Nina Karnikowski kickstarted her career in a coveted in-house role with Fairfax Media, before moving on to a successful freelance career. Basically, Nina’s life is a series of postcards from places you’d rather be.
I caught Nina on Skype to to talk all things travel, and reclaiming style from the fast-fashion machine. With such an interesting life, and so many on-point views about fashion, we’re delivering our chat with Nina in two delicious chunks in which we talk culture, meaning and style in part one – and explore the complicated world of solo travelling in part two.
As a freelance writer, Nina’s work lives all over the internet and with various publications. She also maintains a site, Travels with Nina, which is a visual feast of stunning locations in which she is looking casually fabulous. But how Nina captures her travels is not a casual process:
“As an in-house staffer it doesn't really matter whether they're using your photos or not, you're still getting paid. So when I went into freelance I really focused on getting better at photography. I obviously need to sell my words, but I also need to sell my pictures, and my videos and anything that will bring me more income. At that point I started mood boarding the whole destination, including my outfits to visually map the place, and its essential colours. That really enabled me to present a body of photographs, rather than just random photos of a destination."
"When I visited the Atacama Desert in Chile last year, I wanted to capture the stunning pastels and raw colours, and so this was the palette that I packed for the trip. More recently, I travelled to the Ningaloo in Western Australia, which has more vibrant, red, earthy tones. So for that trip, I packed rusty browns and peachy coloured pieces that would visually compliment the place I was in.”
While in-country, Nina lives on a vineyard, where she shot the incredible series of photographs with our Gen tee. The wide open sky, and vibrant winter soaked green grass demand nothing more than some hard worn jeans and horsie to make our Gen shine.
Nina is a woman after my own heart in her approach to style, reclaiming clothing as a meaningful expression of self, and of how we interact with the world.
“Generally, I am pretty low key in the way I dress, and I don’t really follow trends - for me it’s more about colours and textures, and special artisanal pieces that I pick up on my travels. That informs my personal approach to style, and my professional approach to photographing destinations".
Nina has a particular interest in the unique crafts and products that are steeped in the place, and culture she is documenting. Beyond the crowded tourist bazaars, where culture is narrowed and repackaged for consumption – Nina wanders off the beaten track to learn about the local crafts she encounters.
“I am really interested in what people are making and using, and learning about its history and meaning. I think for me that's a really big part of understanding culture - the way people dress; the way people express themselves. It’s so uniquely human, and it is so varied in its interpretation.
When I was in the mountains of China, I was really interested in the traditional dress of one of the Hill Tribes there, which was a black skirt and black jacket with pink embroidery. That lead me on this whole expedition up to the communities that produced these garments. And in the process I was able to meet the women made it – (who thought it was hilarious that I wanted to buy one) and to deepen my understanding. That kind of experience stays with you, and every time I wear the piece, I am transported to that time and those memories.”
There is a growing backlash of women like Nina, who have been totally alienated by the rise of fast-fashion and products without any value. Our silk and cotton blend fabric is not just a nice fabric – the story goes much further than that. It is about the women who cultivate the silk worms in small baskets hidden in bookshelves. It is about the women who spin the silk, and weave it that gives a piece like the Gen tee a value that isn’t measurable in dollars.
Unsurprisingly, how a garment works in the world of travel is important to Nina, and it is something we hold dear at The Fabric Social. Creating truly transitional garments that balance statement and staple is central to our design, and making the most of our fabric that really will take you anywhere.
“I’m always trying to pack less when I am on the road. So for me, the ideal piece to take traveling is one I can wear on the plane, then step straight off and head out to dinner, and having to do no more than throw on a piece of chunky jewelry. Then the next day, wear the exact sane piece with a different pair of pants for a day of exploring. I plan to do exactly that with the Gen tee when I am in Israel and Jordan next week!”
Stay tuned next week for my chat with Nina on traveling while female – the secret worlds of feminine spaces and tips for would be adventurers.
Sharna is the Co-Founder of The Fabric Social, a social enterprise working with conflict-affected women. The Fabric Social work to transform one of the greatest causes of poverty: armed conflict. You can shop, donate, or get involved here.