Meet Ndigo Studio, The Brand Convincing Life-Long Minimalists To Shelve Their Black Clothing
Gabrielle Union, for one, is a major fan.
For years, a minimalistic influence had a grip on fashion’s trend cycle. Classic silhouettes, crisp lines, demure color palettes — the most sought-after aesthetic prioritized a simplistic, direct-to-the-point wardrobe. Waïna Chancy and Viviane Valerius of Ndigo Studio, however, understood the obsession with neutrals and austerity would eventually pass. The creative duo dreamed of a more lively, more expressive sartorial future where color is welcome and escapism is encouraged — and they had faith it would come.
A countermovement that prioritized vibrancy and joy materialized as a foil to the simplistic, gray-sweatsuit way of life that had become the norm the past two years. Now was Chancy and Valerius’ opportune time to strike. They launched Ndigo Studios, a women’s ready-to-wear label that celebrates vibrant hues and sculptural design, in February 2021, hoping it would bring them one step close to the lively future they envisioned.
In a sea of neutrals and monotony, Chancy and Valerius' inventive creations became an optimistic life raft. Their first collection for Spring Summer 2021 was a highly saturated breath of fresh air filled with crisp cerulean, ruby red, and vermillion tones. Pleats, sheers, and twirl-ready fringe were plentiful, too. “We want people to just have fun with [Ndigo's clothing,]” Chancy describes over Zoom. “Let your personality shine, wear colors, and just enjoy it — that’s what we want people to take away from our work. And especially with everything going on in the world right now, you don't know what's going to happen, so, really, that's all you could do — just have fun," she offers.
And fun is exactly what the two co-founders are having. Beyond their intimate bond as business partners, they are great friends. “I met Viviane in fashion school at Miami International University of Art & Design,” describes Chancy. “When we met, we just clicked and became really cool friends.” Chancy describes her and Valerius as sharing a hive mind, of sorts, and gives their creative connection almost a mythic quality. “We're just so in sync with each other. Whenever I work with Viviane, we are always thinking of the same thing — always. It's so weird,” she says with a laugh. “We just work so well together, and you can see it in our collections. Everything is just so well put together and very consistent,” Chancy remarks.
Like nearly everyone in the fashion industry, Chancy and Valerius are very busy people. Chancy is a stylist and has been 12 years, while Valerius also has her eponymous, bridal and evening wear brand, Viviane Valerius, which she launched in 2015. Thus, quarantine was also fortuitous in the sense they were both forced to pause their other ventures and slow down. “We never really had the time, so when the pandemic happened, and we weren't doing anything, we were like, 'You know what, it's time to start. Let's just do it. Let’s launch our own brand,” Chancy details.
“For us, it was very important, especially during this really sad time, to bring lots of color. Colors bring happiness, and so we wanted to play with that,” details Chancy. Valerius chimes in, here, to add there’s a pathology behind it, too; Colors are scientifically proven to affect your mood and provide health benefits. Further, both Chancy and Valerius are from Haiti and, as Valerius describes, “Caribbean people are very colorful.” The two designers are fascinated with vibrancy and take great care to ensure their love for color comes through with their clothing. And, in what should come as no surprise given the name of the brand, the duo is especially fond of the color indigo — “We love, love, love blue,” Chancy emphasizes.
Together, they’ve developed a unique color philosophy. “We have decided to use colors in the collections but differently, and that’s by not using print. As you can see, everything in our collection is a solid color,” she illustrates. As such, Ndigo Studio’s clothing packs a saturated and emphatic punch of color. The lack of patterns allows for the shades Chancy and Valerius use to shine in their unabashed glory. And this strategy is proving to be quite effective, too; It’s inspiring life-long minimalists to convert to a life of color. “The feedback we get from customers is that they were afraid of wearing color before, but when they discovered Ndigo, that changed. Now, they want our color,” Valerius describes. “We've even had customers tell us they won’t ever wear black anymore — they only want color,” she adds.
The designers cite this widespread craving for vibrant, joyful fashion — a trend you likely know as dopamine dressing — as the reason their Lily Top and Adama Skirt from Ndigo’s Spring Summer 2022 have become such particular, stand-out successes. Made of airy, neon yellow silk, the two-piece set consists of a sculptural bandeau in the shape of a flower and a free-flowing maxi skirt with a hip bone-reaching slit. You may have seen it on Instagram; Gabrielle Union donned the look when ringing in the new year. Or, for And Just Like That watchers, you’ll recognize the eye-popping look as what Bethlehem Million wore as the character Smoke during the series finale. “I think the color plays a big part in the popularity of that look because yellow is an especially happy and joyful color,” offers Chancy.
Chancy adds, too, that the viral two-piece look is an integral part of Ndigo Studio’s signature technique, which includes sculpting delicate fabrics into unconventional shapes fit for the female form. The end result of this architectural approach is strategic, novel, and undeniably sensual. “We design with, of course, the beauty of the art of fashion in mind. But we also emphasize edginess — we want our women to be edgy,” says Valerius. The seasoned designer explains she wants whoever wears a Ndigo Studio piece to enjoy their beauty and know that silhouettes — despite how skin-revealing or novel they may be — can be worn by anyone.
“The ideal for a woman’s body has changed with time. Not that long ago, women needed to be very skinny to be viewed as beautiful,” she articulates. She and Chancy hope to eradicate the archaic and exclusionary standard with their clothing. “Ndigo is created with inclusion in mind. We design for every woman — every shape, every color, every shade, you name it,” Valerius says, emphasizing that all are welcome within Ndigo Studio’s forward-thinking, technicolor universe.
Chancy and Valerius wind down the conversation by sharing their exhilaration about Ndigo Studio participating in the Black In Fashion Council’s annual Discovery Showroom for its Fall Winter 2022 season. It will be the nascent label’s first-ever showing of any kind, which certainly merits a celebration. Chancy recounts she couldn’t help but fangirl slightly when Lindsay Peoples-Wagner, one of the BFC co-founders, invited them directly. (“I was just like, ‘Oh. My. Gosh,’” she recounts.) Valerius echoes Chancy, saying the success of Ndigo has almost felt surreal. “Yes, we did expect Ndigo to be a success, but, I have to say, we got more than we bargained for in that it really happened quickly,” says Valerius. “Waïna and I were projecting to participate in New York Fashion Week in the very near future, but we did not expect it to happen in less than a year.”
On the subject of the Ndigo Studio’s Fall Winter 2022 collection, Chancy and Valerius grow coy and, understandably, don’t want to give away too much. However, the two co-founders do share that the collection will feel like a continuation of the joyful narrative Ndigo Studio has already begun to tell.
“We can't say much but it's gonna be fun,” says Chancy. “We're always going to be consistent with our pleats, our colors, and fringe because those are our signatures. The new collection will be consistent with [Ndigo’s aesthetic], but just with some different and unexpected aspects added.” Valerius chimes in: “It's going to be young. It's going to have more inclusion and, of course, it's going to be sexy. We design with all types of body shapes in mind, and want to show in this collection that you can be sexy without revealing too much.”
Are they nervous about their first showing? A little. But mostly, they’re excited. “We've been in this industry for so long and I feel like we've long been prepping for this moment. We're ready. We're ready for the world to see Ndigo, embrace it, love it, and just start wearing it,” says Chancy. Before signing off, Valerius points out that this is just the very beginning for Ndigo Studio.“We have not even started yet, really,” she says. “There are so so many more exciting things to come.”
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