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?
Stars in vintage dresses on the red carpet don’t have access to these pieces so easily. Cherie Balch, queen
of luxury vintage, talks about the difficulties she faces in finding the right dress.
By Alice Newbold
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
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.”
She is the queen of our cover as well as of all the fashion shows. Born in the Sudanese tumult, raised near
the Australian ocean, she radiates on the fashion planet. Let’s meet a soul apart.
By Sophie Rosemont
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.
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
America: An Anthology of Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo
by Arturo Holmes/MG22/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue )
This golden durag is madness
By the time I get there, it’s about six o’clock in the evening and I can see the crowd starting to form at
the foot of the museum steps. I can already see in the distance the hosts of the Met Gala red carpet, Vanessa
Hudgens and Hamish Bowles, microphone in hand. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I feel a familiar quiver in the pit
of my stomach. My hands are sweaty, my shoulders are shaking, and my desire to run away is growing. Just before
I bolt, a colleague accompanying guests to the gala takes me by the hand. “We have to take pictures of your
outfit, it’s way too beautiful! Who made this splendor?” she says as she gently pushes me toward the photographers.
“And that golden durag, it’s a folly.” As I take steps toward the flashes and awkwardly attempt my best smile;
39 Man:40, the nervous feeling in my stomach evaporates as quickly as it arrived. She’s not wrong after all. This
golden durag is madness.
Translation by Hervé Loncan.
Article originally published on Vogue US.
Also find on trydecaf.org:
Video: the secrets of Lizzo’s preparation for the Met Gala 2022Brooklyn’s backstage at the Met Gala and
Nicola Peltz-BeckhamAll the star-studded looks on the Met Gala 2022 red carpet
More Vogue France videos on YouTube :