Off Duty is a series of lively conversations with influential people, from CEOs to celebrities, on life, work and the art of taking time off.
As Carlos Nazario materializes on my video call screen, one of the first things I notice is the flash of his red manicure against the dark background of the car he’s seated in. He’s en route to his hotel from a photo shoot in Paris, where it is 8 p.m., yet Nazario’s manner is decidedly buoyant because he’s entering the “evening shift” of his workday; while fashion folk in North America are still sending off work e-mails.
Such is the life of an internationally sought-after style creative, and the 35-year-old is certainly well-placed in that category. Originally from Queens, N.Y., Nazario has garnered attention through his role as global fashion director at the hip magazine i-D and as stylist to the likes of Naomi Campbell, Rihanna and Bella Hadid; he is also the first Black stylist to style a cover for American Vogue. And earlier this year, Nazario joined the Montreal-based outerwear brand Moose Knuckles as its global creative director, where – in addition to crafting new designs – he has already participated in judging the first Moose Knuckles Heatmakers x Prism Prize grant, a hip hop-centric honour where the recipients receive money toward music video production.
Nazario seems particularly interested in encouraging emerging talents to take their place at the table – but that’s not to say he’d miss an opportunity to give credit where credit is due to some legends as well. Here, he speaks about collaboration, representation, and what he’s listening to while navigating a jet-set life.
Music has appeared in other aspects of your new leadership role – I’m thinking specifically about the recent Moose Knuckles campaign that featured Alanis Morissette. Why was she the right fit for this shoot?
Alanis is such an icon for anyone who grew up at the time that I did, but her music also transcends generations. Her energy and influence is certainly felt in modern music. I can name a number of young women who, when I’m listening to their albums, I think okay, somebody heard Jagged Little Pill! But she also represents who I perceive to be the Moose Knuckles woman. She is in control of her own destiny and has a strong point of view. She cares about her family, she cares about the environment, and cares about the brands that she chooses to support and makes sure they align with her values.
Speaking of young artists, you once said and that you’re interested in working with people who are on the precipice of their career. It’s a different mindset from other brand directors who seem to be interested in touting very prominent and established folks. Why is that important to you?
The type of energy felt on a photo shoot set or in a design room or in a Zoom meeting – any atmosphere where there is a creative process – is paramount to creating memorable work. Feeling comfortable and free to express yourself and trusting that if your teammates don’t understand where you’re coming from, that they try to, is key to creating something that feels intentional. I struggle sometimes to find that kind of relationship with people who have reached a point in their career where they’re maybe not as flexible or as curious or permissive of exploring ideas outside of how they view the world. That’s not to say everyone of a certain age or level of achievement is stuck in their ways. But I have found great success in working with younger people, and certainly with people who come from a place where they have been forced to be resourceful. And it’s important to think of things beyond a purely commercial standpoint – that oh, this has worked before so let’s do it again. I like to push it. It’s the only way to move the conversation forward.
Considering the scope of your work, I’d love to know what you do during your down time.
For the past several years, coming from the type of background that I come from and having huge ambitions, I’ve been solely focused on work. It’s defined my personality and became my existence. When I started to feel that really bizarre emotion associated with success, I was inspired to work even harder. It wasn’t until late last year when I started to feel tired for the first time, and in need of space to recharge my mind. I consider myself an ideas person, and here I was feeling like I was running out of ideas. I’m not good at it yet [laughs], but I’m trying to prioritize substantive rest and being on a beach as often as possible.
I also love to spend time with people who remind me of who I am and what my beliefs are. Fashion has a unique way of converting someone into its cult, where it’s the only thing that matters and the only opinions that matter are from a chosen few. I never want to forget where I come from, and I need to be around people who will tell me to shut up and joke around with me. It’s important, and actually, really healthy.
I’m curious about your beach vibe – do you take walks, swim or just veg with a book?
I could spend days on end at the beach. It’s about lunch and cocktails and naps and swimming and reading. I’m really into audiobooks these days.
What are you listening to?
Mariah Carey’s autobiography. She narrates the book and it’s absolutely genius; a brilliant tale of triumph and redemption and perseverance. It’s very much my style – I love a tear-jerker, and it’s also a little bit tawdry.
This interview has been edited and condensed.