With issue 4 we decided to focus more on the stories behind the journeys. We begin the ongoing series with a conversation with Nermin Tan currently based in London, U.K. Seasoned within the style and luxury sector, she is one of those quiet giants that doesn’t make much noise, but sure leaves behind results. Join us as we share an excerpt of our conversation with her. (Full article in issue 4) You seem to have been an outsider who always felt at home, can you talk about the early experiences of belonging, fitting in, and/or entry to a global community?
1. My parents moved at a young age as immigrants to The Netherlands. . For sure I have seen and learned from them how it is to leave everything behind to chase your dreams in a country where they didn’t know language, did not have a safety net to fall back on, and created everything they have now all by themselves. I have the same, I can easily live from one suitcase and pack and move tomorrow to another destination. 2. I was born in The Netherlands and went to a Roman Catholic School with a handful of foreign children. I never realized we were different until one day (I was six at the. time) my mother said: this summer we are going to our country where everybody looks like us. I had no idea what she was talking about. When we arrived in Turkey, it was the biggest culture shock I ever experienced. It felt like falling through the universal cosmos encountering one bright colored star after another of experiences, different cultures, people, food, colors, languages, nature, sea, family I never knew I had and much more. On my return I couldn’t explain in class what I had experienced during my summer break in words. All I knew is that this is what I wanted for myself later growing up…Travelling, experiences and encountering different cultures, people and nature. 3. Growing up in a big family, I always felt restless at home or at school. Only when going out into the unknown did I feel at home. It is a feeling I can’t describe. At home or school, I felt restricted with others’ opinions and beliefs, which I always felt had nothing to do with me. I was always that kid who would ask questions, and if an adult couldn’t give a reasonable answer, I was curious to go find it out myself. 4. I started Karate Wado Ryu at the age of 7. I wanted to play tennis, but my father said it was too girly. Later in life I understood his true intentions and worries. He was all day out at work and five daughters. This was all for me be able to protect myself, especially where we grew up. From my bedroom back window I had a view at the prestigious ARTEZ Art Academy where Audrey Hepburn studied (where later I was accepted to for Fashion) and from the front window of our house you had a view of the prestigious academy of the streets. A mix of Harlem, Brooklyn and Godfathers playground. And that was for me a very exciting area. It was a mixture of diverse cultures, emotions, creativity, languages, experiences….it had everything we were not allowed at home. I also felt so accepted and safe there. 5. I never felt I belonged somewhere. Trying to belong somewhere, I always felt like I was losing a part of myself. The social structure world wide is constructed and orientated in creating boxes to define everyone and anything. I strongly believe that this divides people even more. We are not born to fit in, but to appreciate our differences and share our uniqueness. Step out of the box, think out of the box and surrender to what nature offers us in abundance. There are unlimited stars under the sky for every single living being on this planet.
During my career, especially working on Savile Row I absolutely love just observing people and trying to find out why they would buy a certain product or brand. I met different customers from different walks of life from Royals, very successful business owners, aristocrats, artists, actors, young entrepreneurs etc. Somehow I have a talent where people trust me by opening up their hearts and sharing private information. What I noticed is that most of them have something in common, that they are trying to belong , fit or to be accepted. Am I, as a designer, accommodating those feelings? If yes, I am a part of the problem. This is something I would question myself. I prefer to create sustainable key wardrobe staples, one really needs that will enrich and ease their lives, with the intention to hand it over to the next generation. I truly hope that the next generation will focus more on investigating those feelings much earlier, feeling at home within themselves. Because when one doesn’t feel at home within themselves, the changes are big that along your journey others will decide what that defines for you. Only you can know and decide where you belong or fit in.
