Dane Estes might be the only person in Portsmouth wearing Kanye West’s designs on a regular basis. Sipping a caffè mocha in Market Square on a recent weekday morning, he stood out from the crowd.
“This particular outfit is what you could expect to find me in day to day,” Estes said of his ensemble. Though his style is unusual, Estes keeps it straightforward. When it comes to dressing himself in the morning, he shies away from strategizing.
“I always had the problem of not knowing what to wear because I bombarded my closet with stuff I thought I liked, and in return, always struggled to find something to wear,” Estes said.
After years of practice, Estes now has a wardrobe stocked full of pieces that he hopes will be a strong base for the long run.
“This not only slims down my options significantly, but it gives me the ability to wear what I love, not what I like,” Estes said. “We as consumers, by nature, tend to compulsively shop and fill our closets with stuff we think we like, but in all honesty, it just confuses you.”
Estes, 27, is the social manager of ih nom uh nit, a luxury design house based in Paris. It’s known for high-quality objects and lasting construction, and takes inspiration from earth tones and natural materials. He also moonlights as an Instagram influencer and totes a hefty clout for those who care about men’s street style.
“I used to care what people thought too much. Now I’m quite the opposite. I embrace judgment.”
New Hampshire is known for many things, but generally speaking, avant-garde fashion is not one of them.
“Living in New Hampshire puts any fashion-savvy man or woman at a disadvantage because we are never exposed to the idea of creativity within the wardrobe,” Estes said. “If I wear a Saint Laurent tee paired with off-white denim rolled up so you can see the strange design on my socks and a pair of checkered Vans, I’m going to get looked at funny walking down my street in Portsmouth.”
But, in New York City, Estes said, he gets high fives when he walks down the sidewalk.
“It’s the predetermined ideas around conformity and what is cool that is incorrect,” Estes said. “If we could change this, especially in a place so socially free, then Portsmouth would be a better place for people to express themselves.”
Estes admits he has no foundation for where he is. He never studied fashion and has no formal training in photography.
“Do I care what people think?” Estes said, laughing slightly. “This is going to sound funny, but I used to care so much that I wouldn’t even go out because I didn’t know what I wanted to wear. I had a vision in my head for who I was and how I wanted to dress to feel like myself, but I was never able to nurture that idea and make a move on it.”
Estes grew up in Dover and studied business at the University of North Dakota. After college, he worked for his dad’s construction company, but wasn’t sure of his direction.
In September 2015, Estes’ best friend, Morgan Belanger, passed away suddenly. Estes said it was Morgan’s brother, Ryan, who introduced him to art, specifically fashion. The tragedy spurred Estes to pursue his creative passions more seriously.
“I used to care what people thought too much. Now I’m quite the opposite. I embrace judgment. It invokes emotion. Some people need more of that,” Estes said. “Instagram haters get nasty, but it’s all fuel for the fire.”
Estes said his grandmother has been the most supportive of his interest in fashion. “She gives me more positive feedback on what I wear than anyone I know,” Estes said. “I love her so much. She’s amazing.”
Leaving the café, Estes dodged commuters in white shirts, khakis, and banal sundresses as he reflected on his path in life. Despite having no real background in fashion, he has catapulted himself toward the center of international e-commerce couture and style on social media.
“Only time will tell (what is next). I very much look forward to all that life has in store for me,” Estes said. “I have a few projects in the works, and I am very excited to see where my role in ih nom uh nit leads.” He dipped around a man in a blue suit talking on a phone.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time now,” Estes said.
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