Style & Substance: Nazifa Movsoumova, founder of Modern Society
Nazifa Movsoumova opened her curated boutique, Modern Society, in Shoreditch in October 2015. As the store’s founder and buyer, she is on a mission to change people’s perspective of contemporary retail with her eye for niche but covetable brands spanning fashion, homeware and literature. Here she tells us about her laid-back approach to getting dressed.
Before launching myself into retail, I used to work in finance, doing mergers and acquisitions. In that sort of job, you don’t really have a choice of what to wear – it’s not like your personality can really shine through. It involved a lot of black skirts and Chloé blouses, and I had to wear heels every day.
I’m actually very casual at heart. Now I’m always running around and jumping on the Tube so I need to be comfortable. I live in Converse and Golden Goose trainers and between work, meetings and going to an opening or a dinner I’ll wear the same thing – I might just swap my trainers for loafers or heeled slippers. I’ll always have a manicure because it’s the little details that make you look polished; so even if you’re in jeans, a T-shirt, leather jacket and trainers, it tops it off.
I love outerwear and believe a jacket can make your whole look. Growing up in Moscow, there would be so many different seasons because the weather changes so much that you have to have a lot of coats. This one I’m wearing is by one of the designers I stock and have long admired, Sandy Liang. London style is very relaxed compared to Moscow. There I feel so out of place because it’s not unusual to see women out for breakfast wearing heels and a full face of make-up, with false eyelashes and everything done… it’s another level!
I go to Paris four times a year to do all the buying for the store. It’s so natural for me to wear the brands I stock because as a buyer, you’re going to choose the things that you like. I’m drawn to basic colours, I don’t do crazy patterns and I think my taste is easily relatable. I don’t buy into the concept of ‘treasure pieces’, where everyone knows, ‘that was the key piece from so-and-so season’. I think we’re moving away from that because people’s spending habits have changed massively. Customers are savvier now, they’ll go and buy something they can wear today, tomorrow, next year or put in their wardrobe and take it out in two years’ time.
I founded Modern Society because I’m quite an old-school person. I love retail in the way that it used to be – that concept of ‘retail therapy’. Now we go online and have algorithms that make suggestions for us. My goal was to create an experience. I don’t want to be online and I think people appreciate the boutique for what it is – they understand what I am trying to do. We are the exclusive UK stockist for many of our brands, so customers come and they make a discovery. They take away that memory and then they come back.
For t-shirts, Anine Bing is the ultimate designer and the woman behind it is incredible: she’s a model, mother of three, in a band and casually owns five stores around the world. She does basics so well and she defined that model off-duty look of skinny jeans and tees. Her pieces are good quality and not over-priced, so people come especially to Modern Society because they know we stock her.
When I turned my hand to buying, I’ll never forget one of my friends in finance telling me: ‘Don’t get high on your supply’. The funny things is however, after eight days of visiting showrooms back to back, my head becomes a bit of a mess. I go back to my white t-shirt and Frame jeans because it becomes so overwhelming. I’m finding that there is an oversupply of everything in fashion right now and it’s just too much, but I think people are stripping it back. If you look around, everyone is wearing black, beige, navy, white. Stripes are the craziest thing people go for now.