ELLE chats to Jennifer Nnamani, New York based designer and founder of creative company, Beau Monde Society.
ELLE: Where did the idea come from to recycle used materials into wearable garments?
JN: I participated in the global Climate March last summer in NYC and even before that, in 2011, I made it my ultimate goal to become a sustainable consumer. Inspired by ecofriendly designers who I’ve worked with in the past and Gareth Pugh’s AW14 collection, I embarked on a collaborative project to infuse my interpretation of recovered items into fashion and art. I introduced this idea to a designer friend of mine, Tamara Leacock of Reciclagem NY, in May 2014. From there, I was continuously inspired by nature and my daily encounters that led to these creations.
ELLE : Where do you source your materials?
JN: I sourced most of the materials for this from a furniture store in Soho, NY, a neighbourhood bar, and a hardware store. In addition, Tamara had a few scraps of fabrics that were used to create the multitiered skirt.
ELLE: The name of your company is unusual – what does it mean?
JN: Beau Monde means a world of high society and fashion or fine world. I prefer the latter, because I wanted a name that will be a perfect definition of a world that I am creating through my fashion stories: a fashion Utopia that vividly paints a picture that could lead to a sustainable future. Beau Monde Society is a social enterprise startup—an eco-focused fashion communications agency focusing on Creative Direction, Fashion Production/Coordination, and PR.
ELLE: How do you combine textures and how long does it take to complete one garment?
JN: Each of the looks took approximately 10 hours to create. All the raw pieces were cut specifically to fit all our models.
ELLE : Where can we shop your collection?
JN: Presently, I am working on a signature collection that will be launched this summer. Each piece was made in Nigeria.
ELLE: You are also involved in public relations, event coordination and styling. How do you find the balance between all of that and being a designer?
JN: All three eventually intersect at some point, depending on the needs of the client.
I enjoy each of these roles thoroughly but through design, I can create pieces that I identify with. I grew up in Nigeria, where my father was one of the most respected clothiers in the early ‘80s and ‘90s. He also had an equally successful travel agency. I was able to witness the ease and comfort he displayed in those very different roles.
ELLE: How did you arrive at the point where you are today?
JN: As a Nigerian transplant living in New York City, my humbling journey began with my parents insisting that we finish our education in the United States. Fast-forward to 15 years later, I received my MBA in International Business and launched my company soon afterwards. I did a few internships and freelance jobs before I decided to start my own company.
ELLE: How has your brand developed?
JN: BMS has been consistent in creating ethical fashion stories, collaborating with global initiatives and women-supportive platforms, and producing our annual eco-collective Fashion Envie with sustainable designers based in the US. By focusing on our two main aesthetics, sustainability in fashion and Afrofuturism, BMS is gradually carving a niche in a saturated and fast fashion world.
ELLE: Any word of encouragement to aspiring young entrepreneurs reading this?
JN: Remain true to your mission and feed your passion daily by constantly pushing past your comfortable threshold. When an obstacle presents itself, you must conquer it, because you are designed to overcome. It won’t be an easy road but with determination and perseverance, you can reach your destination.
See Jennifer’s Warm Bodies shoot below, with items made using garbage bags, bottle caps, wrapping foam and paper as well as fabric scraps from Reciclagem NY.
Through this story, I wanted to recreate a world where we would have to rely on our creative capabilities to adapt to our changing environment. The backdrops were an abandoned 102-year-old building and a local park in New York.
Creative Director/Designer: Jennifer Nnamani
Designer/Seamstress: Tamara Leacock Reciclagem NY
Photographer: Jubert Gilay
Make-up & Hair: Make-up Pro Studio Inc (Florence Thi, Evon Lee, Maggie Sui, Ince Z, & Rebecca Chen)
Jewellery: Natalie Frigo
Models: Ashley M (Jewels Model Management)
+ Major Models (Piya, Anna, & London)