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When designer Doni Nahmias opened his Paris Fashion Week show for his namesake streetwear line NAHMIAS this past January, the sea of editors and tastemakers in the crowd were treated to a familiar opening refrain: “So here we are / So here we are / Funny how so close can seem so far.”
Taken from the opening lines of J. Cole’s 2010 mixtape, Friday Night Lights, the words were at once poignant and nostalgic, reflecting a return to an in-person fashion week after Covid had kept editors and designers at bay, while marking the culmination of a long journey that led to Nahmias’ fashion week debut.
The intro to Nahmias’ event was also noteworthy for another reason, with the Boi-1da-produced soundtrack serving as the first time J. Cole — and Boi-1da — have lent their songs and beats to a fashion show.
While J. Cole cleared the sample for Friday Night Lights, Boi-1da (best known for his work with Drake) created a completely new track to accompany the collection, scoring an ambitious show with looks that ebbed and flowed with the music, as Nahmias sent sharply-dressed models down the school gym-inspired set.
Nahmias (the designer) and Boi-1da first met through mutual friends in LA and quickly struck up a bond over their love of fashion and hip-hop. As a kid who grew up in a trailer park in the small coastal town of Summerland, California, Nahmias says music was an outlet for him to discover a world outside his tiny town, population 844. Along with skateboarding and basketball — those storied emblems of Cali youth — Nahmias’ love for music helped him stay hungry and creative, eventually leading to him designing merch for friends, while dabbling with original designs on the side for what would form the basis of his debut capsule, which launched in 2018.
NAHMIAS (the brand) is now carried in stores like Maxfield, Saks Fifth Avenue and online at SSENSE, with the unisex line fusing together a luxe yet informal mix of California skate, basketball, surf, and hip-hop codes into a smart, ready-to-wear line with global appeal.
From waiting tables by the pool at the Four Seasons to (now) hobnobbing with music industry elite, Nahmias’ journey has taken him from hustle to hustle, and gig to gig, and it’s this insatiable work ethic that the 29-year-old credits for his success. “Ever since I turned 16, when I fell in love with fashion, I’ve had an entrepreneurial mindset,” he says. “I basically created a full-time job when I couldn’t afford for it to be my full-time job. I’ve worked my ass off and I think it speaks for itself.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Nahmias and Boi-1da to find out how their collaboration came about, how the soundtrack reflected the “mood” of the collection, and why NAHMIAS is proof that anyone who’s “California dreaming” can eventually make their dreams come true.
How did the two of you meet?
Boi-1da: I met Doni randomly at a birthday dinner; there was a lot of people and separate tables but we ended up sitting at a table right next to each other and just sparked up great conversation and kept in touch since then. Every time we’d hang I would always like the fits he was wearing and he told me it was his own designs and he started showing me his brand of clothing. Immediately I was interested; I loved the style and fabric he used, and even the wording on the clothes as well. We love to play ball together too.
Nahmias: So we met because his ex and my ex are best friends (laughs). So we initially met at his ex’s birthday party. But it’s been a couple of years now and we started playing basketball [together] and we’ve become good friends.
Doni, why was it important for you to create an original score and soundtrack for your show?
Nahmias: I’ve always had that thought like, ‘What am I going to do when it comes to the audio for my first runway show?’ And whenever I’ve been to other shows, I never really take to the music, and I feel like it never matches with the collection. I just wanted to put my real DNA and my feelings about what I like listening to and the vibe [I like] and make sure that it was incorporated into the show.
What was the collaborative process like?
Boi-1da: Doni had told me that he was doing his first fashion show in Paris [and] I wanted to be involved somehow and someway, so we immediately came up with the idea for me to score the runway music. At first I didn’t know what I’d be doing but when he explained his vision to me and walked me through the collection and creative behind it, I immediately understood and we got right to it.
Nahmias: I gave him a rough breakdown, like, “Hey, the show’s going to be 8-10 minutes and I’d like to have a few instrumentals through the course of the show to go with my emotions that run high and low,” and he’s for sure the GOAT because in a matter of a week or two, he sent me, literally, a Dropbox of 100 beats, and was like, “Hey, I cooked these up, let me know what you feel connected with.” And there were a few that I connected with right away, and I was like, “This is the one I love” and he just went off of that.
