In 2010, when Australian stylist Ilona Hamer and French photographer Alexandra Nataf met in L.A., they immediately bonded over a similar taste and style. “There was just something about her,” remembers Hamer. “So much so that I kept her card with the intention of crossing paths again one day.” Three years later, they discovered through Instagram that they lived down the street from one another in New York. They met up for margaritas, and a friendship and creative partnership was born.
After years of working together—Hamer styling and Nataf shooting—they decided to launch Unconditional, a print magazine made by women for women that values integrity and appreciates fashion without obsessing over it. Having worked with the duo several times—most recently they shot and styled our Spring/Summer ‘17 swim lookbook—we are especially excited about Unconditional issue 5 hitting newsstands yesterday. Below, the two women open up about their creative vision, their enviably laid-back approach to style, and their current Barneys must-haves.
The Window: Why do you think you work together so well?
Ilona Hamer: Alex and I have a really crazy connection where we can communicate without words. When we’re on set, we notice the same thing at the same time and know instantly what we want to tweak or change. We do have differences, but they are complementary. I’m a little more “messy,” spontaneous, and loose, where as Alex is very considered and measured. We swap back and forth between those qualities as well. We both work frequently with other teams, but for me there’s always something special about the images we make together. They feel like us, and the kind of women I want to look at because I think there is just an honesty and understanding in what we are working toward.
Alexandra Nataf: It’s funny because I was going to say exactly the same thing as Ilona! It really is a strange thing to have someone think like you, and we didn’t even grow up together. We really complement each other and our working relationship happened very organically. When we started collaborating, we already had a sense of our own individual aesthetics, and while there’s a lot of crossover, they come from different standpoints—photography and styling. We also have a very similar connection to clothes; we like things to be well-made and thoughtful, but we are by no means obsessed with fashion.
Why did you launch Unconditional?
AF: Unconditional was always in the back of my mind, but it takes a team to do it. Again, this happened organically. Ilona and I were shooting together for about a year and clearly had very similar taste in model talent and images, and one day we just decided to do it. Around that time, we were seeing so much bullshit from bloggers putting out tacky content, and we wanted to bring a more tasteful and realistic approach to fashion. Ilona had a lot of editorial experience from working at Vogue Australia, and I grew up around printing books and catalogues due to the fact that my dad was a printer, so that side didn’t intimidate me at all. Most importantly, neither of us was scared to dive in and commit to it.
What’s the ethos of the publication?
AN: The Unconditional woman always comes first. Not what she wears, but what interests her, what ideas excite her, and what she has to say. We want girls of all ages to be inspired by that approach.
Tell us about this latest issue. What can we expect?
AN: Each issue means so much because it’s like a cross-section of moments and stories from the last six months of our lives. This issue, we focused on women who are iconoclasts in their approach. I’ve always been impressed by people who willingly follow their instincts. Their work impacts the rest of us. In my mind, Melanie Ward is the epitome of that spirit, so we’re ecstatic to have her involved. The issue also includes some really amazing stories with Marte Mei van Haaster, Julia Stegner, and Crystal Moselle, who is an incredibly talented New York filmmaker. We had a lot of fun shooting in Australia with Julia van Os; I wish all shoots could end up with swimming in the Northern beaches.
What would be the biggest compliment someone could give you guys about Unconditional?
IH: A lot of people say that it’s not so much a magazine as it is a book—something that they really care about and keep on their coffee tables to revisit. I think to have that kind of staying power and effect and be so new to the market really speaks to what we are creating. Because of Instagram, people are overwhelmed with images from magazines, and we are all looking at the same things. For me, it’s about creating a version of women that they can look, understand, and feel is inspiring, attainable, and empowering.
Ilona, what’s something about Alex that inspires you?
IH: I admire her determination, patience, and considered sensibility. We work together so closely that she is more than just my closest friend and collaborator; she is my family here in New York. She is my sounding board of advice for so many projects, as well as my personal life.
Alex, what’s something about Ilona that inspires you?
AN: I will always find Ilona’s point of view inspiring, as well as her drive. I really respect that she’s someone who knows exactly what she likes and why she likes it. It derives from something inside her, and I think to really be an artist you have to give yourself over to your gut instincts. That comes across in every decision she makes. Ilona is also someone who will forever be “on board.” If I told her we had an option to realize that we’ve both wanted, but we had to be in Paris in the morning and be back in New York the following day, I know she’s as crazy as I am and would find a way to make it happen.
Ilona is there something about you that’s signature Australian?
IH: I think my love for the ocean and summertime, which is what leads me to always show a little skin in my work. I love the freedom and ease that comes with being by the water, and I miss it dearly living in New York.
Alex, is there something about you that’s signature French?
AN: Besides my love for croissants and Nutella, I think probably my entire approach to beauty and style. I don’t really wear any makeup, and I think that less is always more. This way of life isn’t something I have to think about; it’s ingrained in me.
What are your personal approaches to style and fashion?
IH: I am definitely a classicist in all aspects of life. I like things to be simple, beautiful, well-made, and to feel as though you have always owned them. I love silk and cotton shirts, great jeans, a handmade sandal, pumps and boots in the winter, and items that feel personal mixed in along the way. I love personal, family heirloom jewelry, my husband’s sweaters and shirts, vintage finds, and scouring eBay for the pieces from seasons past that got away.
What’s your spring uniform?
AN: Levi’s jeans, Céline sandals, and a white T-shirt. You can never have too many white t-shirts or jeans; it’s a bit of an addiction.
IH: A lightweight cotton shirt, a pair of Levi’s (either jeans or shorts depending on the weather), sandals, and a great handbag from Loewe to hold my daily life!