The Studio Visit: N Duo
If you’re not familiar with Tbilisi based N DUO then it’s about time you became acquainted. Anum Bashir AKA Desert Mannequin joined founders Natuka Karkashadze and Nina Tsilosani as co-designer back in 2016, the result is a brand that slips seamlessly into the wardrobe of the modern woman, managing to be playful and eclectic while at the same time being utterly wearable.
Photographer: Jonathan Middleton
Stylist: Sally Bottomley
On why they became fashion designers…
A- Well, to be honest I’m really not. I’ve long dreamed of one day being able to design clothes, but have no formal training, nor would I consider myself a fashion designer. The N Duo relationship came about in the most organic of ways, with Natuka and I becoming good friends and discussing the possibility of collaborating together on a couple seasons. We loved working together so much, that it only made sense to become fashion family and go the distance. As of this season, we’ve decided to become co-creative directors of the brand, which I’m so excited about because we have so much magic rolled up our sleeves that we can’t wait to share.
N- It’s very simple – I love clothes! I was always into fashion when I was a little kid - playing, experimenting and having fun with clothes was my favourite thing ever from the word go.
On working together…
A- Our friendship and mutual love of fashion led to a conversation about potentially working together one day. It happened sooner than we thought and it’s been one of the highlights of my career so far.
N- I was aware of Anum through her blog desertmannequin.com but we met for the first time in Tbilisi while she was on vacation – we formed an instant friendship and the rest is history.
On their designs…
A-I would say our clothes are eclectic, fun, chic, and experimental. We want our clothes to live a long time in people’s closets.
N- Princess Diana meets Carrie Bradshaw - need I say more.
On what’s so good about fashion…
A- Fashion is a magical industry to be in once you find your bearings and are able to act on your passions. I love anything that’s creatively charged and allows your mind to escape – that’s how I feel when we’re designing our clothes. Fashion is a type of fantasy, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed ever since I was a very young child. The whole process of dressing up, picking out clothes, and styling is so invigorating and energizing. In recent years the industry has become less elitist, friendlier and more loving. I love that new and emerging brands (with the help of social media) can reach such vast audiences now. The industry is also making a conscious effort to be ethical, eco-friendly, and sustainable. I just hope we can continue to push that further.
N- Fashion is full of possibility and beauty. My career to date has taught me that you just need to find the right balance between commercial and creative sides. The challenge is creating product that is both unique and sellable – because fashion is for real people in real time.
On how their background has influenced who they are today…
A- My background and upbringing was quite different to the path I ended up following. No one in my family ever ventured down the creative path, but one thing that I am endlessly grateful for is that my parents always instilled in us a good work ethic, the importance of finishing what you start, and of course a good and honest approach to any career I would choose.
N- I started my career working as a fashion journalist. I broke away from editorial and made the leap into retail, co-founding Niche boutique in Georgia. Knowing the industry from all sides has greatly influenced who I am and my approach to my work today at N Duo.
What's your greatest ambition?
A- To be successful and respected for my work.
N- To live a balanced life - raise a happy family whilst doing the job I love.
What would you like to do that you currently can’t?
A-Travel the world more.
N- Speak French.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A- An astronaut.
N- I wanted to be an actress. I’m a massive fan of old Hollywood movies.
What would you most like to change about the world?
N- I would love to live in more peaceful and tolerant world.
Who is someone (living or dead) that you would like to meet? And why?
A-Princess Diana, she was incredible.
N- Diana Vreeland. I always wanted to know what drove her creativity, how she thought, how she moved, spoke, laughed. She was a truly inspiring person.
The best advice you've ever been given?
A-My mum always told me to keep going. Stay strong. Have faith, and believe that God always has the best plan for you.
N- Never stop trying.
First thing you do when you wake up?
A-Sadly, check my phone.
N- Check my phone.
Where can we find you on a Friday night?
A-Probably hanging out with my family and new nephew Isaac. I’m so in love with him.
N- At home having quality time with my family.
What would your last meal be?
A-I’m a total foodie. I love sushi, Lebanese, Indian and above all, cheeseburgers!
N- I love good food so it’s very difficult for me to narrow it down but right now I’d choose a California roll.
What can’t you live without?
A- My phone, my family, my husband, and my work.
How would you describe your generation in five words?
A-Polarizing, conflicted, entrepreneurial, honest, fearless.
N- Open-minded, workaholics, entrepreneurs, narcissistic, fragile.
Describe yourself in three words...
A- Fearlessly loyal, and hardworking.
N- Determined, calm, humorous.
What’s the best thing about Tbilisi?
A- The food, the landscape, and my Tbilisi family – The N Duo crew.
N- The history, sightseeing and the food.
Tbilisi’s hidden gem...
N- Largely undiscovered creative talent.
What makes life worth living?
A- Being loved, and getting rewarded for your hard work.
N- The people you love.