London-based editor Navaz Batliwalla started her blog under the pseudonym Disneyrollergirl in 2007, describing it as an anonymous insider’s view of the fashion industry. Revealing her true identity a few years later, Navaz’ intelligent and discerning take on fashion has made Disneyrollergirl the go-to place for industry insights and trends.
Navaz affirmed herself as a tastemaker last year with the launch of her book ‘The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman’, a guide for the independent woman of today. Positive Luxury caught up with Navaz to find out more about being a gentlewoman and why she’s a big believer in a luxury basic.
What drew you to working in the fashion industry?
I didn’t intend to work in the industry at all. I just loved drawing and style and I was obsessively into the London and New York fashion and art scenes. This was back in the days of World’s End, Kensington Market, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring!
I studied Fashion Illustration & Promotion, intending to be a fashion illustrator, but when I graduated couldn’t find illustration work, so took a side step into magazine styling. I subsequently spent years working in magazines and as a freelance writer and stylist.
Your book ‘The New Garconne: How to be a Modern Gentlewoman’ came out last year. Can you describe what being a gentlewoman means to you?
Personally, it’s about being more careful in my consumption choices. Not to sound preachy but I much prefer buying things that I will love for a long time and that are well made as opposed to chasing trends. And that doesn’t mean everything has to be expensive. You can buy second hand or sell things on Vestiaire Collective and use the money for an upgrade, so almost a one in, one out policy!
There is also a big emphasis on borrowing from menswear style. Menswear tends to be more practical and utilitarian even if it’s luxury. We are so much busier and need clothes that work hard, and I find a great pair of trousers and fabulous shirt multitask much more than a dress or heels.
And how does this relate to your own style choices?
I’m a big believer in luxury basics and denim. I love British heritage knitwear brands. I’ve been to some amazing mills and factories and seeing how the product is made makes it so much more special.
I like good quality dark non-stretch denim that can be dressed up with a silk shirt and will age beautifully, yet you don’t have to be precious with it. But to offset the practicality it’s always nice to have something whimsical, like delicate jewellery or a dressy watch. I think fashion should be personal so I love wearing jewellery or fashion that has been inherited and has a story.
What qualities do you look for when buying luxury?
It has to be really excellent quality and I have to like what the brand stands for. I’m also a sucker for a beautiful store environment, sorry but I’m not quite there with online shopping! I like shopping in concept stores where the product is merchandised in an innovative or fun way. I want to be able to handle the fabric and try things on.
If you could change one thing about the fashion industry, what would it be?
I wish it wasn’t so ‘fashionable’! I preferred it when it wasn’t part of the entertainment industry and people really appreciated the product, craft and storytelling. Now it’s more about showing off and voracious consumption. So I would want to change the public perception of ‘fashion’.
What is your favourite Positive Luxury brand?
If you enjoyed this, you might like to read Best of British: Why British Heritage Means the World or Reinvent Your Wardrobe Classics.