Looped has become a fixture in Auckland’s nightlife. A club night launched in July last year, it’s known for its fashion, music, and being a safe space to party for everyone - especially Black New Zealanders. At the latest Looped event, we spoke to creator Yordanos Berhane and partygoers about their looks and why this space is so different to anywhere else in town.

Here’s what Yordanos Berhane is thinking when she puts together an outfit: “Look like a bad bitch. All eyes on me. I want attention.”

The 26-year old, known to most as Yordi, is the creator of Looped, a club night that’s just had its sixth run at The Chamberlain in Tāmaki Makaurau. Looped has earned a reputation in town, especially among Black people, as a place where you’ll feel free and joyful, where the music is always good and where the fashion is elevated rather than conformist.

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At the sixth Looped event, Yordi is serving a strong example of the latter point. In the middle of our conversation, her friend interrupts and shouts, “Go home and get changed right now!” because she looks so scandalously good.

Yordi elaborates on the thinking behind her outfit, saying, “I want people to be like, okay, she put in effort. I'm the host. I want to leave a good impression on people. I want people to be excited for the next outfit. And I want people to come with the same level as well.

“Looped is known for its parties and its hip hop scene, but it's also known for, like, you know girls are going to come to Looped and bring their everything. Girls are going to come in the latest of the latest. I didn't even intend for it to be anything about fashion or whatnot. But it's nice that people feel that pressure. I want people to feel that pressure.”

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Photo: Samuel Negash @samuel.negash

There aren’t many spaces in Auckland’s nightlife where you can feel fully comfortable dressing up on that level, and not attract some confounded stares, feel a little out of place or, worse, have to deal with unwanted attention. Broadly speaking, we tend to cultivate a samey, ‘I’m not even trying’ type of fashion in this country - which makes a space like Looped so liberating and thrilling for anyone who has some daring pieces in their closet that they’ve been too scared to wear anywhere else.

“Girls put so much effort in dressing up,” says Yordi. “I just want us to have a space where we can show that off. But it goes for the guys as well. I think guys are like, okay, these girls have put so much effort into their outfits. Next time I come to Looped I'm going to be doing the same.”

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Yordi thought up the concept of Looped during the first lockdown last year. As someone who loves to party, dance and socialise, being cooped up at home made her realise that when she could finally go out again, it had better be worth it.

“If I have to go out, wait in line for 30 minutes, pay at the door, then get into a club and it's shit, I'm going to be so upset. I'm going to just start something and if it's me and my ten friends that show up to it, so be it. It's going to be the music we like, we're gonna dress up how we like, we're gonna be surrounded by people we like. And then a couple hundred other people felt the same way.”

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Looped Vol. 6. Photo: Samuel Negash @samuel.negash

Ultimately, the main intention of Looped was, “creating a safe space. Creating a space for Black people and people of colour.” Beyond the music (on the lineup at the sixth Looped event was Mahlete, DJ Banty, El Knows, Randy Sjafrie and Ethan James), the fashion and the people, Yordi says another key ingredient of a good party is the bouncers.

“I know it sounds weird, but bouncers actually make a huge difference. How they talk to you during the night makes a huge difference, especially for men of colour and women of colour. The way that they've been treated in the past with bouncers - ‘Oh sorry, dude, you can't come in, your shoes are not the right shoes.’ And then you've got a white guy just walking in.”

(The fashion at Looped is elevated, but not exclusive. There are plenty of sneakers and streetwear on show and, besides, a pair of Y-3’s are fresher than whatever musty boat shoes they probably let in at Longroom.)

“We've had a chat with these bouncers and we're like, just respect everyone that's in this venue. I don't want no dragging. I don't want no one being disrespected. If you feel like you're being disrespected, then go hard, do your job. I'm not going to stop you from doing that. But I don't want no power play.

“We want to have a space that if anything went down, there was someone that could relate to them that could solve the issue. Like, oh this Black guy had a fight. Why did he have a fight? We're not just going to kick him out. Is there a reasoning behind it?”

The work that Yordi has put into cultivating an environment that’s kind and respectful was felt by lots of the attendees at the most recent Looped event. We spoke to some of them about their fashion and what drew them to Looped.

Lilly

Lily

Where did you get this dress?

