Natalia Fedner: On Dressing the A-List and Innate Sex Appeal
“I like to credit Craigslist for my opportunity to work with Beyonce”
If you don’t know Natalia Fedner by name, you certainly know her designs. Her signature ‘Stretch Metal’ has been seen on Beyonce in her visual albums, donned by Cardi B as part of a Halloween look, dripped over Meg Thee Stallion in a music video, worn by Lenny Kravitz, Shakira, JLo, Kylie, and many many more. Her dresses are arguably the most enviable fashion items on the market; they glisten and grab the eye while leaving “negative space” for skin to show. Her latest collection, which uses her patented fabric in shades from gold to charcoal, includes a wide array of pieces: thong underwear, crop tops, gowns, and even unisex tanks. Natalia is constantly inundated with requests from celebrities for custom creations. But even if you purchase ready-to-ship, you’ll be sure to find that each garment looks and feels like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
Not to mention, Natalia Fedner is a one-of-a-kind human being. When describing her love of metal used in fashion, she said it’s “hard and cold against a warm, soft body. I think that there’s something very innately sexy about that.” When I think back on my experience talking with Natalia, there is an echo of this description in my impression of the Ukrainian-born designer. She is instantly warm and inviting, lighting up the room, and laughing freely – at herself and at her wild ride to success – her blond curls bouncing joyously as she does. And yet, there is something unattainable about her: she’s wildly witty and beyond brilliant with unmatched taste and tenacity. She is the embodiment of what it means to be cool by simply being herself. Plus, she is also “innately sexy.” In my decades-long career as a journalist, I have never felt the surges of emotion during a dialogue that I did when speaking with Natalia. And it all started with her description of how her glittering garments made their way to Beyonce’s body.
“I like to credit Craigslist for my opportunity to work with Beyonce,” Natalia began. Cue shock and confusion. I could feel myself leaning in, eager for the story. Natalia then regaled me with a tale that is truly what dreams are made of, the very reason people around the world move to cities like Los Angeles with a wish that someday they too can make it big. . .
As a young designer, Natalia found herself searching for a new roommate for her LA apartment. Open to any option, she connected with an older male applicant via craigslist, and he candidly mentioned that he was working with B. Akerlund. Eager at the name of a stylist who’d dressed wish-list stars like Madonna, Natalia took a gamble and asked for an introduction, though her hopes were humble. A mere two days later, the connection was made and before long the pair met at B’s showroom. In a matter of weeks, Natalia got the call: “I have a project. I can’t tell you a lot about it, but I think your stuff would be good for it.” The secret project was ‘Lemonade,’ Beyonce’s sensational visual album.
Queen Bey has continued to be clothed in Natalia Fedner originals, including a silver thong and garter in the artwork for ‘Renaissance.’ And, a teaser: we may very well see some more of Natalia’s work worn as the rollout for the album continues.
As Natalia spilled her story, I could feel goosebumps swell on my arms and the blood rush to my face as I fought back actual tears. It is truly magical (a word Natalia uses in blissful multitudes) to imagine such high-profile work and an illustrious career blossoming from a chance encounter. Anything is possible! In addition to the swell of inspiration I felt, I harbored a few key reminders: don’t be afraid to use your gifts, stay ready, and – as Natalia’s assistant likes to say – “shoot your shot!”
If that tale didn’t leave you jaw-dropped, check out the video of her Miami runway show. It’s full of rust hues, revealing textures, nearly-naughty nudes, co-ords that make the model look like a walking trophy, and glam glam GLAM. Plus, let me not forget my favorite part: marvelously masculine men showing off their sculpted pectorals underneath her shining tanks and long sleeve tops. If you’re itching for another live event, Natalia Fedner will be showing in Los Angeles on during Vegan Fashion Week and proceeds go to Ukrainian designers. “Though it’s a terrible situation [in the Ukraine at present], we really are trying to give these designers an avenue to display their work and find some sort of supplemental income because their entire production lines have been demolished or interrupted at the very least,” Natalia remarked, displaying passion and empathy for her birth-country. She’s also returning to Ohio, where she grew up, to headline the runway show for Fashion Week Columbus in partnership with the CFDA and the Ukrainian Cultural Association of Ohio. Funds raised will be delivered “to support the most vital needs of soldiers and families and refugees.
So join me on this riveting emotional rollercoaster as Natalia shares even more exciting anecdotes of celebrity collaborations, her inspiration for innovation, and even gives styling suggestions for a night out in Los Angeles:
You have worked with like a huge array of really incredible celebrities – from Shakira to Lenny Kravitz. Recently, you provided looks for Beyonce’s Renaissance album artwork. What was that experience like?
