The designers on Nate Brown’s radar

A man standing on a stone block.

The creative director and fashion savant behind Beyoncé’s 2016 Formation tour and Alexander Wang’s anniversary show shares the up-and-coming talent catching his eye

By Hanna Hanra   Above image: Heron Preston collection (courtesy of Heron Preston)    Wednesday 26 August, 2020    Short read

If you’ve seen live performances by Janelle Monae or Kanye West, were lucky enough to catch Beyoncé’s 2016 Formation tour or Alexander Wang’s 10-year anniversary show, you’ve witnessed the work of creative director and Los Angeles member Nate Brown. Beyond typical production, Brown is known for creating multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory experiences that can be experienced in person or digitally. For the Wang show, Brown orchestrated a trippy performance that involved 65 cameras and drones. For contemporary streetwear brand Kithland, he enlisted the help of musicians A$AP Rocky and Ja Rule – the scrum to get seated was so intense, some viewers went home to enjoy the livestream. 

Brown’s fashion story began when he moved to New York at the age of 16 and joined American Apparel as an assistant. From there, he moved to Barney’s and then Vogue, where he was spotted by Kanye West 10 years ago. While his dictum might be to make fashion fun, he has also been instrumental in moving fashion along. 

Five or so years ago, Brown found the fashion world had become stale and formatted, unintegrated with technological advancements, and was aware that the way people consumed media was moving from printed to moving images. The audience too, had changed, becoming more democratic – anyone in the world can now watch a live fashion show, whereas only a few years ago, it was no invite, no entry. This shift in the way the world communicates and shares information has influenced the way Brown works. ‘Previously, an art director would have books or images they’d taken themselves, and they would guard those references closely as they’d discovered them,’ Brown explains. ‘Now, people are much more used to sharing, it’s part of the job.’

Most recently, he started the Work From Home Project, an initiative mixing graphic tees and charitable donations, formed by a collective of designers and creatives on an open Slack channel. While embedded in the fashion hemisphere for so long, Brown’s creative studio, Studio Institute, works in a multitude of creative areas. Most recently he’s been working with a brand that refurbishes old Land Rover Defenders, making them suitable to be recirculated, and he’s also working on a ‘cool weed vape’. While his interests are expanding, Brown remains consistent in being a fan of innovation, design and whip-sharp aesthetics. Here are his favourite fashion brands to watch.
Models dancing on a catwalk.

Hood By Air (Getty)

A woman kicking her leg up.

Heron Preston (courtesy of Heron Preston)

Shayne Oliver – Hood By Air 
‘Fifteen years ago when I moved to New York at the age of 16, Hood By Air was not a clothing brand – yet. It was part of the party scene; dressing up was part of your nightly going-out routine. I was always inspired by Shayne and his whole world of people. It goes without saying that he influenced, inadvertently and directly, designers of the time. He was an artist, so he never got the accolade for it. So, I’d put him on the list for ones to watch. He’s just one of my favourite designers and he always will be.’

Heron Preston
‘I grew up as good friends with Heron Preston. From his bootlegging T-shirt days at Cafe Select, to his non-traditional career trajectory, he wouldn’t say he’s a designer, but he’s similar to Shayne in a way. He’s very inspirational to the design and designer scene. I think he is at an early point in his career and I know he will go on to do exciting things.’
A man standing in a field.

Reese Cooper (courtesy of Reese Cooper)

A pink t-shirt on a black background.

Online Ceramics (courtesy of Online Ceramics)

Reese Cooper 
‘I am not a fussy dresser. Workwear is always inspiring for me, and the person behind the design is as important as the clothes. Reese is a sweet guy who is very humble. Coming from the mid 2000s, the fashion environment was quite snobbish – he transcended that. I think the world has to become less elitist to ideas, and designers like him now are much more willing to be open around their thought process of design and inspiration.’

Online Ceramics
‘This is a T-shirt company that sells the weirdest, trippiest T-shirts. It’s limited amounts of product that are hand dyed.’
A white pamphlet.

Advisory Board Crystals (courtesy of Advisory Board Crystals)

A hand reaching down to a high heeled shoe on a foot.

Amina Muaddi (courtesy of Amina Muaddi)

Advisory Board Crystals
‘They are also weird. I like as much stuff going on as possible – I’m really into maximalism. I guess it’s a reaction type thing to my youthful Hedi Slimane days when everything was minimal and “rock”. Right now, the 1990s are having their cycle of being back in fashion.’ 

Amina Muaddi
‘This is an apparel brand, I guess. She just did a project with Fenty, and only two years ago she was schlepping her shoes to whatever boutique would take them. But she’s stayed true to her looks and it’s been special watching her label take off. Shoes are an expensive item to make and are truly artisan, and it’s been cool to see her brand grow.’
A model holding a bag in front of her face.
‘They make raffia bags using traditional Ghanaian methods. Not only are they just cool, but they also help provide a sustainable income to the women of Africa. The colourways and shapes are cool. I like raffia bags for anything – shopping or laundry. I love that style.’
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