Nikki and Steph wearing Nayf and Wavey
When we met Joana Fongern a couple years back, we were instantly captivated by her warm and friendly energy. It wasn’t until we started seeing her beautiful color blocked designs at the park that we had to dig a little deeper. Those designs were part of Joana’s line, Nayf and Wavey, a clothing line as individualistic as the founder.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up all over the place, mainly in Germany and Austria. I was born in Frankfurt, but my parents and I moved to the south of Germany when I was 9 years old. That didn’t last long and our journey led us to a small town in Austria. That’s where I actually grew up because we lived there for the next 10 years.
How did you start skateboarding?
When I turned 25 and I moved to New York City I finally decided to pick something up I always wanted to do –skateboarding. I had never skated, because of a) I was afraid of doing it by myself or b) I didn’t know anyone that did it. I started watching the X Games on my lunch break, listened to Nina Moran’s Ted Talk, and followed The Skate Kitchen on Instagram and finally got the courage to a skateboard.
Everything got me so hyped that before Christmas, I went to Labor Skateshop and bought my very first set-up. One thing led to another, I met my best friends at The Skate Kitchen event, became part of Late Skate.
Joana in New York
What made you want to pick up the skateboard?
Skateboarding had always something very intriguing, creative, charming, and provoking to me. I remember when I did my exchange year in an American high school all my male friends were skaters. I was so intrigued by it because I wanted to learn it too, but I did not know-how. Someone even gave me his skateboard as a present and I pushed on the front porch of our house, but I stuck to playing soccer because that’s what I was good at.
Moving to my dream city, New York, was a new chapter in my life. This meant: trying out long desired dreams. As I said before, skateboarding has always been something I wanted to pick up. Everything spoke for itself (laughing). The boss I interned for, was a skater from back in the day. As I mentioned I watched a lot of X Games footage, saw a bunch of people skating down the street, one of my friends I met told me about The Skate Kitchen AND they happened to have a girl’s skate meet up exactly on that day when I looked them up. I mean, what are the odds (laughing).
The feeling of freedom and curiosity were definitely the reason why I picked up the board.
I always wondered how it must feel to skate down New York City’s streets with a bunch of people – and man I can say, this is one of the best feelings I’ve had. The feeling of freedom and the feeling that the world belongs to you – INCREDIBLE.
If it wasn’t for skateboarding I wouldn’t have all the amazing and creative people around me, I wouldn’t know what empowerment and community feel like. Skateboarding gave me friends, confidence, and a feeling of belonging.
What inspired you to keep skating?
I can definitely say that the feeling of freedom and community are two of the main reasons why I still skate. If it wasn’t for skateboarding I wouldn’t have all the amazing and creative people around me, I wouldn’t know what empowerment and community feel like. Skateboarding gave me friends, confidence, and a feeling of belonging. It gives me a purpose in life to pass on this feeling and it definitely created a lot of possibilities for me.
We met because you skated with Late Skate. How did you meet them?
I met Natalie, Aryam, Liv, Skylar, and Luna at my very first girl’s meet-up and they were all so welcoming and loving. We exchanged numbers and soon Natalie invited me to go skateboarding with them at Fat Kid. I was SO NERVOUS because this was my first time being in a skatepark.
At Fat Kid, I met other members of Late Skate and from this day on we hung out all the time. I am still so happy that I went to the girl’s skate night because man those ladies are some crazy and creative people with the best personalities I wouldn’t wanna miss out on.
Photo of Late Skate girls in Williamsburg
How has being part of a community influenced your skating?
First, I have to say that I have never really skated outside of a skateboarding community because I was lucky and met incredible people. Second though, due to the pandemic, I skated by myself a few times and I can definitely say that my skateboarding didn’t improve. So, I think that the element of community has influenced my skateboarding in so many ways. Through the community feeling, I dared to try new tricks and conquer my fears which I would have never done if I skated by myself.
Also, it has influenced my creativity of skateboarding – I have some friends that push me to think a bit more creative when trying to skate new things or a line. That makes me really happy.
How did you get to New York?
After I graduated with my Masters, I applied for a lot of fashion design internships in New York City. Half a year later, I got an internship, received my visa approval and was able to move. I only planned to stay for 6 months, but I got another internship approved so I stayed a little over a year.
Photo by @raetilly.shoots
You’re an incredible fashion designer. How did you start designing?
AWWW! Thank you so much! During High School my friend and I started to draw clothing designs but I didn’t imagine that this would be my livelihood someday. I would say I have always enjoyed fashion, loved to sketch and illustrate, but did I know how to use a sewing machine (not to mention a hand needle)? NO (laughing). This led me to my decision to study fashion design and through school I learned everything from scratch. I developed my skills throughout my BA and MA.
How did you start your line, Nayf and Wavey?
The journey started with my master’s collection but under another name. It was more a project than a serious business at that time. One, because I wasn’t at this point where I could a 100% identify myself with my project. And two, I moved to New York City after my program was done to gather experience. Hence, I paused my brainchild.
After I have returned from the Big Apple, I finally found myself, my ‘style’, and the missing identification for Nayf and Wavey. The whole New York City journey, the people, and skateboarding inspired me to start my project.
I want to create beautiful pieces for everybody to feel comfortable and empowered in it – express feelings, tell stories with it but also give room for people to speak up.
What is your goal with Nayf and Wavey?
Nayf and Wavey is a multicultural womxnswear brand that celebrates intersectional feminism through diversity, inclusivity, and gender self-determination. My goal is to empower my friends, womxn, non-binary, and their peers. It’s for everybody. I want to create beautiful pieces for everybody to feel comfortable and empowered in it – express feelings, tell stories with it but also give room for people to speak up. In the future, I would love to have another side project with Nayf and Wavey that focuses on teaching skateboarding young kids, create creative workshops, and build a platform that creates room for socioeconomic, political, and social-critical topics that educate and break boundaries.
How has COVID19 impacted your business?
COVID-19 has luckily not impacted my business in a bad way, as my brand is still a side project and I can’t fully live off it – yet. The pandemic to a greater extend led me to the production of community masks with the donations of 1€ per mask to great humanitarian organizations. The past three weeks have been crazy with taking orders, sewing, packing, and sending out as I am a one-woman business.
Masks from Nayf and Wavey
You’ve been making masks for your community. First of all, that’s so awesome. Second, do you feel like you have a responsibility to do that? How did that idea start?
I did not feel like I had the responsibility to sew community masks, but with my sewing skills, it would have been dumb not to take action! As a matter of fact, my friend and my parents actually led me to the idea as I lost both of my jobs due to COVID-19. The community masks are not only a good income source to invest in my brainchild, as this allows me to work on new ideas and projects, however, it also allowed me to collect donations for humanitarian organizations that help people in need.
Do you feel like there’s a connection to artists and skateboarding?
Definitely! Most of the people that I know are artists and work in the creative field. I have friends that work in the fashion industry, are painters, graphic designers, or work in the film and music industry. Personally, I get inspired through skateboarding, and while I skate. I get a deeper connection and understanding of my creativity. Skateboarding not only is an outlet for creativity but it is also a tool to break boundaries and I think that most of the people take the influence from it, transfer it to their art, and bend boundaries through their projects. So yes, there is a connection between artists and skateboarding.
How do you express your creativity in skateboarding?
I express my creativity in the way how I dress while I skate and my style of skateboarding. Ever since I have started skating I can 100% say that I truly found my way of expressing myself.