Fitting in personal
From a young age I was never bothered with trying to fit in. I always and still believe that we are all divinely created exactly as we suppose to be. Physically, mentally, the family we are born in, the luggages we carry, talents and gifts we have, the lessons and challenges we are facing, the people we love, we connect with etc. For me, trying to fit in somewhere feels like wasting my time and disrespecting the opportunity that I have been given, to find my purpose and execute it. I have looked into the eyes of death 2 times in my 41 years, no way I am going to waste time to fit in someone else’s world. Imagine you connect and share and learn from each others worlds. That is what I am interested in. I also remember when at high school I was bullied a lot for my fashion sense, but then two weeks later everyone was wearing what I was wearing two weeks prior. Same in my career I would come up with ideas and designs, which were being rejected but then 6 months later I would see it back in their collections. As a creator, get used to rejections, build stamina, stay focused and never ever doubt yourself. When you get downloads, believe in them. They come to you with a good reason, but it needs to be backed up with actions and taking responsibilities. No matter what others say or do, do you. Don’t allow others to project their insecurities or restrictions onto you. Even if it’s your family. We are all on our own journey appointed with different goals, purposes and timing. You run your own race at your own pace, with grace, integrity and joy. That’s all that matters. Remember to always be kind to others, you never know what they are going through, even if they’re smiling through the day, through their pain. Do a favour for someone you don’t know, but needs it and don’t expect anything in return. Putting a smile on someone’s face and heart, just imagine how that would make them feel in a world where we are so connected online, but disconnected in real life. What you give unconditionally, comes back in ways or people you would least have expected. Trust me in that! They become a part of you, a part of your divinely orchestrated family.
During my career I have been incredibly lucky and grateful to be able to work with people from all over the world and from different walks of life. I have always been curious to connect with people who are passionate about what they do, especially with integrity, honesty and love. People who truly care about their impact of their behavior
My global community is my chosen family. I grew up with Sufism, where we are taught that God is within us, home is within us now matter where you go. The “I” is like the cinema screen on which the picture is projected. It is one unchanging background on which all experience comes and goes. I alone is, the real. Everything that comes behind the I, is just illusion and temporary. Imagine we appreciate everyone’s pictures, but connect with their cinema screen. That is the purest and most abundant place one can connect with one another. Unfortunately with this intensive use of Social Media, current challenging affairs around the world and bombarded with commercials of products that are supposed to make our lives easier (lazier), no wonder that most of us are disconnected or partially connected from the I.
Sustainability is currently trending, almost every brand has some kind of story on how they are doing their part to save the planet. As an individual you’ve been doing your part for some time, tell us about making your own clothing, why is it important to you?
People who see Sustainability as a trend, are people who like to talk about it and gain profit out of the trend. 85% of all textiles are ending up in the dump each year. We are not even talking about the conditions it is made in that is polluting our world and the inhumane conditions the people who make them are treated. Only for the Western world to keep up with trends. This is what I was talking about earlier. People who have no sense of feeling home within themselves, will chase trends. So maybe sit down and think about the effect your behaviour has to you, your direct surroundings and nature. I am sorry, I don’t believe in Summits. Imagine all the finances invested in only organising the summits for sustainability would go directly to companies or young entrepreneurs who come up with genius solutions that enhance sustainability. As a fashion designer from a young age I made a very conscious decision to work for Heritage brands, not fashion brands. Of course I needed experience in the early stage of my career. I find it important that as a customer one should know who makes your products and how. You as a customer are fully responsible for being a part of the pollution. One company I find incredibly fascinating is Vita Electrics in Lake Como. It is a Yacht company who produce Eclectic yachts. They are investing time and money in awareness of keeping our oceans and lakes clean, while you still can enjoy a luxury ride. I grew up with a mother who is obsessed with recycling, coming up with creative solutions, using only as much as you need, not as you want, to nurture our nature and animals. My mother is a herbalist and comes from a family with 300 years of practice in shamanism and herbalists. We are a part of nature, an extension of Nature. Nature doesn’t need us, but we depend on nature. And this is absolutely how I approach everything I do in life. Make conscious decisions of what our impact will be, no matter what you do. Most of my clothes are Bespoke handmade by myself. I find it important that I wear something that feels like me, fits like a glove and most importantly I know exactly where the materials come from and who made it. I only use sustainable and durable materials like merino wool, cashmere, silks, remnants and executing in the high Savile Row standard. I don’t like cutting corners, it has to be done perfectly and last a lifetime. My style is inspired by Dior and Hardy Amies 1950. All my dresses and skirts have pockets. I am a very practical woman and don’t like handbags or too much fuss. My clothes are tailored in a way where they are constructed, but very comfortable and I can combine pieces with everything in my wardrobe. They are feminine, elegant yet they use a strong presence because of the tailored construction. My favorite is my stunning 3 piece garment made out of silk jacquard flowers. A vintage curtain from Laura Ashley I once bought for £15.00. I had a bit of a Scarlett O’Hara of Gone with the Wind moment. I made a skirt, corset and a bikini top from it. The skirt has real Mother of Pearls hand embroidered on it. My mother always complained why I never did wear her pearls, well this way she is always with me. Special occasion for me is every single day. Sometimes I see those influencers hashtagging all these brands they are wearing and at the same time talking about sustainability. It is painful to watch, knowing that they probably have no clue how pollution that brand is. You have two choices: One be a hypocrite or educate yourself and do research before you are distracted by the freebies.
