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Nova Dando

Nova Dando

Nova Dando- designer, singer and stylist- talks to Dazed about gold cardboard crowns, Love and La Roux…

When I meet Nova Dando at the peppermint green warehouse in Hackney where she lives and works, she’s just come from a meeting at the Hospital members’ club in Covent Garden. She’s a creative in residence there for 2009 and she’s totally enthused about scheme. ‘It’s great’, she says of the scheme, ‘you get advice about branding, about building a business – you get to talk to the people you don’t get to talk to when you’re at college. And I can use their facilities and their studios. They’ve got a cinema I can use if I want to make and show a video’. And, of course, The Hospital get Nova’s supercool creative input and connections. But before any of that, she’s got to make a crown. Out of gold cardboard. It’s for a shoot that’s happening tomorrow, she explains, thoughtfully looping the board into coronets as she speaks.

Nova’s a designer – as well as a stylist and dj – but the two seasons a year and retail distribution treadmill doesn’t interest her. She frequently collaborates with musicians and performers as well as editorial stylists. She’s got her finger on the pulse, this one – she has an uncanny knack of getting in on every exciting new thing going. Katie Grand’s new mag Love – Nova’s making the props. Orange haired synthed-up club kid La Roux - Nova’s making the tour outfits and styling the videos. Little wonder she’s passionate about the idea of the performer  - drenched in glitter, wearing a toga, whatever) as the most defining figure in music today.

Nova Dando: People don’t really buy records so much any more; with downloading they don’t have an object to own. Like album artwork – on an iPod, the image is that big. But they still pay to see a live performance, so it’s really important that it’s a unique experience.

Dazed Digital: Are there any pieces you've created that stand out?
ND: The M.I.A video I worked on (for Jimmy). I had to make all the clothes and I did all the jewellery and headpieces for that, too.

DD: It must be cool to have so many people getting exposed to your work.
ND: Well, yes, only in the final video it looks kind of computer generated.  But there actually were eleven girls standing behind Maya with their arms out, all wearing identical copies of the jewellery and outfits. I didn’t have much time to do it in, so I had to call up everyone I knew who could kind of sew a bit, and it ended up with a sewing party happening down here. And I had Maya on iChat, I was holding up things to her as I made them.

As her ‘Dial F For Flouro’ website attests, Nova’s created stagewear and video costumes for most of the current crop of style-aware musicians. Her reference points are diverse – it’s Classical Greece via Studio 54 for Hercules and Love Affair, Keith Haring-esque tribalism for The Teenagers and spandex and glitter for Peaches. In her studio, there are big stacking boxes with ‘Lou Hayter’, ‘M.I.A’ and ‘Lovefoxxx’ printed on them. ‘I like to watch how artists move, how they perform, before I come up with ideas for them’, she says. And check out the wrapping paper-ribbon cape she made Lovefoxxx for a CSS Christmas themed show. Or the incredible fairylit mini-crini she made for Lou…

DD: Is there anyone you’d refuse to work with?
ND: Oh, probably some random indie band in skinny jeans, you know.

DD: And who’s your ideal client?
ND: Oh my god, Grace Jones.

But she doesn’t see what she makes as costumes, either (‘Grace Jones probably would be, though’). She says ‘It sounds too…’ theatrical? ‘Yeah, kind of…’ But her designs are proper fashion, too. Her work is available to order via Mandi Lennard’s showroom, but she isn’t desperate to get a diffusion line into the shops – ‘I don’t want to knock out twenty or thirty of the same thing – that would be really boring’. Nor does she believe that seasonal collections are the only way to put out her designs – ‘I’d rather just add pieces as I come up with them’.

This attitude can be traced back to her mentor, Lennard, ‘the queen of fashion pr’ as Nova (and just about everyone else) calls her.

ND: I met Mandi when I was working part time at the Hoxton Boutique when I was still at college. When I graduated, I ended up helping her out at Fashion Week and stayed on after that. There were things I’d made in the studio – like this bowl of cigarettes I’d knitted – and my pieces always ended up getting used on shoots. She knows me so well – like, I did my first collection (The Disco Collection) and then the next Fashion Week came along and I was like ‘oh, no, I have to come up with something new now’. But Mandi said ‘Why? You haven’t finished with this one yet’. Because disco’s not dead!

In some ways, Nova’s closest role models come from the eighties: people like Pam Hogg, as energized by music and pop culture as by high fashion. If this was 1985, you just know Nova would have a stall at Kensington Market and party at Blitz. But, this being 2009, she Djs with best friend Lou from New Young Pony Club – ‘I don’t really play normal club gigs, it’s more private views, fashion parties, events like that. We’re always getting called up and asked to Dj at things, and I’m like ‘great, I wanted to go to that!’ She’s also directed her first video, for Lou’s solo project The New Sins. Feelings Have Changed showcases Nova’s aesthetic brilliantly : monochrome and neon; shoulder pads, stretch black velvet and harlequin checks. It references Herve Leger and Bodymap and the more glamorous incarnation of early nineties clubwear in equal measure.

Disco’s getting a rest for Nova’s next collection, whenever, with all the musical commissions, that comes about. But some elements won’t change.

ND: I keep returning to the idea of going out, getting dressed up and of nightlife.

This she puts down to a youth spent in the provinces, yearning for the metropolis.

ND: It was always ‘Bright Lights, Big City’ with me. I made my own clothes, I wanted to meet people who were like me.

Fast forward through a St Martins degree, and she’s certainly done that, at the epicentre of a young gang of creatives, who care as much about glitter and and velvet and Grace Jones as she does. She says of the mint green warehouse: ‘living here, everyone’s creative. It used to be a sewing factory. There are needles between the floor tiles which aren’t mine.’

The following Lou Hayter video, directed by Nova Dando, features Hayter wearing Alaia, YSL and Nova Dando...