We are currently seated on the top-of-the-waterslide precipice of summer, and summer just so happens to be my favorite season. I’m not talking about the few evenings in June when it’s balmy enough to have a picnic in the park without a sweater (though those are good). I’m a fan of deep summer, the days in August when you need to step into a grocery store before a dinner date just to dry your sweat in the air conditioning. Spare me the luxury of a cruise down the French Riviera — I’ll be blissfully dumping a bottle of water over my head in the middle of Canal Street and chugging watermelon slushies from the deli.
While this long, hot stretch of time is fabulous for my mental and physical well-being, it is indubitably strenuous on my wardrobe. It doesn’t take long for the sundress-and-sandals combination I was yearning for all winter to begin to feel strangely like the turtleneck-and-jeans trap from which I sought to liberate my body back in February. Extremes of temperature demand a certain utility from clothing, and this utility slowly laps away at my ability to layer on a creative outfit. It’s at this precise juncture in the summer that I find myself turning to Maryam Nassir Zadeh for inspiration.
Zadeh has carved out a particular place for herself in the world of fashion thanks to what the designer herself describes as the “odd elegance” of her eponymous brand. The signatures of her look–oversized glass pendants, awkward-length bike shorts, and underwear-as-outerwear — sound ridiculous on paper, but somehow appear both effortless and compelling in practice. This accomplishment is partly a testament to her skill as a designer (I believe I’ve gone on record on this very site proclaiming my love for her supremely comfortable Palma sandals), but the MNZ look is also an exercise in unorthodox styling. Zadeh’s own Instagram account is a veritable guidebook to throwing together a warm-weather outfit (might she suggest a blue flamenco skirt and a zebra-print tube top?), and her runway shows are the product of her years-long collaboration with Haley Wollens, the undisputed queen of unexpected styling. (She’s responsible for putting this lobster on Chloe Sevigny’s crotch).
I find myself particularly drawn to MNZ style in the summer, given the brand’s propensity to use the aforementioned bike shorts and bra tops in conjunction with sheer fabrics and a rainbow of colors that look good against a particularly juicy sunset. As someone who loves swimsuits and is steadfastly dedicated to maximizing the cost-per-wear out of every garment in my closet, Zadeh’s idea of tying a bathing suit top over a shirt shook my world last summer. What other secrets are in the MNZ bag (preferably this clear one) of tricks? You know the drill by now–I’ll comb my closet to find out.
#1: Resort 2018, Daisy Chain
I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw this picture from MNZ’s Resort lookbook last year, as the top here is so similar to a vintage one already in my closet! If you don’t have a dead ringer on hand, any floral top belted around the waist would suffice. I’m not typically a belt person, but they’re one of the cornerstones of the MNZ look, and I actually found myself rather enjoying the pannier effect of the top belted over the skirt here. Also, if you’re like me and missed your window of opportunity to snag one of the coveted MNZ glass heart necklaces, Lolo and Friends has a competitively-priced, handmade twin that’s chunky enough to store a love potion.
#2: S/S 2019, Bikini Kill
Was this look all up in your Instagram a couple months ago? I’ll bet it was. I’ll also bet that you have everything that you need to recreate it on hand: a floaty summer dress, a bikini top, and strappy sandals. Apply said ingredients in reverse order to what your intuition tells you (unless your intuition tells you to put the bikini top on last, in which case you no longer need me). For what it’s worth, these Triangl bikinis are also my favorite for wearing in standard beach settings as well. They hold everything in place during a long day in the water, come in a range of delicious velvets and metallics, and you can mix-and-match your top and bottom sizes!
#3: S/S 2019, Short Suit
Zadeh is probably the only person who could convince me that vests are the best part of a three-piece suit. I don’t have one in my wardrobe yet, so I delved into my fiancé’s side of the closet (my closet extension, as we call it in the biz), to put together a summer suit. I love the playful combination of a dressy jacket with shorts, and the addition of sandals felt like a sexy elevation from the loafers I would’ve chosen had I been left to my own devices. (Psst…if you like MNZ sandals, they’re on sale over here).
#4: S/S 2018, The Ultimate Summer Friday
Ostensibly, this combination of khakis and a swim top could take you straight from the office to the beach. My sister and I have recently agreed that we both possess some kind of genetic incapability to feel embarrassment, so this is something I would likely actually wear–and likely the reason a gallery where I used to work added a ‘Dress Code’ section to their handbook the summer that I started there. I’ll consider relegating this look to the weekends this year, wearing it to stroll through farmer’s markets and sprinklers alike. My Repeller bag is covered in leaping dolphins–what could be more summery or “oddly elegant” than that?
#5: S/S 2019, Pirate Athleisure
This is probably the most honest approximation of what I wear in the summer, wandering out bleary-eyed for my morning matcha or piling on everything I brought in my beach bag when it’s time to schlep my umbrella home. There’s a certain irreverence to all MNZ looks. The brand eschews the notion of looking “put together” in favor of tossing things on and figuring out what works, even if that means belting, tying, or unbuttoning as you go. I’m relishing the combination of two of my favorite summer items: a big, puffy blouse and miniature bike shorts.
I know you’re probably still in the process of unpacking your flouncy cotton dresses and silky slips from their wintry dungeons right now–I am, too. Feel free to mentally bookmark these looks and return to them in a couple weeks when you’re rifling through your closet, sweating bawlz, and repeating a phrase that I can only assume dates back to the advent of the loincloth: “I have nothing to wear!”
In response to that timeless lament, MNZ style gives you permission to throw caution to the wind. To layer what you have on hand with reckless abandon. To dress with the exuberance of a kid on summer vacation. To reach into the recesses of your closet and pull on whatever feels right. Head outside without giving yourself a moment to overthink. Maybe throw a bikini top over the whole thing on your way out the door. If you need to splash some water over yourself en route to wherever you’re headed, you’ll be nothing if not prepared.
Photos via Ruby Redstone and Vogue Runway.