You seem to be beginning a new chapter on your journey. Can you tell us what matters to you at this point in your life?It is indeed an exciting period for me. The last couple of years I have invested a lot of time and money into my own personal development and growth. I took time to reflect on my experiences so far and what I truly want. Design, concept development and storytelling is in my blood, so that will always be a part of me. What excites me is to look at companies and see where there is an area of improvement and where I can push myself to develop and learn more. Especially on the sustainable end, and come up with creative solutions. I do see myself as a bridge between heritage and future, young generation and old school, the impossible and possible, turning something ordinary into extraordinary and the most important creating something that sparks people minds wanting to explore more, question more, research more, connect to their passions more, wanting to improve more, wanting to connect with other more. I design and propose projects for companies as an independent international designer. On the side in a very natural way I started House of Tan Botanicals. I’ve been doing this underground for over ten years. I create bath routines that enhance Ayurvedic medicine to cleanse and empower oneself. It is a deep quantum healing and empowering cleanse. The recipes come from my family, especially my mother. During the day we absorb energy, good or bad, from around us. It is important that we balance that energy every single day as a habit. I also create creams with Mother of Pearl, which is an ancient ingredient used for over centuries in Asian medicine. Next to it I make Sea Moss to nurture our gut, our first brain where our mood and energy levels are created. Sea Moss has 92+ minerals of the 102 our body needs. My goal is to assist to empower anyone who is interested in investing consciously in themselves on a deeper level, by teaching them how to nurture their own nature from deep within. This is especially valuable for anyone who has a lot of responsibilities, creatives, artists, entrepreneurs, young mothers etc. This has a profound effect on creativity and productivity in the long run. I will give the tools and guide them how to use it in a way that works the best for them. This is a very strong way of connecting with your inner self. My focus is to establish myself as an independent designer, whereas before I always worked behind the screens. Next to this I find it very important to keep communicating about the importance of heritage companies and mills, the importance of sharing our challenges with each other because there lies many valuable key lessons we can learn so much from, and keep reminding the next generation that without history there is no future. Without roots, we cannot grow or flourish.
What drives you?
There are so many things that drive me on a daily basis. First of all I am lucky to wake up every morning and be grateful to have another day. That I am healthy, my family and friends are healthy and safe. The last couple of years have been challenging for many of us in different ways. Analysing my patterns and habits, I noticed that what truly drives me is to share my talents and gifts with others, being extremely curious, wanting to help others, not taking a no for an answer, wanting to explore more, connect more, learn more, improve more, find creative solutions, be kind and gentle with myself and others, fighting for justice, finding answers and serving my purpose.
From Agee 7 you had foresight into years later, what do you see for yourself moving forward now? That is true. From a very young age I knew I would live in Milan, Live in London, work with Vivienne Westwood and work on Savile Row. Design I do see myself as injecting ideas as projects in companies. Well thought out projects that have great influence enhancing conscious living lifestyle. I also do see myself writing, I don’t know what yet, but I believe I am actually great in storytelling and inspire people to pick up/look into their passions again. House of Tan Botanical I do see myself growing House of Tan Botanicals undergrounds. Like the artist Banksy, undergrounds. My goal is eventually offering my services to company directors as a service to offer it to their staff. If you nurture and nourish your team, your team will nurture and nourish your profits.
You’re moving away from fashion and more focused on lifestyle. What does that mean and how is it part of the journey?
I am not fully moving away from fashion. For example I am working on two design projects that involve luxury lifestyle companies. I can’t say much but it’s me looking at the companies, adding new design products and other services where my goal is to make them more inclusive, and create a community where there is a platform for open discussions where the customers are a big part of it. It is all about conscious lifestyle, habits and consumption. (Read the full Q&A in Issue 4 of No Chaser Magazine, available now)