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Get To Know New York-Based Author Tanwi Nandini Islam

Culture
Photographed by Danny Kasirye.

She has a hit first novel and another on the way

The following feature appears in the December/January 2017 issue of NYLON.

Perched on a couch in her Williamsburg apartment, Tanwi Nandini Islam reflects on the poetry of how she got here. “I’ve lived a very transient life, so I was never in one place very long,” she recalls, itemizing her many homes like bullet points on a grocery list (“Illinois, Alabama, Texas, Missouri, Bangladesh…,” she recounts). “As a kid I would watch Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and think about where I would choose to live if I got to be on the show. I would always choose New York,” she says. “Funnily enough, I did move to New York and I did go to that show—but before moving to Brooklyn I totally had this experience of craving one home that had history, a place where I could set down roots.”

The experience of yearning for home—real or imagined—inspired Islam’s critically acclaimed first novel, Bright Lines, which was released in 2015 and tells the story of a young Bangladeshi woman who struggles to make peace with her family’s past amid the twin backdrops of Brooklyn and Bangladesh. This kind of narrative reflex also fueled Islam’s interest in olfaction as an alternate vehicle for storytelling and comfort. “I started collecting essential oils and it just sort of became this thing,” she says of Hi Wildflower Botanica, the fragrance line she launched while writing her book.

Click through the gallery to read the rest of this feature.

 

Photographed by Danny Kasirye.

“Scent is a moment of meditation and reflection,” she explains of the endeavor, which pairs rare botanicals and fine perfumery raw materials to evoke ancient rites and faraway places. “Especially in a place like New York, I can only imagine that anyone who is hustling needs to light a candle, get a glass of wine, and chill. Hi Wildflower is connected to that.” 

It was in the course of exploring the world through scent that Islam landed on the idea of making candles inspired by books, designing fragrant notes to encapsulate the novels that influenced her. “For Kiese Laymon’s book Long Division, he described the South through the botanicals of ‘moss and magnolia’ and we just hit it on the head,” she recalls of a recent collaboration. “It’s really fun, because it’s like fan fiction but with a candle.” 

Photographed by Danny Kasirye.

Her next installment of perfumes will be inspired by the book that she’s working on as of this writing. “It’s called Remnants of a Star, and it’s about a filmmaker and a perfumer who make a film about the oldest woman on earth,” she says. “I love the idea of creating a parallel olfactory universe to heighten the experience of the novel. Scent really does transport you, and that’s what I want to play with.”

So what is her favorite fragrance? “I love [Hi Wildflower’s] Mojave. On my book tour in L.A., I drove to Joshua Tree one night, alone. The sky was covered in stars, the Milky Way was out, and the desert smelled like outer space—I felt like I was on Mars, because Joshua Tree looks like that. The perfume is inspired by sacred, burnable notes like palo santo, sage, eucalyptus, leather, warm vanilla, and this desiccated-earth scent,” she muses, expounding on the beauty of the journey she tried to capture for Mojave. 

“That’s why I love perfume—because we don’t need it, but we need it,” she says with a smile. “It brings us pleasure, and the world needs more of that.” 

Photographed by Danny Kasirye.

Get to know Tanwi:

Eating: I always love the tacos at La Superior, and I’m all about the no-nonsense, delicious food at House of Small Wonder. 
Drinking:  Donna’s Brancolada is amazing—it’s a frozen piña colada with Branca Menta.
Thrifting:  Dusty Rose Vintage has amazing jackets. I also love Narnia Vintage on the high end, and Fox & Fawn has crazy finds.
Listening:  I have been into William Onyeabor for so long; he’s great. I also like Flying Lotus, Little Dragon, and Erykah Badu, of course. I love really meditative, atmospheric R&B vibes. Ride or die for Erykah! 
Beautifying:  Purple lipstick forever. My favorites include Nars Silvia (which is limited-edition) and Smashbox Tabloid.
Browsing:  Searching for inspiration is an analog experience. I’ll dip into The Wild Unknown tarot deck or The Book of Symbols from Taschen to get my creative juices flowing. 
Reading:  The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin
Traveling:  I just went to Medellínand Cartagena, Colombia, and I highly recommend it if you’re into architecture, music, and food. Old Cartagena is the land that inspired [Gabriel García] Márquez, and there is an amazing cevichería called El Boliche—it’s so good! 
Coveting: I love Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s square heels—I’m so glad the square heel is back.
Believing:  There are two phrases that came to me when conceiving of Hi Wildflower—“Bloom on the Fringe” and “Grow Free and Everywhere.” These allude to wildflowers as a metaphor. They grow out of concrete, cliffs, sand dunes, meadows—and in that spirit, I think each and every person should choose originality and being true to their own divine nature. 

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

"In my head I thought, This is how it ends"

Kit Harington almost lost a lot more than the Iron Throne while filming the final season of Game of Thrones. According to an interview with NowThis News, the actor almost lost one of his balls while riding a mechanical dragon.

Harington revealed that the incident took place when he was filming the scene where his character, Jon Snow, takes a ride on Rhaegal for the first time in the Season 8 premiere. Since dragons aren't real (sorry), Harington was filming the scene, where Jon almost falls off the dragon and then swings around to pick himself back up, on a mechanical contraption.

"My right ball got trapped, and I didn't have time to say, 'Stop,'" Harington said in an interview. "And I was being swung around. In my head I thought, This is how it ends. On this buck, swinging me around by my testicles, literally." We see shots of the fake dragon he's riding in front of a green screen, and it does look pretty terrifying.

Luckily, his testicles remained intact through the near-disastrous event, and he's survived with quite the story to tell to unsuspecting journalists.

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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