Worn by celebrities like Zendaya and model Emily Ratajkowski, fashion designer Nensi Dojaka’s clothes explore interplay between sensuality and strength
- Dojaka’s lingerie-inspired designs exploring the balance between sensuality and ‘making women feel empowered’ have earned a celebrity following
- The designer’s new capsule wardrobe for French luxury retailer 24S.com reinforces that aesthetic and is inspired by Parisian femininity and light, she says
Nensi Dojaka is interested in balance. The Albanian-born, London-based fashion designer and winner of the coveted 2021 LVMH Prize has built an entire aesthetic, and brand, around it.
At the heart of Dojaka’s designs is exploration of the tensions between femininity and strength, sensuality and empowerment. In recent collections, she has introduced tailoring and more masculine-influenced pieces that further add to this proposition.
“I always play with the idea of having these pieces that are edgy and a bit out there, so bold, but they’re also very feminine.
“When I design and I think about looks, if I have a look that is a bit more on the aggressive side, I always have a very lightweight bottom because for me, this fragile and delicate part is very important. Because this is how I see women, you know, between … strong and delicate. This is how femininity is for me, about the balance of both,” says Dojaka.
For Dojaka, who studied lingerie design before fashion, this collection is an ode to the eternal appeal of the “effortless” French girl and the light in Paris. The colour palette takes inspiration from the greys and pastels often used by Swedish painter Hilma af Klint.
“When we first started the conversation about encapsulating the Parisian girl in the capsule, I really wanted to do the most important signature pieces in the collection that I had, and bring them slightly differently,” she says. “So there is an alteration in lengths and there is a bit of play with some of the designs. [They are] a bit more minimal, a bit more fresh.
“And then I was thinking about the colours. I always wanted to do a collection that was very light and also around the beige world, and [I] just never had the chance to do it. I thought this was the perfect time because Paris gives me that vibe. You know, there’s always the concrete walls, and it feels light and it makes sense.”
For Dojaka, who believes the desire to feel sexy and to dress up isn’t only pandemic- related, sexiness in relation to her designs is a concept she used to grapple with.
“I used to be very scared of the word ‘sexy’. I guess it can have [its] own connotations. So it’s very important for me, when I think something looks a bit too ‘sexy’, or can be sexualised, I always put it together with something that is more sensual, so softer,” she says.
“And I think it’s very important to have the balance because it’s about making sure that women feel empowered and not an object of the gaze. So I think it’s about balancing the two. They’re both very important. I don’t think I would describe my clothes as just ‘sexy’, for sure. I would always say I prefer the word ‘sensual’.”
This nuanced take on sexiness makes sense when considering Dojaka’s constant reference point: the pared-back minimalism of the ’90s.
“I think because the clothes at the time were very sexy, very bold and very feminine. But they were also very minimal,” Dojaka says regarding the reason for her attraction to this era.
“A lot of things were taken out and I liked that contrast. And I kind of do that because you know, [my] pieces, they’re all very intricate and there’s a lot of details, but I always strip it back at the end because I think: ‘This is the aesthetic I like,’ basically. I think it’s the tension between the sexy and something more minimal and clean.”
What’s particularly important to Dojaka is increasing the diversity of body shapes wearing her clothes. For her most recent collection, plus-size model Paloma Elsesser stunned in one of Dojaka’s cut-out black slip dresses.
“Before the last show I didn’t feel confident to speak about empowerment. But now I’m really trying very hard to work on that part as well. Because this is what I want to show. You know, for me, this is the message of the brand.”