• Class of 2017: Ava Nirui

    With eyes ahead to the new year, we brought together the fresh new faces that are challenging the status quo. Artists, activists, and musicians, our Class of 2017 is forging the path ahead with hope and optimism.

    Sydney-born photographer, writer, and artist Ava Nirui repurposes luxury and designer packaging to create arresting works of fashion that explore the blurred lines between bootleg and authentic. 

    Age: 25
    Occupation: Writer, Photographer, Bootleg Artist
    Sign: Aquarius 
    Senior Superlative: Funniest

    Photo by Logan Jackson

    Who is Ava Nirui? 
    Ava is a writer and photographer occasionally. I work full time in e-commerce, and on the side, I freelance for a few publications. I make art, I guess you can call it. I don't really like putting a label on it too much, but yeah, I'm just a creative person who's not that serious. I like to push boundaries and make people feel uncomfortable.

    You take photos as well, right? When did you get your first camera? 
    Probably when I was 15. My Dad bought me a DSLR, and I was shooting for a bit. He bought me all the accessories, like a tripod, etc. I actually kind of hated shooting digital, so I stopped. Then more recently, probably three years ago, I started shooting film. I love shooting film, and I love shooting my friends. 

    Has your style evolved as you’ve taken more and more photos? 
    I think that the things that I like and the things that draw me to someone have stayed the same. I think that my concepts have become more complicated as I've gotten some practice with shooting film because film can be kind of unreliable, but that's also the charm of it.

    Can you tell us about your bootlegs project? 
    Growing up in Australia, my mom has always been really into fashion, but she was always studying. Like, she was doing her master's and then her PhD, and she couldn't really afford to buy a $5,000 bag, but she was still really interested in the look of the item and the culture and the history, so she would just buy fakes. She had a fake Chanel bag, a fake Prada bag... she had quite a collection of fakes, and so I was always kind of surrounded by fashion, and my dad and my brother are quite creative. I've always worked in fashion. When I moved to New York, I started working for Opening Ceremony, and now I work for a company called Assembly.

    So a year and a half ago, a friend of mine made these designer Barbie dolls, just for fun, like an art project, that were kind of out-there. They weren't the type of clothing you would imagine a Barbie to be wearing, kind of like gender-fluid or more conceptual avant-garde designers, like Jacquemus, and Vetements, Hood by Air, Eckhaus Latta. We made little outfits for them, and I don't like saying that it went viral, but it got lots of attention. We had them shot editorially, and it was really fun. 

    That was the first project in that realm that I've worked on. I've always been quite a crafty person, so I started repurposing old pieces of packaging, like luxury and designer packaging that I had, old ribbons and bags, and using them in a different context and updating these mundane items to give them worth by adding these logos. I mainly work with luxury brands. I guess the purpose is because it's fun and I love fashion and also to make bootlegs more acceptable. Bootlegs are just as sick as an original. If you can't afford it and if you want to have something that's completely unique, why not make it yourself? So, I made my first sweatshirt, the Champion embroidered sweater, I think it was a Chanel one, and then from there, it just kind of took off. 

    When did you start writing? 
    When I was 18. I was freelancing in Sydney for a music magazine, and then I was interning all over the place while I was studying. I studied Media. And then when I moved to New York, actually, I started writing for Oyster and then Dazed. They're the two main publications that I do writing stuff for.

    What big ideas have you been engaging with lately? 
    I think this year's been really amazing in terms of fashion and culture and how open-minded we've become. I mean, I haven't gotten any cease-and-desist letters, which is super surprising to a lot of people. I like to attribute that to the fact that luxury brands and designers are becoming a little more open-minded and a little more playful, and they want to see people's perspectives on their brand, and they want to see people get creative with things. There's that. In terms of New York fashion, I love this whole scene that's coming out, that came out this year and end of last year with gender-fluid designers and more acceptance for different types of models. Just this general spirit of open-mindedness, I think, breeds a lot more creativity and allows you to truly project what you want, as opposed to being scared of other people's perception of you or how you're going to be judged.

    Kind of a tearing down of the walls that were once in place. 
    Totally. Yeah. That's another reason that I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm trying to mess with people, take them out of their comfort zone, make them feel uncomfortable, show them something they've never seen before. People are afraid sometimes. They're getting less afraid, but people are afraid to challenge other people. I’m trying to take them out of their element. 

    What do you hope for yourself in 2017? 
    For myself? Stay true to what I'm doing. The purpose of the Champion sweaters, for example, is not to make money, but to just do something new and creative and funny and cute and kitschy and quirky and silly, so continuing to do that. I'm not trying to capitalize on anything I'm doing. I really don't care. Yeah, just stay true to myself and just keep pushing myself to do weirder, stupider, more creative things.

    What do you hope for the world in 2017? 
    I just think people can't get complacent. I think people just need to be constantly fighting for what they believe in and not back down. Also, just staying positive. I think people need to be positive, and this dark time will pass eventually. We just need to make the most of it and speak up. Yeah, there's hope for future generations, and there's hope for our generation.

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