she tells me. “It’s more about how can I force my physical body into being more disciplined and focus more like I would at an institution?”
The anatomy of the work chair is mirrored in her garments; oversized tops take the shape of the furniture’s tapered back, and wide-legged pants subtly hide seams modeled after the silhouette of its seat. Comprising 12 pieces, the collection also features some terrific pieces: a sunflower-yellow crochet top, a mint-green skirt, and a loose, bubblegum-pink pleated dress. Get a closer look, and you’ll see that the garments are mostly de-gendered, reflecting Nyau’s own set of aesthetic codes. “I wear a lot of unisex clothing, and I like to be very comfortable,” she says.
I particularly love T1TAN Studio’s intarsia knits: a fiery, sunset-hued crop top and a green-blue oversized sweater vest with just the right amount of boxiness to it. I’m immediately drawn to their colorful, optimistic identity. Between my fingers, the material feels substantial, while still boasting a soft and casual wearability. Everything, Nyau tells me, is made from donated yarn. “I didn’t purchase any new materials,” she says.
This feels especially relevant now as we, as consumers, are paying more and more attention to what’s on our clothing labels. No longer do we only want clothes that are inspired, stylish and trend-driven; we also expect promises of better, more sustainable practices from the brands we buy from. Nyau is certainly pushing those words into action, while giving way to more fluid ways of dressing. And to think it all started with a chair.
Photography by Mari Makatsaria and Jacquex Frankel.