Photography by Daniel Sims
A purveyor of dark menswear, London-based brand Ada + Nik looks to ancient ideals of masculinity in order to shift the modern-day view that a suit exclusively symbolizes strength. Couturier Ada Zanditon and tastemaker Nik Thakkar joined forces on this project two years ago, bringing together their combined experience at Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier and LVMH to collaborate on a line of Greco Roman Punk-inspired fashion.
For SS ’16, the designer duo unveiled a 60-piece collection, “SYN,” which played with the idea of collaboration, technology and (of course) an all-black color palette. The presentation boasted sustainable materials, like rubber-coated jersey, lamb nappa leather and hand-woven denim; their bespoke smart watch, made in partnership with Motorola, was a standout, again reinforcing the pair’s admirable obsession with what’s next. We caught up with one-half of the rising label, Thakkar, to talk about memory cotton and masculinity.
How did you and Ada meet?
“Ada and I met back in October 2010 during Paris Fashion Week at a party. We went outside together for some fresh air and I remember asking her about her outfit, these structural dark green Bauhaus style shoulders, which she subsequently explained were her couture designs and that she used to work at McQueen. We stayed in touch and worked on a couple of small projects together as we shared a mutual passion for sustainable intelligence. Back in January 2013, we were at a dinner with a friend who was moving back to America and I asked her when she would do menswear and she replied, “when you do it with me.” That’s how it all began.”
What does your collaboration process look like?
“We both work on the concept together and for the overall creative direction we are taking each season, we sit down and have long design sessions together. The detail and intricacy comes from Ada’s expertise in couture and construction, and I manage more of the creative content, such as show production. We make a really great team and work together a lot to bring our vision to life in a really cohesive way.”
You’re a fairly new brand. How have you grown since first launching?
“We started with a capsule collection of 10 pieces in June 2013 at LCM and it was received really well by buyers and press, so that’s when we decided to move forward with full collections. We’ve defined the brand DNA a lot in this time—our signature leathers and have since evolved an offering of not only conceptual statement pieces, but also luxury separates. We use a lot of sustainable fabrics and tech materials to equip the Ada + Nik man for the future.”
Talk more about these tech materials.
“We’re both technology enthusiasts and wanted to create a product that offered the opportunity to document something without losing the actual experience, so the Narrative Jacket has an in-built camera allowing you to do just that. We also worked with Motorola’s MOTO360 smart watch this season to develop a bespoke plus sign watch face that is downloadable. In terms of tech fabrics, one of our favorites is memory cotton, which we used in outerwear so you can crumple up a bomber jacket or long line coat and it retains its shape fully just by flattening it with your palms. Ideal for the man on the go.”
How do you feel your brand is redefining masculinity?
“Ada and I grew up on the London club scene. We have a very diverse community around us and it is important to us both to create conceptual menswear that allows self-expression through a strong but, ‘androgynous’ perspective. I hate labels, but it’s something that we are sometimes forced to describe. Put it this way: Hercules could wear a kilt or a dress and was still the epitome of masculinity and strength. Men shouldn’t be defined by a suit or the post-Industrial Revolution idea of ‘normal.’
Why so much black?
“Black is timeless—a palate that we both identify with personally and retains value long-term. It’s just the way we are and what we like to see.”
Talk about the inspiration behind your recent LCM showing.
” SS ’16 is called ‘SYN,’ which means ‘co-‘ or ‘with’ in Greek and is symbolic of the Ada + Nik plus sign— something that is prevalent throughout the entire collection across print, stitching and laser cutting. It symbolizes the idea of positive coexistence.”
Why did you collaborate with Holloway Prison for AW ’15?
“Our AW ’15 collection, ‘Noir Desir,’ was rooted in the idea of redemption and forgiveness, which is when we started working with the in-house, small production unit at Holloway Prison in partnership with London College of Fashion. The hope is that the program will give this small group of inmates a better chance of rehabilitation when they’re released.”