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30th May 2023 EDT FEATURES

Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika

They were one of the first KOLs that supported SNKRDUNK while we were planting our feet outside Japan. Many months since, and we caught up with them once again over an evening coffee.

Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika
Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika

By Charles Basa

Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika

Call them influencers, KOLs if you may, but they’ve been paying their dues before social media reached its zenith in the status quo. Artists long before the celebrity. Dharni Ng is a world-class two-time Grand Beatbox Battle Champion. No small feat especially coming from Singapore, at the time hardly an incubator for the arts, let alone beatbox. Weronika Heck started her YouTube channel while working as an actress, before “YouTuber” was even part of the lexicon.

A long journey, literally and figuratively, with both of them having to move for greener pastures. But their dream’s a dream their audacity made reality. An audacity that shows in the diversity of their content, their willingness to experiment, and most evidently, in their style.

They arrive apropos to their reputation. Style aficionados with Dharni in a Nike Dunk High Retro “Blue Chill” and Weronika in a Naked Wolfe Cali White. Silhouettes only the gens du monde, gliterrati, or at the minimum, the adventurous can confidently pull off.

“Easy, easy one,” Dharni quips of his outfit that day, matching the cerulean Swooshes of his high tops to the azure of his baggy pants. Weronika wears a loose blue jeans that can’t be mistakenly paired with white sneakers. Both à la the hip-hop staple of the naughties, but more comme il faut today than it was 20 years ago.

“Some days are thought-out, some days you totally don’t really care what to wear,” he says when I asked them about how much of their outfit choices are cerebral or visceral. For our particular meeting, it’s the former. Their considerations made with an agenda.

We engaged them to shoot some content ahead of the recent launch of our collaborative apparel collection with WIND AND SEA. I handed them two white tees. Both XL, both featuring the sky blue signature typography of the brand; both executed with ease.

Blue seemed perfectly thematic during the shoot. Fair enough, it’s the color most associated with the wind and sea. But it’s not only how they complemented the design with their personal style, because after reviewing the footage, I saw how they complemented each other. A match made in heaven, perhaps.

Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika

Weronika makes a bold statement by wearing a black corset along with the streetwear staples. To say it’s uncommon would be understating it. She’s been wearing one sporadically since she was 18. As with anything that dares to stand the tallest, it becomes a lightning rod for criticism.

She recalls: “I remember at that time it was super controversial. [They’d say] ‘Oh my god, you’re so crazy. What’re you doing with your body.’ It was only until the Kardashians started wearing it that it became okay. But actually I’m glad because people would tell me now that they knew me for the corsets from years ago and I’m like, ‘Yes!'”

Dharni has made a career out of making his voice heard and these days, that voice also takes the form of his aesthetic. He breaks the norm by carrying a handbag. Convention would say it’s too effeminate an accessory. But he’s made a living of going against convention, so he wears it with swagger.

It’s from an esoteric Hong Kong label called PabePabe. It’s eye-catching even in black, a definite conversation starter as much because it’s on him, but because it’s adorned with circuit switches that he toggles up and down to show it off. It’s decorative. The real electricity comes from the man’s confidence. And it’s not the only piece from the brand that he owns.

“For me, I will wear the things people don’t wear. Then they’ll be like, ‘Whoa, what the hell’s this. It’s so crazy.’ But I’ll dare to wear it. I’ll keep wearing it and then people will [follow] ’cause I’ll prove that it works.”

They’re a couple that’s embraced the fluidity of fashion. “Uniqueness matters” to Dharni, as does individualism to Weronika. Thus, the corset. “I could very easily wear oversized but I still wanted to be myself, you know. So that was the priority. I didn’t want to look like someone dressed me up,” she explains. “It’s also fine if someone doesn’t have their own styling. But then, I like my own style.”

