by Sionne R. NeelyUp and coming designer Kita Nolley’s new line EXPATRIATE is all about the traveling woman. Popping contrasts, beautifully complex prints, super structured silhouettes and deliciously colorful fabrics – EXPATRIATE is a mix of the heres and nows – simultaneous worlds taking shape together.
Nolley is a nomad in her own right. After ditching her 9 to 5 as a financial analyst in Atlanta, she sojourned all Eat-Pray-Love like around the globe to follow the patterns of her passion stitched in fashion. Nolley’s journey led her to London and work with couture design house Zoe Jordan and farther afield to Nepal, Thailand and Bangladesh, where she designed with a major garment manufacturer for labels such as H&M, Zara and TopShop.
Surprisingly, Nolley began her career only five years ago with a $20 basics class at the Atlanta Sewing Center. Hard work and determination never looked so lovely. She’s been selected as one of Charleston Fashion Week’s Top 20 Emerging Designers of 2013. Nolley will debut her Spring 2013 Collection, CULTURE CLUB there during the week of March 19-23.
I recently had a chance to rap with Mz. Nolley about bold transnational fashion and a woman’s jones for the wide open road.
How did you get started in fashion design?
I always liked sewing, that was always my thing. I like the idea of garment construction and I like putting things together. It started with me exploring and I realized I was pretty good at it so it went on from there.
Say more about the EXPATRIATE concept behind your collection.
Travel is a huge part of my life and it’s something that I love. After spending the last year living and working abroad, I decided to be my own muse. EXPATRIATE is for a woman that travels the world – it’s a little sartorial, a little bohemian but definitely loaded with cultural references.
CULTURE CLUB is a complete reflection of who I am as a person. The collection reflects and honors my cultural heritage: African and American. I use traditional African prints and Dutch wax fabrics on a contemporary silhouette.
It’s funny because when I was in grad school doing fashion it seemed like whenever someone worked with African fabrics it was always dubbed “The African Collection”. I wanted it to be on a contrasting silhouette – one that you wouldn’t normally see.
Is designing your dream job?
Absolutely. I wasn’t happy with the work I was doing as a financial analyst. I’d been on that career path since I was in college [as an undergrad at the University of Georgia]. I wanted to take some time off and go back to school and study something that was a little more creative just so I can flex that side of my brain.
The perfect storm of me being unhappy was I was at a job that I really hated. Logically it made sense for me to do what I wanted to do. So I quit my job and lived off savings for a while. Different things came my way because I took a chance on trying to do something else.
You were designing both in London + Bangladesh. How did those environments impact your design process?
You would think I would be more creative in Bangladesh because it’s such a cultural experience but it’s just the opposite. There we were designing for multinational companies, you know, clothes you buy off the rack. In London, it was just pure creativity. [Zoe Jordan] is a small fashion house and they go after the luxury market and design things that are new and different. But Bangladesh as a place [and all my travels in South Asia] has affected how I design my collections. It was a very good experience in both cities but I feel like I learned the opposite lesson in each one.
Who do you make your clothes for?
EXPATRIATE is inspired by beautiful people. I think of a woman who likes to travel and meet different experiences. I think of someone who loves culture and that’s definitely me – bold patterns, classic tailoring. A traveling culture is such a huge influence on what I do. Easy to wear, comfortable and different enough that every woman feels special in it.
You definitely have to check out the fabric game in Ghana.
Yes, yes, yes! I think that when I step foot there, I will feel like I’m at the source. I also think Ghana will have more of a spiritual impact on me as a person. It will be nice to get there.
If you dig CULTURE CLUB, support Kita Nolley’s Kickstarter campaign and road to the runway here – the deadline ends Feb. 23rd, 2013.
HereDeixis – In linguistics, deixis refers to the phenomenon wherein understanding the meaning of certain words and phrases in an utterance requires contextual information. →