Always stays true to yourself, and give people your truth. If there were a catchphrase to sum up my business meeting on Friday 29 April, this would come very close. I met with the charming and down-to-earth designer Natasha on a slightly windy afternoon at her recently opened shop Freeze Frame in Sliema. What makes the latter special for those who are unfamiliar is that it is not merely a clothes store bringing in stock from different sources. The clothes on sale are the work of carefully thought-out designing, and Natasha is the woman at the helm who can tell you all about the product from its inception on the sketch pad to its result hanging in the shop.
So when you walk in the store, chances are that you will meet the designer in person – how often can you do that in today’s huge chains and brands? Sadly, you often get disgruntled salespersons or worse still those who do not have a clue about the products. This is where Freeze Frame also differs. Natasha is floor manager, salesperson, and (most importantly) designer rolled into one. The Freeze Frame brand however is not restricted to the Sliema shop (located in 18, Cathedral Street). For customers who cannot make it to the store because they live abroad (including all my foreign readers and followers), the online shopping site aims to be an outlet in its own right. You do not have to wait long, as it will be fully operational in 2 weeks.
Behind the Sliema store and the online site, Natasha is the person who visualises the clothes, creates them, and is responsible for their production. She can tell you how the product was selected, where it was made, the inspiration behind the design, and that ethical practices have been respected. Another interesting fact is that Natasha understands the woman whom she aims to clothe, her target being the young woman who wants to have a good time but still look sophisticated. It does not mean that only very young women can wear the clothes, for she has attested that older women have pulled off a number of pieces (more later). In order to succeed in this objective, she believes that choosing the right materials, researching different looks and styles, and integrating the classic with what is on trend are all important considerations. She only produces a limited amount of pieces and if the styles are classics then she repeats them. Her key is not only the garment but the designs, so you will find a slip dress (because it is big right now) but also your more classic fit-and-flare dress. She hopes to help young women learn more about what suits them well according to their body type and shape.
What is more, she keeps the price point in mind. While never compromising on quality, she still upholds that every young woman deserves to have a designer dress without breaking the bank to have it. This is the result of more research and although comparisons are hideous, the young woman can get a designer piece at roughly the same prices as those in huge worldwide chains. She thinks about the woman who asks, ‘who do I want to be?’ Providing women with designer pieces that are well-made, original, and reasonably priced at the centre of what Freeze Frame is. For this reason, she does not intend to make designer pieces that are inaccessible.
Natasha can afford to take such risks because she has worked for over 30 years in the fashion industry and covered a lot of ground, be it womenswear or kidswear. Australian by birth, she has lived and worked in Hong Kong and Indonesia, where she has set up her business networks and production mills. If you have the ‘made in China’ mentality then think again. There is nothing cheap in the materials used, particularly in the choice of lace and sequins. This applies specifically for the latter two. On this point, we had a brief segue as we reflected how lace and sequins have been given a bad name due to the poor materials and clothes out there. The consequence is that many people think it is tacky to wear either and almost understandably stay away. It is a question of finding really top-notch materials and honest people such as Natasha who produces and sells them. She showed me one particular piece which I fell in love with, and she mentioned that it cost more per metre than the usual lace. As she also showed me the swimwear (which are really delicious, especially the ones featuring interesting motifs such as fruit and the Hong Kong fish), she explained that she can do cheeky without being vulgar or crass.
The more we discussed, the more I learnt about the concept and the story behind the brand. I was intrigued without a doubt because we did not just talk about the clothes. The story is bigger than that, it is about the designer, and Natasha pointed out something that is so true and yet so sad: we often forget about the designer, about his or her story, and we just buy the clothes because we like them or because someone else is wearing them. This made me stop and reflect about the consequences of fast fashion on our conception of clothes, design, and consumption. Although we both conceded that it is unlikely that people will stop buying from big brands (myself included), it was refreshing to take stock of where fashion design is headed. It comes at a propitious time too, given that Malta Fashion Week and Awards 2016 will be unfolding soon where local and foreign designers’ work will be showcased, and especially for Natasha as Freeze Frame will be making its debut on Thursday 19 May.
On a final note, we discussed upcoming projects that are in the pipeline. Some also include Maltese culture and topography as Natasha is fascinated by the colours and lights in Malta and aims to target these for upcoming pieces. Looking forward to this as well as to her debut at MFWA!