Singaporean Fashion Industry Veteran Nadirah Abdullah On Staying True To Your Style


Personal style is a form of storytelling. Each piece forms a picture of who we are, how we feel — or how we want to feel — at a point in time. Take a peek at the wardrobes of these fashionable personalities and discover the interesting details behind their looks and stories.

If there’s anything Nadirah Abdullah learned from 14 years of working in the fashion industry for various brands including MANGO and Colony Clothing, it’s that you have to stay true to your style. Trends may come and go, but style is something that no one can take away from you. “I dress not for people but as respect to myself and my self-expression”, Nadirah said.

Ahead, find more about how she found her style and get a glimpse at her fabulous wardrobe that features interesting pieces — from heritage fabrics with a rich history to her ever-growing shoe collection.

Finding her style

Nadirah’s style, which she describes as “edgy, quirky, fun with a hint of gender bender”, is touched by many influences. “I found my style through experimentation and taking references from people from all around the world through books, magazines and their club kid culture,” she shared.

As a young girl, she took a lot of inspiration from the club kids scene in Studio 54, a theatre in Broadway that was one of the most famous nightclubs in New York. In its heyday during the disco era, Studio 54 was the place to be and it attracted celebrity patrons including the likes of Dolly Parton, Calvin Klein and Karl Lagerfeld. Its lush party scene gave birth to the so-called “Club Kid” look that was made popular by nightclub personalities like Michael Alig. It’s characterised by its exuberant flamboyance that’s not too different from drag fashion. Looking at Nadirah’s striking style, you can definitely see some influences from this particular aesthetic.

Aside from the Club Kid look, Nadirah is also enamoured with the irreverent and boundary-pushing fashion of the 1960s and cites British designer Mary Quant, who popularised high hemlines, and American It girl Edie Sedgwick as a couple of her style inspirations.

“I do not follow trends. I wear what I feel like wearing even if it is something that might look like it belongs in the 60s. I wear what I want anytime, anywhere. Fashion is always recycling past trends from different eras and injecting it with a new creative spin from the current time,” she said. In other words, have faith in your style — never mind the trends.

“Back in the early days of the 2000s, there were many people who would never understand my dressing but I couldn’t care less,” Nadirah shared. To her, confidence doesn’t come from beautiful clothes, rather it’s your confidence that will make your outfit stand out. “If you are confident from within, honestly you will shine in any outfit you wear,” she said.

A peek at Nadirah’s wardrobe

Nadirah’s wardrobe is full of pieces that we’d want to own ourselves. There are items that are simply priceless such as the ones that were handed down to her by her family.

“I own a 41-year-old songket fabric that was given by my mum,” she shared. A songket fabric is considered not just a luxury item but also a piece with historical significance because its weaving traditions and techniques date back hundreds of years ago. “The songket is one of my mum’s wedding gifts that she received in 1980 from her Javanese family. It is hand-woven in silk and intricately patterned with gold threads. Songket is part of a brocade family and is traditionally considered an exquisite, luxurious and prestigious traditional fabric, only worn for special occasions, religious festivals, and traditional social functions back in the olden days,” Nadirah explained.

Nadirah wearing her mother’s songket. A testament that there is such a thing as timeless fashion.

Another precious piece with a sentimental value in Nadirah’s closet is a 1940s Peranakan silver belt given by her late paternal grandmother. “It was one of her gifts to me when I was five years old before she passed on. This was the belt she wore with her kebaya (a long-sleeved dress that’s fastened in the front) when she served the Japanese soldiers as a nurse during the Syonan-to days (Japanese occupation of Singapore),” she said.

Nadirah is also building her own collection of timeless pieces. She’s now a more conscious buyer and invests in essential pieces that will last a lifetime. One of the most expensive items in her wardrobe is a Proenza Schouler Record Shoulder bag from the SS ‘13 collection. “It was about SGD2,000 and still alive in my closet till today,” she said.

However, Nadirah says that she’s not big on splurging on name brands and prefers understated pieces and shopping at vintage markets. It’s where she scores unique items that she adds to her growing jacket, shoes and bags collection — her “weaknesses”. She shares that she owns about 70 pairs of shoes (from boots to loafers, but her favourite style are boots, which she has 30 pairs of) and 60 assorted bags in varying shapes and sizes. “Such a great addition to any outfit to add some spice to the look.”

Her signature look

All these bags, shoes and jackets help her create unique outfits that are eye-catching and always true to her mood. Even so, she shares that it’s good to have a signature look that you can put together in a jiffy. “My no brainer go-to for a last-minute event will be a structured blazer paired with a leather A-line skirt, ankle boots and a textured bag in glitter or slogan bags.”

This fashion industry veteran’s ultimate style tip? “Be brave and never stop experimenting. When in doubt, always pick one item you wish to focus on then build the rest of your look around it. And above all, fashion is all about having fun.” We couldn’t agree more.

(Cover photo from: @nadispeanut)

Next, here are our tips on how to style denim-on-denim outfits.

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