The subtle power of durag on the red carpet according to Chioma Nnadi

The subtle power of durag on the red carpet according to Chioma Nnadi 

How did durag help our editor, Chioma Nnadi, overcome her fear of the carpet?

Let’s be clear: I love clothes. So you’d think that when I had the prospect of walking the red carpet at the

Met Gala, (famous for hosting the most unbelievable gowns), it would represent some idea of paradise for me.

However, the opposite happened. It would be my own idea of hell. Here’s the thing: dressing up has always been

fun for me. My mood is always improved, it’s a way for me to play a little creative game, and I take the opportunity

to express my little eccentricities. But if you put me in front of thousands of crackling flashes, I literally

turn into a trembling blank. View more Whatever happened to vintage luxury?

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This is probably why, three weeks before the Met Gala, I started freaking out about my tuna poke bowl on

my lunch break. By then, I had already known the dress code for a good month: gilded glamour and white tie.

The content planning for Vogue.com was in full swing, with the entire editorial staff scrambling to find

out what the celebrities would be wearing on the big night. What I was planning to wear? Let’s just say

it was still to be determined.

Making the right choice

Everyone (well, mostly my friends) wanted to know what I had in store for the biggest fashion event of the

year. The designer James Garland, with whom I was having lunch, did not hesitate to grill me. I responded

cautiously, showing him selfies taken in the fitting room of a chic vintage boutique. “Maybe I could wear

this, right?” The outfit consisted of a pair of gold spiderweb leggings, a black lace Edwardian stole, and

a gold beaded miniskirt and bodice that in all likelihood dated back to the 70s, a look that I thought was

charming even if, I must admit, slightly made of odds and ends. “Oh adorable!”, James Garland chuckles,

feigning ecstasy. “That’s right, could you wear this or maybe… I could make you something?”

“Let me do it” – James Garland

The proposal obviously delighted me. Just two weeks prior, I borrowed an outfit from James Garland’s label,

J6, for the New York Public Library’s 15 Percent Gala. Believe it or not, the rhinestone riveted cargo pants

and trucker jacket I was wearing gave me the confidence to step in front of the sponsor wall for the photo:

a big first for me. A little shapeless but undeniably glam, it was the kind of thing I could wear on a normal

day, just sprinkled with a handful of glitter to give it a little magic. “It would be great if you could

dress me, but there really isn’t much time left, you know!”, I say while trying not to let the hint of anxiety

in my voice betray me. The designer nods silently, with a smile on his face and a look of, “Leave it to

me.

Although he is still more or less a newcomer to the scene, James Garland has actually been working behind

the scenes in fashion for years and knows his subject inside out. The son of a classical ballet dancer,

he learned discipline and rigor from his mother, and from a young age, devoured fashion magazines to learn.

His photographic memory of collections and shows is amazing; no one knows the history of fashion better

than he does. Pick any designer from the last century and he’ll have an anecdote to tell you, whether it’s

Demna Gvasalia or Coco Chanel. View more “I was brought up with my feet on the ground. Everything I do is for my family.”

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But what fuels James Garland’s work the most is his experience growing up in Brooklyn at the dawn of the 1990s. This

refreshing way of looking at things caught my attention in his early days: especially the subtle references to female

hip-hop legends like Foxy Brown and Lil Kim, women who grew up within a few miles of his mother’s house in Clinton

Hill. He also has a real talent, an ingenuity all his own, for reinventing the stylistic lexicon that shaped his teenage

look, whose most iconic piece remains the durag.

How did durag help our editor

Air Jordan 1 Barons For Sale

Courtesy of J6.

Photo: Courtesy of J6

“I love injecting a bit of my childhood and life experiences into my designs,” James Garland explains. The

durag? “It was kind of like a protective thing when I was a kid.” Model Anok Yai, the designer’s true muse

since 2022 and star of his first look book, was already wearing one of these racy scarves belted around her

head. “Whether she’s wearing braids or an afro, Anok loves wearing a durag. When you see her street styles,

she always has one.” In the process, he shows me a video of Anok Yai sporting the first version of her durag,

a black velvet headdress adorned with sparkling colored crystals.

When James shows me a sketch of my Met Gala dress a few days later, I’m pleasantly surprised to discover

that the look is accessorized with a gold durag. Or rather encrusted with little gold rhinestones to match

the dress, which offers an Egyptian queen silhouette. Even better, her durag has little hooks to attach it

to the back of the thin-strapped dress, to avoid any unfortunate incident. “I’m always thinking about how

best to make women who wear one of my dresses look like they just put on a T-shirt,” he says. I like the

idea that you’re very prim but can still live and move in your clothes, like being able to sit down while

wearing a really nice dress.”

 “When it comes to durag, everyone has their own preference” – James Garland

When the dress arrived from the atelier in Italy on the Friday morning just before the Met Gala, it slid

over my body without a hitch, like a perfect tee shirt. The adjustable back straps made it easy to wear with

the gold mid-heeled Gucci pumps I had in mind for the evening, no need for last minute alterations. But it

was definitely the durag that stole the show. I hastily removed the tissue paper around it and tied it around

my freshly braided hair. I immediately understand why James Garland talks about protection. I immediately

feel sharper, taller, sexier, cooler. “I like it when the ties are really flat, but when it comes to durag,

everyone has their own preference,” he reassures me. Two hours before the gala, he stops by my place to help

me polish up the wearing of this ephemeral crown, just in time to see makeup artist Kisha Augustine put the

finishing touches on my spectacular smokey eye. “You look crazy, you really give off a sense of power,” James

Garland chimes in as I slip out the door, my durag positioned in the proper manner. Normally I would have

a hard time accepting the compliment, but somehow that’s exactly how I feel, from head to toe. ceasefirecampaign NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 02: (Exclusive Coverage) Chioma Nnadi arrives at The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating “In

golden durag is madness.

Translation by Hervé Loncan.

Article originally published on Vogue US.

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