It’s just in the nature of the beast, I deduce, of being a public figure. They’ve a combined following of more than a million on Instagram alone. There’s an unstated prerequisite of their jobs to be original. Because whether people acknowledge it or not, they’re expected to be trendsetters, to show us something new. And the only way to do that well is to be authentically themselves, as hard as it is to do in this day and age.

They’ve been married for over a year now, and true to the non-traditionalists that they are, “tied the knot” in sneakers. As eclectic as their wardrobe is, as are their collection of shoes. How many they own together, only God and their storage space will know. Losing track over the years, moving around a lot even before settling down in Singapore.

Lovers & Solemates: A Vis-à-Vis With Dharni & Weronika

He estimates that it’s 20 to 50 pairs but she jokes that it’s over 200. She admits she’s just as guilty with owning many heels that she doesn’t wear. Just a work hazard, I suppose.

“I have shoes in Poland I lost. Before I met [Weronika] I had a bunch. And I moved out and I don’t where my shoes went. I had the Jeremy Scotts with the wings, the glow in the dark. Lost already. I got so lazy I can’t even find it. But let them have it,” referring to his friends back in Poland.

I surmised how long he’s been honing his craft when he mentioned the Jeremy Scotts. Their apex were sometime in the early 2010s. Up to this point, that’s almost two decades of practice. Despite being world-renowned for beatboxing, he still sees the need to (practice). An attitude he dives deeper into when we segued into a conversation about his music and future plans.

They’ve collaborated on plenty of videos with each adding a new skill to their repertoire. Dharni’s dipped his feet into rap, finding a way he can weave the technicalities of beatboxing into his cadence; while Weronika has been singing in languages that’s hitherto unfamiliar to her. All things considered, she does it surprisingly well enough or at least, endearingly.

Many shoes make an appearance on their profiles, with some more than others. For a start, there are the first pairs they acquired from the SNKRDUNK App: The Off-White x Nike Blazer Mid “All Hallows Eve” and the Nike Air Jordan 1 “Bred Toe” which she recounts accompanied her through the muddy terrain of last year’s unfortunately rainy F1 night race.

Their collection is expansive, from Nike to adidas, to Off-Whites and Louis Vuittons. They attend their fair share of events throughout the year and it’s safe to assume there’s a pair for every occasssion.

Weronika dresses with savoir-faire as an attendee, usually building her outfit from the ground up. It’s a functional decision as it is an aesthetic one: “For girls, when the event is a very elegant one you can’t wear your favorite sneakers, actually. But there are some events where you can go more chill so I also start from the shoes. I love high heels but I prefer to go in flats. And I never know what to expect. People usually want to do something after the event but then I’d be very tired in heels and I don’t really want to carry an extra [pair].”

She’s definitely the more analytical one between the two, more attuned with the going-ons in the fashion landscape. She sees piecing an outfit more holistically, detailed without getting rapt by the minutiae. “I’m always thinking how the body looks with the shape.” She expounds, “If you want your body to look very light, you’d need smaller shoes like the heels with a longer front. If you want to look bigger, then you’d go with platforms which can also be a sneaker or high heels.”

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi in how she puts herself together. It’s contemporary but also bears a resemblance to looks of decades past. She finds herself recently inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s, as well as the eras that preceded the Hollywood icon, as far back as the 1920s.

“People are scared to touch these eras, not confident to try it yet,” she says. “They just don’t know how to do it. Girls at the time were also wearing sneakers. They were just styling it differently, not just the oversized pants like now. More like jeans, corsets. These girls weren’t just wearing high heels, they were wearing flats too. Fashion is recycled (cyclical) and it’s possible to pick and choose, just not to copy and paste, but to reimagine it.”

Dharni on the other hand, has also gone through a metamorphosis—partly through a “cocoon” woven by Weronika. Before they met, he was still à la mode with rare graphic t-shirts, snapbacks, and an oft-seen (presumably) GoodWood NYC necklace. Well-within the confines of streetwear. These were outfits worn by Kanye West, Pharrell and the like.

