By: Bronte Martin
Birdcage Magazine. Not only can she recite full acts of Shakespeare from memory and change into a full-on Joe Fresh ensemble whilst driving to an interview, Nadia is a woman of many, many talents and is wise far beyond her years. With an uncanny ability to see beauty that is not often discernible to the untrained eye, she also has a knack for uncovering hidden talent and inspiration in the most obscure places and coaxing it out. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the “predator for creativity” to pick her brain about inspirational roots, magazine content and what she loves most about the whimsical side of the fashion industry. With two steaming cups of peppermint tea in hand, we delved into conversation.
Bronte Martin: When did this love affair for the fashion industry begin?
Nadia Geneviève Masri: I was a tomboy all of my life; I played every sport, loved adventure, and frequently donned boyish clothes and backwards hats. Then came high school. After my freshman year, I made a sound decision to kindle more of a girlish charm, and it was time for me to move onto the next stage of my youth. My attitude towards fashion at the time was more a more generic attempt to follow trends, that was what fashion meant to me. Two weeks before the first day of junior year, I went out at bought myself the September issue of American Vogue. Inside, I found what I can only describe as a coming-of-age moment for me. There was Gisele Bundchen, tall as a forest pine and beautiful as ever, in an editorial titled "The M.V.P." photographed by Steven Meisel. I was on two soccer teams at the time, clearly an avid enthusiast of the sport. It was the first time I was able to see fashion on creative and imaginative level. I was immersed in the photos of this striking young woman dressed head to toe in incredible attire – save for a pair of cleats – while darting around a football field with a team of male athletes. It became clear to me that fashion was a way of expression open to interpretation, not an archetypal attitude. I was being told a story: a notion I had never associated with the world of clothing. I saw myself in that spread and I was intoxicated. When I continued to leaf through the issue, I did so with a newfound perspective. It was the work of Grace Coddington that stood out most to me; her proclivity towards embodying the fantasy of fashion really spoke to my tastes, and I can honestly say she might very well be the reason I chose to pursue this path. Grace Coddington is the reason why I am in fashion. I even walked right up to her and told her so one fashion week. Grace always tells a story, and that is what I aim to do with every dimension of my work.
BM: Give us some insight as to what Birdcage Magazine stands for.
NGM: There is no distinct way to describe what we stand for, but rather the feeling we hope to precipitate. The magazine represents freedom of expression, artistic integrity, and a fervent regard for storytelling. There are no product layouts telling you what to wear because to me, that does not represent what I love about fashion. It isn't my intention to try and tell readers what they should or should not be wearing. I feel as though that is a choice one should make on their own terms, to challenge the conventional and express one's own authenticity. Of course, that is not to say I don't like changing up my wardrobe every season. I whole-heartedly enjoy the progression of ever-changing attire, but I prefer to interpret the trends and choose my clothing based on what inspires me. The best way to get inspiration is to see things in action. I respond best to ideas I see through an engaging medium, such as an editorial, as a pose to expressionless exhibits. What I mean to say is, I believe readers would be more inclined to pursue a certain style or garment if they are able to connect with the fashion on a personal level, as opposed to just seeing it on the page. I find many publications are quite focused on the consumer’s buying prospects, while I have chosen to cater to how the fashion can best be expressed. That is why we include personal accounts and interactions from the fashion industry and the personalities within. So I guess if I had to give a straight answer to your question, I would say that we don't focus on what so much as on who. Without all those talented individuals, there would be no industry to speak of. It's about high time to personify the fashion industry and allow an intimate acquaintance for our readers.
BM: Who currently inspires you the most?
NGM: Goodness, this one I could go on about for hours. Everything and everyone inspires me. Every touch, scent, scene and smile inspires me to do what I do. At this present moment, however, I must say an intelligent gentleman by the name of Simon Sinek. He is without a doubt one of the most amazing individuals I have ever met. Two weeks back, I heard him speak at a conference in New York City and I began to cry; simply because I had never heard anyone articulate a situation that spoke to me to such a powerful and selfsame degree. He started his work young as well, which I can relate to, and seems to understand the plight of the creative thinker. It was like hearing my soul speak for the first time in so long: I had been suppressing my naive passions in an effort to be who I thought I needed to be in order to achieve success. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be a steadfast businesswoman and in turn was becoming less and less of who I was. The twinkle was beginning to fade, but hearing Simon's philosophies and insight set my true purpose ablaze. His book, Start With Why, is one that should not go unnoticed by anyone regardless of their industry. On the contrary, his work is applicable to every living being. It would be dishonest to say he has changed me for the better, but rather, restored me to my former and true self. The more I learn about him and his work, the better person I become, and the happier I am with that person. There is an interview with Simon in the first issue of Birdcage which I am tremendously excited to share, but it would be unseemly of me not to invite everyone to explore him for themselves.
BM: What is it about New York that you love so dearly?
