How This Fashion Wunderkind Got J. Cole and Boi-1da to Score His Debut Runway Show
NAHMIAS designer Doni Nahmias on creating a ‘journey’ for his clothes through music and going from ‘nothing’ to living out his California dream
When designer Doni Nahmias opened his Paris Fashion Week show for his namesake streetwear line NAHMIAS this past January, the sea of editors and tastemakers in the crowd were treated to a familiar opening refrain: “So here we are / So here we are / Funny how so close can seem so far.”
Taken from the opening lines of J. Cole’s 2010 mixtape, Friday Night Lights, the words were at once poignant and nostalgic, reflecting a return to an in-person fashion week after Covid had kept editors and designers at bay, while marking the culmination of a long journey that led to Nahmias’ fashion week debut.
The intro to Nahmias’ event was also noteworthy for another reason, with the Boi-1da-produced soundtrack serving as the first time J. Cole — and Boi-1da — have lent their songs and beats to a fashion show.
While J. Cole cleared the sample for Friday Night Lights, Boi-1da (best known for his work with Drake) created a completely new track to accompany the collection, scoring an ambitious show with looks that ebbed and flowed with the music, as Nahmias sent sharply-dressed models down the school gym-inspired set.
Nahmias (the designer) and Boi-1da first met through mutual friends in LA and quickly struck up a bond over their love of fashion and hip-hop. As a kid who grew up in a trailer park in the small coastal town of Summerland, California, Nahmias says music was an outlet for him to discover a world outside his tiny town, population 844. Along with skateboarding and basketball — those storied emblems of Cali youth — Nahmias’ love for music helped him stay hungry and creative, eventually leading to him designing merch for friends, while dabbling with original designs on the side for what would form the basis of his debut capsule, which launched in 2018.
NAHMIAS (the brand) is now carried in stores like Maxfield, Saks Fifth Avenue and online at SSENSE, with the unisex line fusing together a luxe yet informal mix of California skate, basketball, surf, and hip-hop codes into a smart, ready-to-wear line with global appeal.
From waiting tables by the pool at the Four Seasons to (now) hobnobbing with music industry elite, Nahmias’ journey has taken him from hustle to hustle, and gig to gig, and it’s this insatiable work ethic that the 29-year-old credits for his success. “Ever since I turned 16, when I fell in love with fashion, I’ve had an entrepreneurial mindset,” he says. “I basically created a full-time job when I couldn’t afford for it to be my full-time job. I’ve worked my ass off and I think it speaks for itself.”
Rolling Stone caught up with Nahmias and Boi-1da to find out how their collaboration came about, how the soundtrack reflected the “mood” of the collection, and why NAHMIAS is proof that anyone who’s “California dreaming” can eventually make their dreams come true.
How did the two of you meet?
Boi-1da: I met Doni randomly at a birthday dinner; there was a lot of people and separate tables but we ended up sitting at a table right next to each other and just sparked up great conversation and kept in touch since then. Every time we’d hang I would always like the fits he was wearing and he told me it was his own designs and he started showing me his brand of clothing. Immediately I was interested; I loved the style and fabric he used, and even the wording on the clothes as well. We love to play ball together too.
Nahmias: So we met because his ex and my ex are best friends (laughs). So we initially met at his ex’s birthday party. But it’s been a couple of years now and we started playing basketball [together] and we’ve become good friends.
Doni, why was it important for you to create an original score and soundtrack for your show?
Nahmias: I’ve always had that thought like, ‘What am I going to do when it comes to the audio for my first runway show?’ And whenever I’ve been to other shows, I never really take to the music, and I feel like it never matches with the collection. I just wanted to put my real DNA and my feelings about what I like listening to and the vibe [I like] and make sure that it was incorporated into the show.
What was the collaborative process like?
Boi-1da: Doni had told me that he was doing his first fashion show in Paris [and] I wanted to be involved somehow and someway, so we immediately came up with the idea for me to score the runway music. At first I didn’t know what I’d be doing but when he explained his vision to me and walked me through the collection and creative behind it, I immediately understood and we got right to it.
Nahmias: I gave him a rough breakdown, like, “Hey, the show’s going to be 8-10 minutes and I’d like to have a few instrumentals through the course of the show to go with my emotions that run high and low,” and he’s for sure the GOAT because in a matter of a week or two, he sent me, literally, a Dropbox of 100 beats, and was like, “Hey, I cooked these up, let me know what you feel connected with.” And there were a few that I connected with right away, and I was like, “This is the one I love” and he just went off of that.
Boi-1da: From the jump we had a mutual understanding on what the vision was and it clicked. The runway collection, I know, comes from a very personal space for Doni, so the score had to connect to him personally so it was a very collaborative process.
Nahmias: It was cool because I felt like he genuinely believed in me and “got” the brand, and I think he wanted to be able to help tell my story and be a part of it. When I hit him up about it, I was like, “I don’t have the biggest budgets or anything,” but he was like, “You’re golden. I would love to just be a part of this project.”
How would describe the mood of the track?
Nahmias: It’s like a story, and it’s like the soundtrack alone could tell the story. Even without the clothes, you know, you could kind of like, go on this journey with the music, which is cool.
Boi-1da: It was multiple tracks blended to be a cinematic experience, including an intro from J Cole’s “Friday Night Lights.” The mood was very triumphant music in the vein of hip-hop with an organic undertone; it matched with the style of fashion, perfect marriage.
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