Since getting together however, Weronika’s aesthetic proclivities have rubbed off on him. What he wears is more considered, calculated like when he matches the tonal blues of his outfit for the shoot. “Few years ago, he was more spontaneous. I was like, changing his style… like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian,” she claims in jest.

Lately, he’s more open to experimentation. With his palette for example, boldly exploring more colors but once in awhile revisiting monochromatic staples he often wore in the past. Whether it’s his hip-hop pedigree or due to his wife’s influence, he loves oversized clothes. Still, he’ll only wear something if it resonates.

“It’s something that I feel. I’m not faking it. If I want to try something new, my mind state needs to [reflect that]. He adds, “When I’m in that stage where I’m trying new things, be it my music, a new sound, a new style; from what I wear, people can actually tell what state or mindset I was in that day.”

Nevertheless as wives do their husbands, Weronika still fit checks him before he heads out of the house.

There’s an irony in how he fell into the rabbit hole of sneakers, especially at a time when the world acquiesced in staying indoors, at home. It was during the pandemic when he began actively acquiring more pairs, buying shoes he couldn’t wear outside—yet. One such is the Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 5 “Muslin” which appears in a few photos on his IG profile. Post-lockdown, of course.

Seeing this, I discerned how he’s more perceptive of the shape of his footwear in recent times. Before he predominantly wore low cut shoes, to now wearing more high tops for most of his looks. That includes the chunkier selections purveyed by luxury brands.

He reveals his go-tos are the Off-White Odsy-1000 which he owns in two colorways, the LV Skate Sneaker, the LV Trainer Upcycle, and the LV Trainer Sneaker Boot. There’s a thread that ties the aforementioned together: the late great Virgil Abloh.

His admiration for the reverent designer stemmed from how he bridged street culture and luxury. He speaks of how Virgil “upscaled street culture” making it more accessible to both sides of the fence. “Before Virgil they (skaters) never used to wear LVs until he came and changed the market. It’s more acceptable now for high fashion society too and I think it’ll forever remain like that.” Weronika later teases him that his “favorite brand will be anything with Virgil in it.”

Plethora of shoes feature in many of their pictures. For Weronika, amongst the sea of heels, there is Naked Wolfe, the Nike Dunk Lows, the Air Jordans, and adidas. She seems to have a penchant for Yeezys, noticeably with several models getting more time in the sun; like the Yeezy 500 in “Salt” and “Purple”, the Boost 700 “Triple Black”, and the Boost 350 V2 “MX Rock”.

I presume it’s from the unorthodox silhouettes of said shoes, the “formlessness” of its design. There was always a method to Ye’s madness, until now at least. As she described earlier with how she primarily looks for shapes, it makes sense. Even more when she shares how she “likes shoes that look like a toy”, much like her Melting Sadness x adidas Originals Forum Exhibit Mid.

When it comes to footwear, she sees the landscape where Dharni sees the trees. She’s into the big picture where Dharni’s into the details. He nerds about the LV Trainer and Odsys-1000 explaining the intricacies of its design: the color-blocking, embossment and engraving, regalia, and the texture. “It’s just like my beatboxing,” he grins. “A lot of details and texture.”

He supposes his appreciation for the details dates to his childhood love for Gundam models and “how the artists do the lining of the toy and color it”. He’s an artist as well, the music people hear from him are all made of singular sounds he composes from his mouth. It’s a mutual understanding from one craftsman to another.

I wrap up our conversation by asking what’s next in their growing collection. Weronika settles with another Melting Sadness pair, while Dharni wants an RTFKT shoe, a company Nike acquired last year to function as its design division heading into Web 3.0. It’s an ambitious choice with many variables making acquisition challenging: rarity, price, procedures.

When it does become more accessible, we know he’ll be one of the first to get his hands on it. Whether we’ll see it on him, that depends if it passes Weronika’s fit check.