It’s funny cause I feel like the process is still going on. When you’re working with like a megastar like Beyonce, she’s a human, but she’s also a team. A lot of times multiple teams. So we’re still in the process because there are so many different rollouts related to the album. There’s still so much that’s to come. There’s so much I can’t talk about. But it’s been really great so far. The one image that’s public is part of the album art. We gave her a Swarovski crystal thong and a crystal garter set that she ended up using. I was really pleased because a lot of times when someone like Beyonce reaches out, you don’t know why they’re reaching out and you’re just like, hopefully, it works out. A lot of times with Beyonce, we custom make things for her. That was a unique situation where they came to me and they were like, we will take the garters. We will take the thong. They took a couple other pieces too, that they may use in the future. And that’s always really fun for me as a designer because a part of my existing collection is highlighted.
Is there anyone who you hasn’t worn one of your garments that’s on your wish list?
It’s three women: Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rihanna. I like badass women who are in charge of their own fate.
Their stylists have considered me, but nothing has hit yet. That’s a big part of being in the celebrity fashion game: realizing that sometimes it takes years for you to finally get something on celebrity. Just last year I got something on Shakira and there were so many moments prior where it was so close. I’d made custom pieces for her, and I’d let her borrow things and alter them to her body. And then every time the project would somehow fall through. And then finally (finally!) it worked out last year. It was like six or seven years to really land something on Shakira. So I’m just hoping that one of these days I’ll wake up and Madonna’s wearing something of mine.
If you were to recommend one of your ready-to-ship items for an LA influencer who has like a really special night out on the town, what would you recommend for her? And how would you suggest she style it?
I would say the Chainmail Mini Dress, which is our racer-back mini dress. It’s simple, it’s clean. You can layer it over anything: over a slip, over a bodysuit, over a bikini. You can wear it underneath a cool jacket. I also think it’s a good value, you’re getting a metal dress, and it’s not the price point of the more complicated dresses, and it’ll never go out of style.
I have to tell you, I’ve been working with DSW lately. They kindly sponsored the shoes for my runway show, and I’ve just been really blown away by their nightlife shoes. They have some brands within the company itself that they design in house like Mix No. 6 and Kelly & Katie. They have these great strappy sandals. So if you look at some of my runway photos, you’ll see! I would say go to DSW, you know, mix it up. You can have a very expensive dress with a really affordable pair of shoes, and that way you can better afford the dress anyhow.
What was the process of creating and working with your signature stretch metal material like?
I’ve always loved jewelry. I loved jewelry making as a kid. Self-taught jewelry making. I love sparkly things. . .who doesn’t? I love an elegance to things. I’m not trying to make large, loud, metal pieces. I like it when things are magical and clean. If you’re going to go sparkly, keep it simple. So when I was originally making other garments, I was really into textile design and I love experimenting. I had a textile design teacher who really opened up my mind to looking at things differently. I went back to chains, which is something I used in jewelry making and I wanted to know if there was something I could do to make a garment out of it that material. Originally I had just made like a little neckline, almost like a piece of jewelry, and attached it to a sweater. I was sitting there and I’m like: maybe I can make it a little bit bigger. So I made a crop top. It kept organically growing, and I made it into a mini dress and eventually made it into a gown. I will say, there is a ton of math involved. Even though it stretches a lot, you have to make sure the arm hole sits a certain way, the neckline sits a certain way, and because the more chain you use, the heavier the garment gets, it’s not as simple as regular cut and sew garments. You can’t just make things longer or wider. The weight is like this third part of the equation, and as you add more weight it affects all the math. I don’t love math, but I love trial and error. The trial and the error process is kind of magical and exciting in and of itself.
What do you love most about this material?
Do you remember the first time you touched cashmere and you were expecting it to feel like wool? What I love, is watching people’s reactions to ‘Stretch Metal.’ You know when parents have kids and they get to see the world all over again through their children’s eyes? It’s like that. Magic. It’s really quite fascinating the way it just stretches and drips.
What inspires your designs?
I’m really inspired by 1920 flappers. By the Great Gatsby. I love nature, love going to look at plants, love going to the ocean, love staring at rocks. I’ll walk down the street and see a tree casting a certain shadow and think of negative space. That’s inspiring. And I think that there is something really beautiful about metal. Something so hard and cold against a warm, soft body. I think that there’s something very innately sexy about that.
What has been your proudest moment as a designer?
I like to say that JLo was the tipping point, and the reason why I say that is because I think my parents were pretty confused with what I was doing with my life for a while. I was actually on a family vacation with my parents and my sisters who are twins, and I got a text message with a link and a little smiley face from one of the JLo’s junior stylists. I click on the link, and it’s an Entertainment Tonight piece covering JLo’s new music video in which she wore my dress! The stylists were kind enough to not only provide the entertainment tonight with my name, but also my logo. I think that’s when they realized I might actually have a career.
Let’s talk LA. . .
What’s your favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?
If we’re talking about nightlife, like getting dressed up, I say Crossroads. It is the best vegan restaurant in LA hands down and also the place to go if you want to look cute because you’re going to see celebrities.
What’s your favorite place to go for nightlife?
Soho House in West Hollywood.
What’s one place a tourist has to visit when they’re in the city?
The beach. I say go to Hermosa Beach. It’s less recommended but just as, or more, amazing.