“Elizabethan Sportswear Part V is part of my PHD creative output,” explained Nabil El-Nayal at the British Fashion Council showroom during Paris Fashion Week. It was something of a remarkable statement, given that these days many designers consider Instagram and a few summer courses sufficient research to allow then to slide from fashion consumer to creator. “It was unintentional, but ultimately I arrived at a collection that is very gender fluid,” continued the designer as he pulled statement shirts from the rack. Explaining that throughout his research of Queen Elizabeth I, he learned that the monarch used to wear men’s clothes to court. Though gender fluid dressing might be touted as a new idea, it has been in circulation for hundreds of years. “It was controversial, but she was Queen and wasn’t afraid to assert herself. The more she did it, the more it became the norm,” said El-Nayal.
El-Nayal explains that he designed his Nabil Nayal Spring 2018 RTW collection with a focus on proportions sprouting from a study of the shirt. Clients are invited to explore the garment’s potential for deconstruction and reconstruction with modular pique collars that can be removed and detachable organdy ruffs. Meanwhile, pleated poplins serve as embellishments where there is no embroidery and accouterment. Long skirts graze the ankle while lantern sleeves hug the elbow, to swath its wearer in poplin cotton and tulle. Here, El-Nayal weaves the rigorous elements of opulence.
Speaking of his choice to maintain a monochrome color palette, El-Nayal explained: “We always think of Elizabeth I as someone very opulent, but she wore a lot of black and white. She was very strict on how much money she spent on her wardrobe,” he said, adding that she spent the very little on her wardrobe. Although she clearly had the money to buy new, the monarch would remove gold and thread embroideries and pearl and diamond embellishments from old clothes and apply them to new garments. “She didn’t have the time to get that dressed up. She would just throw something on and then go in and run the country. It’s that kind of powerful, confident woman who I see wearing this collection,” said El-Nayal.
El-Nayal, who has twice been nominated for a CFDA, has seen his clothes admired by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Lady Amanda Harlech.