Maryam Nassir Zadeh‘s style and aesthetic language (re)defines what New Yorker women (and men) really wear, love and want. Trying to understand the nuance of the label can be like cracking a secret code – and the autumn-winter 2022 collection is quintessentially MNZ. To her and her community, a sort of chic awkwardness – which never feels like a costume! – is everything. Here is Susan Cianciolo, the godmother of all Lower East Side style, in a plaid scarf wrapped around her head, and a leather, boxy skirt set. Putting Drake Burnette in a slender ringer tee and charismatic long pencil skirt means something. Lexie Smith’s sheer butter-colored trousers under a sort of uncanny work dress are intentional; layering coats for Angel Prost mimics Prost’s own magpie style. On the whole, these clothes come with a gentle handfeel, lent by shell buttons on a lichen short sleeve shirt and the Sharpie-drawn logo on a tee. Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s clothes, always styled in a seemingly spontaneous and intuitive way, help build character which is 100% authentic – and mysteriously quirky.
Maryam Nassir Zadeh is the queen of contemporary New York cool – there I said it. Her clothes – recently also for men – are the perfect balance of odd and classic, and the way they are presented is beautifully inclusive and inspiring. Her spring-summer 2022 collection was presented at the brand’s newly reopened store. Surprisingly, it also marked her first show in the space; she described it as a homecoming. “It was really important for me to have the show at the store, to celebrate that it’s still alive and celebrate the community that has supported us since the beginning,” she said. That spirit was felt both in the audience and the impactful cast, including MNZ regulars like Susan Cianciolo, Paloma Elsesser, and Lili Sumner as well as Zadeh’s husband, Uday Kak, and Andre Walker. Zadeh’s impulse to go “back to her roots” via the setting was mirrored in the clothes, too. Her early collections were quite minimal, and through the years she’s experimented with bolder colors, prints, silhouettes, and styling. But as life inches towards normalcy, she’s feeling for an aesthetic reset – something cleaner, easier, purer. That doesn’t add up to our standard definition of minimalism; the way she put it was “playful, but restrained.” That odd balance is Zadeh’s signature: classic-ish button-downs and denim shorts were styled with her cult PVC wedges and glass jewelry, yoga pants were “spiced up” by leather medallion belts, filmy translucent skirts and dresses revealed bright bikinis underneath, and crisp 9-to-5 chinos flared over neon kitten heels. The unlikely pairings and delicate sensuality seemed to reflect how so many women want to dress in 2022: not trendy or overly referential, but not basic; sophisticated, but not stuffy. It’s a modern vision of “femininity” rooted in individuality and curiosity, not overt sex appeal or convention. That said, Zadeh was even more excited about her menswear offering, which grew significantly for spring. The guys in the show wore raw-edged suede shirts, color-blocked polo knits, and raw denim jorts with sharp blazers, often with bits of colored glass strung across the chest. The impression was unprecious and, like the womenswear, a bit sensual; she felt the knits in particular would bring something new to the men’s market. Still, Zadeh makes a point not to separate garments by “men’s” or “women’s” on her website. Ultimately, all of her garments – from suits to bikinis to see-through minis – will be worn by people of every gender identity.
Contemporary, New York chic? It’s Maryam Nassir Zadeh‘s brand. The designer comes at her collections from multiple vantage points: as a designer, as a retailer (her Lower East Side store is set to reopen soon), and as a true lover of clothes. She has an epic personal archive filled with labels she discovered early on – Nassir Zadeh was one of the first New York stores to sell Jacquemus and Eckhaus Latta – as well as designer treasures and vintage finds she’s collected over the years. As for her brand’s archive, she’s been busy revisiting and editing every piece she’s ever made, plus dozens of prototypes and one-offs, to get it to a place that reflects her tastes today. Post-pandemic, she’s leaning more minimal, but not in a stark or staid way; there’s a delicateness to it, even in the menswear. For resort 2022, she tried on almost every piece she’s kept, one by one, and re-cut the best ones to create the ultimate “curated” MNZ wardrobe. Her past few collections have followed a similar approach, initially due to the constraints of the pandemic; in 2020, her team didn’t have the resources to create brand-new samples with brand-new fabrics. But Zadeh didn’t think that resort would have turned out “better” if it was entirely new stuff. The time and care she put into hand-selecting the clothes – and occasionally redoing them in different colors or fabrics – amounted to a collection heartfelt and personal. Diehard fans might spot a few of her “greatest hits,” but Zadeh and her stylist, Thistle Brown, re-styled each piece so they’re hardly recognizable. Several dresses were transformed into skirts thanks to artful knots or belt bags around the waist, while a neon orange midi dress was shown with a full skirt underneath, sort of like a petticoat. Beyond showing you how to wear the new pieces, Zadeh hopes it will inspire her entire community to get more creative with their MNZ favorites at home. A few looks were styled with bikinis, now a brand signature, or asymmetrical bodysuits in mushroom-y colors. They lent an undone, balletic feeling to the skirts, sort of like a Lower East Side spin on a dancer’s uniform.
When I think of a contemporary New York girl, I see her dressed in Maryam Nassir Zadeh. And even during lockdown, she wears Zadeh’s “oddly elegant“, always authentic and never forced designs. The designer hasn’t created a runway collection since spring 2020, and the extended pause gave her the space to reset, refocus, and design closer to her own tastes, without the distractions and noise of a show. Like her recent collections, autumn-winter 2021 felt simpler and stripped back, but also sexier. The heat mostly came from a handful of miniskirts (like one in metallic leather, shown with a matching blazer) and backless, thigh-grazing party dresses. As she often does, Zadeh predicted the miniskirt comeback early on. The designer foresees her clients craving clothes that feel bolder, happier and lighter. Zadeh isn’t a moodboard-type designer, but she did make one surprise reference: Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City – the early seasons, filmed at the turn of the 2000s. Who didn’t rewatch all the episodes in the lazy quarantine days? You can glimpse SATC’s protagonist in the asymmetrical party dresses, vibrant accessories and the plucky flower pin adorning a slip. Zadeh’s interest was less in the character or TV show and more in the balance of no-frills minimalism and “spice ups,” as she put it. In our stay-home-style moment, it was easy to picture Carrie (and many of Zadeh’s customers) in the opening look: a cobalt knit set paired not with sneakers, but block-heel mules. Definitely an idea for Carrie’s 2021 wardrobe in And Just Like That…!
This year, I’ve decided to create dream gift guides that might make it easier for you to go (and filter) through the festive season. Get ready for a selection of beautiful items that will spark joy and last for years. The ones that will certainly please one’s senses and deliver heavenly feelings. Treat your loved ones and yourself! Here’s the curated edit of the most covetable delights, which are the ultimate essentials.