I got this from an Instagram store. I literally got it as a trial. I thought ooh this doesn’t look legit, so I just got a couple items just to see, because they’re quite cheap. And then it came out and it turned out really nice. It’s very sexy, and all the slits, I like that. I love skin.

How do you feel when you come to Looped?

I come in and I feel at home. I don't feel like I'm intruding in somebody else's space. I feel safe here.

Emily

Emily

Tell us about your outfit.

The set is from Lioness Official and my shoes are so old, I can’t remember. They’re the most comfortable so I can dance in them. My necklace is my mum’s jade and then just some old pieces of jewellery.

What does having a space like Looped mean to you?

I think what’s amazing is that Yordi has created a safe space for all ages, all races. She’s created a space where everyone can come and feel like they’re part of something.

Sam

Samuel

Tell me about your outfit.

I really like printed outfits and ethnic clothing, especially from my own country, Ethiopia. I went to an op shop I always drive past every day on the way to uni. Never in my life have I been in. It's called Jeans, they do denim, but I walked in and I found some printed shirts. I was like, I want that right there. And I already had the pants from another thrift shop.

What does a night like this mean for you?

Community, friends, creatives coming together, having a great time. It's a safe space. It's different from every other club. Every other club you go to, you're worried about, first of all, who you are. You're a target the moment you walk in, like security got their eyes on you and it's... It doesn't feel right. And I feel like I need to be on my best behaviour. The smallest thing will get me kicked out.

Here, [Yordanos] makes a safe space. She makes a space for women as well as for men. We can have fun. At the same time, we have restrictions. We know when to stop. We know when women are feeling uncomfortable. And she's put these rules in place. And when we come here, everyone just has a good time. And that's what it's supposed to be right? A good time.

Camella

Camella (left) and Bhavna (centre)

Camella and Bhavna

Tell me about your look.

Bhavna: Looped obviously is a funky event so I tried to look funky as possible.

What do you love about coming to Looped?

Bhavna: I love the music, the lineup, the DJs.

Camella: The funky vibes, the fashion, the people.

Melana

Toni and Melana

How did you put together your outfit tonight?

Toni: Both my top and shorts are from Mirrou and my shoes are from Novo. It's a pretty basic outfit. I just wanted to go for neutral colours.

Melana: So my top one of my friends gave to me and I cut it and I stitched it to my bra so it can fit my body. And my shorts - they were leggings and I cut it as well and I stitched the waistband to fit my waist. I don't actually sew. Honestly, it looks so bad but because it's dark you can’t tell.

What do you love about coming to Looped? 

Melana: We’ve been to every single event. It’s a safe place for people of colour and we get to see other people that we relate to. And it’s just the music that we enjoy: afrobeat, hip hop, trap, throwback. It’s music we grew up to, and what we would listen to before coming into town, because they didn’t play it in town. But now we know where we can go.

Blessing

Blessing

Can you tell me about your outfit?

Oh I'm glad you asked actually. I have a photo of what it was inspired from. It was inspired by Tony Soprano from The Sopranos. That exact outfit. Because he's known for a lot of his colourful shirts.

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Have you been to Looped before?

This is my first time here, I like it so far. Personally I like it much more than the other clubs because it feels a lot more mature, I guess.

Chloe

Chloe

Tell us about your outfit.

My shoes are Ego, my pants are Pretty Little Thing and the top is literally Glassons, I’m so embarrassed [laughs].

What do you love about Looped?

It’s such an inclusive place and it’s such a fun, free space. Everyone’s so happy and carefree.

Ardon

Ardon and Charmaine

Tell me about your outfit tonight.

Charmaine: I’m wearing Ardon’s vintage Harley jacket. It’s pure leather. And I’m wearing some black pulp zip up boots from Zara, and a linen dress I got in Australia.

Ardon: I think these are a friend’s pair of pants from ages ago. And these are just army boots I found in an op shop. And my top was from an op shop, and then a little touch of class with the Gucci belt. I'm quite a secondhand shopper. I like to just piece things together.

Have you been to Looped before?

Ardon: It’s our first time, we’ve been meaning to come.

Charmaine: Everyone’s said that it’s amazing.

Ardon: We’ve only heard good things so we thought it was time to come see it for ourselves.