NGM: There are no words to articulate quite how fond I am of that city. It is like my life is a giant jigsaw puzzle; New York is just one of the essential pieces. I initially went to New York to find success and opportunity, and was mildly surprised to find that New Yorkers are some of the most open and accepting people I have come across. Perhaps I may just be lucky in who I have been drawn to and vice versa, but a magnetic energy enraptured me. It lives and breathes fashion. There's a certain magic to finding where you belong, whether it be North Dakota, Montreal, or New York. I believe in this city. And as Pablo Picasso said, "Magic has to be believed, that's the only way it's real." Traveling back and forth from Toronto to New York for four years now, I can honestly say that every time I set foot in Manhattan, it feels like my first. It never gets old. You can’t help but fall in love with the busy streets and sea of faces in perpetual motion. New York is like a diamond, it is multi-faceted and there are so many different sides open to exploration.
BM: Who is your ideal reader?
NGM: Well for starters, if any part of you connects with what I have been saying on any level, you would like it. Birdcage is for the inspired. The hopeless romantics and the endless dreamers. We are on an eternal excursion, wandering through the creative world. If that sounds like you, I would love to have you read the magazine. We represent the personalities within the fashion industry. We tell stories. We invite models and artists to explore their passions. We invite readers to do the same, and be inspired by what they see. Basically, we cater to individuals who love storytelling, but also have an affinity for fashion. Sometimes I feel like Alice in Wardrobe Wonderland. We explore nostalgic bliss and that child-like innocence that is often long forgotten and left untouched. We also believe it is important to have content that is both visually striking and journalistically sound. The aesthetic is scrapbook-like, so the chaotic bliss of how it all comes together is truly remarkable. I am beyond excited that I have been blessed to even take part in the process. Birdcage is really about remarkable individuals in fashion who have a story to tell, whatever their means of expressing that story.
BM: What has been the hardest obstacle to date?
NGM: I feel as though every day has incurred a new lesson, be it bad or good. In terms of major struggles, what I touched upon earlier regarding losing touch with myself has been the foremost obstacle. When I first began, I was very naïve – an attribute I have grown to treat as a gift – and was lost in my own little world of bringing my dream to life. Then came the business side. I am not without entrepreneurial skill, and picked up a great deal of practical knowledge in business school, but the migration from Toronto to New York proved to be more of a challenge than I had envisioned. There were sides I had not considered so early, especially with minimal funding; dealing with lawyers, accountants and company executives, there was more to it than just rounding up some model friends for a shoot. Poring over the tedious and trying aspects of starting a business began to take its toll, and I didn't have as much help as I knew I needed. I was operating every aspect of the business. I slept a few hours a night, and spent every waking moment planning, coordinating, billing, and executing in order to compensate for what I could not get help with. The fact that I can be an overachieving perfectionist was not helpful either. It is very difficult to be so incredibly passionate about something, and that same thing causing you so much stress and anxiety. I was putting far more pressure on myself that was asked of me because the magazine was – well, still is – literally my baby. It represents who I am and what I believe in. What happens to it, affects a large part of me on an emotional level. In September, we were almost ready to go to print when we suffered serious technical difficulties and lost all of our data. I was devastated. It felt like I had lost a piece of my soul and had a minor meltdown. It would probably be relevant to mention that timing has a funny way of presenting opportunity, for it was shortly after that I was at that conference and saw Simon Sinek speak. Since then, I have spent a lot more time focusing on the aspects of my work that are consistent with who I am and what I hope to achieve. I really took a step back to look at the work that I had done, and realized that as long as my head and my heart were going in the right direction, my feet would find their steps.
BM: How have you overcome the fact that you are such a young entrepreneur?
NGM: As a young person, you are always trying to prove yourself no matter what industry you are in. If you base your work off of what somebody else might want to see, then that’s no way to live. It is like how teenaged girls plagued with insecurity show up at school every morning dressed in an attempt to impress everyone else, but at what cost if they cannot seem to be impressed with themselves? It really wasn’t until last month when I found myself being the youngest person in the room at that conference in New York City that I realized this. I was surrounded by these amazing leaders and entrepreneurs from across the globe, and that was my “aha” moment. I was praised for my maturity, and my determination to persevere when most would have given up on their passions. I realized that by being a leader of my own magazine and to myself, this was allowing others to flourish by showcasing their talents as well. Sometimes it's hard to be young and passionate, because we may not always have the answers we need. An autodidact, there is still a great deal I do not know about my industry. I am in an everlasting journey of learning. It's a process, that's the beauty of it all. I don't believe one can ever be an expert so to speak, because that would have to mean there was nothing more for them to learn. How tragic that would be. Regardless, I think that being a young entrepreneur does not mean being identical to the businesspeople we see leading their industries, which I have learned in the most experiential way possible. Bringing back the Vogue references, I've been told I am a perfect mix between Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour, because I can see the business side of things, but I’m still a creative mess.