Boi-1da: From the jump we had a mutual understanding on what the vision was and it clicked. The runway collection, I know, comes from a very personal space for Doni, so the score had to connect to him personally so it was a very collaborative process.
Nahmias: It was cool because I felt like he genuinely believed in me and “got” the brand, and I think he wanted to be able to help tell my story and be a part of it. When I hit him up about it, I was like, “I don’t have the biggest budgets or anything,” but he was like, “You’re golden. I would love to just be a part of this project.”
How would describe the mood of the track?
Nahmias: It’s like a story, and it’s like the soundtrack alone could tell the story. Even without the clothes, you know, you could kind of like, go on this journey with the music, which is cool.
Boi-1da: It was multiple tracks blended to be a cinematic experience, including an intro from J Cole’s “Friday Night Lights.” The mood was very triumphant music in the vein of hip-hop with an organic undertone; it matched with the style of fashion, perfect marriage.
Nahmias: I wanted to start with this idea of “marching down” [the runway] almost like the models are soldiers, coming out. They’re like miracle worker soldiers. I was like, “This is the vibe we’re going for, and Matthew said, “I think this is your intro” and right off of the bat I just thought, “This is perfect.”
And then we sped in with this random interlude which is kind of like when you’re in that dark place, you feel like you’re by yourself and nobody understands you. And so this interlude kind of popped in to represent that, which I thought was a cool shift of energy, because then it goes into this very dramatic, almost inspirational section, like you’re fighting through your demons and it’s very heavy. I wanted the music to give that feeling and emotion and give the audience a sense of making your way through your struggles and trying to get through everything. Because those are my emotions and my journey too.
Boi-1da: The portrayal of emotions, in a cinematic and dramatic rollercoaster-type way was important for us to display — at various parts of the track while listening, you’ll feel there are parts that build up climatically and tone down instrumentally.
How did you get J. Cole to appear on the track?
Nahmias: As a side hustle, I used to do production for other companies, so I’ve actually helped Dreamville (J. Cole’s record label) with their merchandise. I knew J. Cole’s team and they asked him [for permission to use his sample] and he gave his blessing that we could use it. So that was super exciting.
What’s your connection to Friday Night Lights?
Nahmias: J. Cole was one of my favorite artists growing up and this [Friday Nights Lights album] is basically my favorite project of his. And whenever I grew up playing basketball, or whenever I went to the gym or before playing basketball, I’d always listen to the intro of Friday Night Lights, and it was just like, my jam; it just gave me comfort. So being able to use that for the introduction for my first runway show just felt right.
1da, you’re known for producing for music artists — why did you choose NAHMIAS for your first foray into runway scoring?
Boi-1da: I chose NAHMIAS for my first runway collaboration because not only is Doni a good friend of mine but I strongly believe in the brand and I think it’s just dope. I always love to see someone coming from nothing to where he is now — not only is Doni a great dude and solid person but his eye for creativity with clothing, the quality and everything else, just screams excellence and he is an amazing underdog story.
Doni, how does it feel to have shown in Paris and to have your collection now carried around the world?
Nahmias: It feels great. I mean, I was working three jobs and commuting from Santa Barbara to L.A. and all my paycheck money, from bartending or serving tables went into making patterns and trying to figure it all out. It’s definitely been hard work, and nothing’s been given [to me] in this whole process. But I never had a Plan B. I was like, “This is what I’m going to do,” and I kept my head down the whole way. And there are definitely moments of fear, and moments of “I don’t know if it’s going to work out, maybe it’s not meant to be.” But then you see these moments like [the Paris show] and you realize, “Okay, everything’s going to be alright.”
Do you ever doubt yourself?
Nahmias: There was a moment actually, when Covid started, where I was in a depressed hole and thinking I was going to move back home and quit.
What kept you going?
Nahmias: I listened to the intro of Friday Night Lights (laughs). But I also realized that I don’t have much, but what I did have, was people that helped, and people around me that’d make sure I’d be okay, and people that always had a couch for me to sleep on at the end of the day.
What’s next for you?
Nahmias: Hopefully doing a second runway show in June and making it ten times better and stronger and just learning more about building the brand into the best luxury international brand. Life is just continuing to build and learn and learning to do better every day.