Berlin-based designer Joana Fongern of Nayf and Wavey is part of a new generation of women and queer skaters who’ve helped pushed past the doors of skate culture’s boys-only club that’s dominated the sport until not too long ago.
Long fascinated from afar by skateboarding culture, Fongern took up the sport when she moved to New York City and bought her first board. Through women’s skateboarding club Late Skate, Fongern learned how to skate and also fell in love with the community and the culture that are the lifeblood of the sport.
When Fongern returned to Berlin in 2018, she launched Nayf and Wavey, a skate label whose DNA was rooted in her London College of Fashion masters collection. Currently the label is riding a wave started with a well-received capsule of baggy corduroy pants (now on restock No. 2), a rewind to skate culture’s big silhouettes of yore updated with an invite to the world’s community of female skaters.
Check out our exchange with Fongern below.
SNOBETTE: Where did you attend university and what was your major? When you did an exchange year, what U.S. school did you attend?
Joana Fongern: “I received my diploma in Modelism and Stylism at ESMOD Munich, and in 2017 I graduated with my Masters in Fashion design technology womenswear from London College of Fashion. When I was 15, I did an exchange year and went to Raymore-Peculiar High School in Raymore, Missouri.”
SNOBETTE: You moved to New York City when you were 25 and picked up your first skateboard at Labor Skateshop. Where in the City did you learn how to skate?
Joana Fongern: I learned skateboarding mainly at my local skate spot Cooper in Brooklyn but also skated Lower East Side sometimes and different spots in the City.
SNOBETTE: I know you’re a part of Late Skate, a woman’s skate club in New York. How important was Late Skate in helping you develop your skills?
Joana Fongern: “They actually helped me with everything, they taught me and supported me with most of what I’ve learned. It’s super nice to be surrounded by so many cool diverse women on so many different skate levels. It’s a space to build confidence, learn about the community and definitely build friendships for a lifetime.”
SNOBETTE: Who are two or three skaters male or female whose vibes and skillset lift up your spirit?
Joana Fongern: “That’s a really hard question. All of my friend’s skillset and spirits lift me up: Briana King, Jessyka Bailey, and my homie Oliver.
“I met Jess actually when I started skating and her vibes are warming and loving. You just want to skate with Jess. She pushed me, took me everywhere, and taught me how to believe in myself and try harder every day. Oli is my friend from Berlin and his skillset and vibes are great. He’s so funny. Oliver pushed me also to try harder and get out of my comfort zone. I even learned a kickflip thanks to his constant support. When we skate together he’s always like ‘Joana, look, try this!’ or ‘Jojo, you should try this!’ and I try lol. Briana is a role model to me, because not only is she a cool human being but she’s also a super good skater and she supports the community in so many ways. Her vibe is so great and I admire her and her mindset. She tries tricks and goes for it; she believes in herself.”
SNOBETTE: You first showed your label Nayf and Wavey under another name as part of your masters presentation. From what university did you receive your masters? Looking back at that first collection, what is the DNA that carries forward to your current incarnation of the label.
Joana Fongern: “I graduated with my masters of arts in Fashion Design Technology Womenswear from London College of Fashion. Looking back at my collection I definitely see a huge change in my style. I can finally say that I know what direction I want to go and what I can identify myself with. The DNA that carries forward is that I still get inspired by subcultures and Tomboys. When I created my MA collection, all the coats were inspired by menswear garments as I always said that women don’t need to wear tight clothes to be ‘feminine’. You can wear whatever you want to express yourself.”
SNOBETTE: When did you move to Berlin? How does the skate scene there compare with NYC? Is there a difference in terms of female participation?
Joana Fongern: “In December 2018 I moved to Berlin after I’ve come back from New York City. I have a biased opinion on that because I started skating in New York. Personally, I think that there’s a huge difference between those two skate scenes. It’s hard to compare them as New York is a world city and Berlin is a small capital city of Germany.
“Diversity, Inclusivity, and community is definitely bigger in New York. When I moved here, I barely saw any women skaters, but now there are so many. It makes me so happy. The community of women skaters is growing stronger and bigger here in Berlin.”
SNOBETTE: You just launched some very cute baggy corduroy pants. What inspired the choice to use corduroy?
Joana Fongern: “I chose corduroy because I really like the structure and feel of the fabric. It has this old look but it’s still super modern. I remember my grandpa and my dad wearing a lot of cords. It always reminds me of old people lol, but it’s super popular in the skate scene.
“Another reason is that I can’t work with denim, as I don’t have the machines nor can I wash the denim correctly, for that reason I chose cord. Further, I really love cord in any form. I have some cord pants, but they aren’t baggy and for skating, I love baggy pants in any way. Further, I decided I’ll just make some baggy skate pants for women because I always have such a hard time finding perfect baggy pants. I realized that there is a need for baggy skate pants for women as most of my friends buy their pants in the men’s section because the women’s baggy pants aren’t baggy. You have to consider that the legs get thick when we skate.”
SNOBETTE: Bottom silhouettes are really shifting. How will that impact sneaker silhouettes? On that note, what three silhouettes are high in your sneaker rotation right now?
Joana Fongern: “That’s an interesting question. To my knowledge, I think sneaker silhouettes will change just as the silhouettes in fashion change. There will be basics that stay around, but new silhouettes will get created. My absolute favorites are Air Jordan 1 high and Nike Dunk low and Dunk high.
SNOBETTE: Do you judge millennials who refuse to give up their skinny jeans? (Not sure this skirmish has spread to Germany but this question is a reference to a TikTok-related Gen Z versus millennial battle over pant silhouettes and side versus center parts lol.)
Joana Fongern: “I feel like that skinny jeans never left Germany, haha. Eighty-percent of my non-skater friends wear skinny jeans. Myself I couldn’t see myself wearing skinny jeans unless they’re flared. I don’t judge millennials because it’s all about preferences and I think everyone should wear whatever they want. Imagine everyone wearing the same style, that would be so boring.”
SNOBETTE: What part of the label brings you the most joy? Conversely, what part do you dread?
Joana Fongern: “I love the designing and producing part, as it gives me the freedom to do whatever pops in my head. I can even change things during the producing part. Everything is a constant process. Oh man, I hate creating content for my social media, I’m so overwhelmed with this. I am not good at it and I wish I had someone taking that part off my shoulders. haha. Additionally, I don’t like doing finances, but I luckily have someone helping me with this.”
SNOBETTE: I know Germany is still in the midst of COVID shutdowns. How are you and other young people faring given this was a time when people anticipated there would be more freedom of movement. Are you able to skate?
Joana Fongern: “You won’t believe it, but they have extended the lockdown again and I am not sure when it will stop. I have no clue anymore what’s going on, haha. Speaking to my experience, we’re super tired of the lockdown and it’s exhausting overall. We can still go skate, it’s the same as before. Also, we can still move around freely in Germany, it’s just connected with a bunch of restrictions.
SNOBETTE: What’s ahead in 2021 for Nayf and Wavey?
Joana Fongern: “Well, I hope I will be able to expand my company with one-two employees and get into retail shops that want to sell my products. Also, hoping for more collaborations as I love to collaborate with people. Long term, I hope to find a small batch manufacturer, that would take off a lot of weight from my shoulders.”