Natalie Suarez for M&D Selects

Fashion, music, design—we love it all. That’s why we were stoked to sit down with Natalie Suarez, the New York-based model, designer, photographer, musician, blogger, and creative. Somehow during New York Fashion Week, Natalie found the time to answer our questions about personal style, design, music, travel, and how NYC affects her creativity.

What’s a typical NYFW like for you?

It’s always hectic. I always coordinate my schedule with my sister [Dylana]’s—we’re a team, so we go everywhere together. It starts with pulling looks for the week for attending shows, work events, and of course, the glamorous parties. It’s a time to have fun with getting dressed. It’s also about managing a realistic schedule. I’m selective with how I choose to use my time. I love discovering new designers, and still supporting all of my old favorites. It’s less about being seen everywhere, but going to places and events I really care about, and to shows that really inspire me. NYFW is all about early call times and late nights. After spending a full week dressing up numerous times a day, you’re ready for a day in, wearing pajamas. 

 Can you describe your personal style?

My personal style is eclectic. I love anything bold: bold prints, bold colors, bold silhouettes. I’m all about classic fits and tailored pieces with a little edge. I like looking a bit undone, and mixing and matching pieces and trends and eras to create unexpected combinations. As an LA native, music is at my core; everything from hip hop and R&B to indie rock and soul.

 Who are your style inspirations?

Mick Jagger. Erin Wasson. Bob Dylan. Sophia Loren. I think style comes with personality, with confidence. These people ooze it, and it shows, no matter what they’re wearing. They all have a cool, understated elegance with a bit of mystery. 

 You’ve also done some design work. What’s that process like?

Designing always begins with an obsession over an item in my closet. It could be the heel of a shoe or the cut of a dress. I like taking something that’s timeless and revamping it. It could be grabbing inspiration from a decade (the 70s being my favorite) or from my own diverse cultural background—my Asian and Hispanic heritage. I’m inspired by places I travel to, the colors, the scenery. Designing and being behind the scenes is always exciting for me. My favorite part is getting to brand and market my designs; taking the final product, photographing it, and turning it into a way of life. 

How does being NYC-based affect your style? Your creativity?

NYC makes me feel alive in all aspects of my life, and definitely creatively. It’s a place where you feel you can be anything you want to be, and do anything you want to do. Everything feels right at your fingertips. As for my style, I’m a lot more practical, yet still experimental. The girls in NYC wear a lot of boots because we walk a lot. We always have a pair of headphones on because it helps us zone out in the midst of a sea of faces. We always have a shoulder bag because it’s practical, and carries a lot of things. Being a New Yorker, I’ve learned to dress for being on the go, but also having a lot of fun with it. If you dress a little funky, nobody will judge you. You’re free to be whoever you want to be that day. 

 Tell us how you got into photography.

My father bought my sister and me an old Canon 7D at a garage sale. Back then, they were huge and super heavy, but took stunning photos. I taught myself how to use it back when I first started Natalie Off Duty in 2009. As a model, I already had an eye for style and lighting, so putting the two together with the camera was super helpful. It just felt natural. As a model (I’ve been working since I was fifteen through high school and college), I was traveling a lot on my own, and I wanted to document my experiences. [How] to work a camera was the best thing I ever taught myself. I was able to set up my camera and hand it to a complete stranger to take a photo for me. Luckily now, I work with my sister every day. Dylana and I shoot all our own photos, videos, and even edit them. I love being hands-on, and teaching myself new skills, working with new programs. Learning these skills was worth all the time, effort, and practice. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done since now I take photos every single day. New bloggers always ask me how to blog; it really starts with good writing, and being able to pick up a camera and learn the basics. 

 You also sing and play the guitar. When did you get into that?

I’ve been singing my entire life. Singing and music runs in my family. I grew up performing: being on dance team and show choir throughout school, and being in talent shows and competitions. I always played piano, and taught myself guitar one summer [when] I was really bored. Singing helped me break out of my shell and become more confident. Now, I sing for myself, make videos on YouTube, and occasionally sing in fashion campaigns and special events. It’s a pretty private part of me and comes out when I’m inspired. I can’t wait to share more and sing more with my sister; she’s amazing. 

 Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes in spurts. I remember some years, I sang and wrote a ton—it was mostly as I was becoming more independent, as I was just living on my own, learning more about myself. Music comes most natural to me when I feel something’s changing. Other times, I’m so caught up in the fashion bubble that I don’t have the time to really share it. It’s finding that balance in “doing it all” that becomes challenging. If I were to write music or do an album, I’d have to be fully dedicated. I never want to do something halfway. 

 You travel a ton. What are your must-haves while traveling?

There was a time this year that I was traveling every other week. For me, it’s about getting proper sleep and drinking a ton of water. I bring face wipes on the plane, and pile on the creams. Traveling is also about finding a routine, like still finding time to work out, [do] the things you would do if you were at home. Another thing is planning my looks beforehand; it makes packing a lot less stressful. 

Tell us about the playlist you put together.

On Soundcloud I like to feature more unknown artists, tracks, and remixes. This playlist shows a wide variety of the types of music I like. I think it progresses naturally—it’s a mix of hip-hop, R&B, electronic music, and new indie songs that speak to your soul. This playlist truly is a slice of my life.

 What do you listen to get yourself into the creative mindset?

Old school rock n’ roll. The Rolling Stones. Jimi Hendrix. 

 What would your advice be to any up-and-coming creatives?

Be consistent, do what you love, and never let anyone tell you “no”. If someone tells you no, go your own way and prove them wrong. 

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