by Sionne R. Neely



Up 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.

FEET DON'T FAIL ME NOW - Nolley's Globetrotting

FEET DON’T FAIL ME NOW – Nolley’s Globetrotting

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.

Lookbook - smaller filesSay 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.

Lookbook - smaller filesCULTURE 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.

Lookbook - smaller filesIt’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.

Lookbook - smaller filesIs designing your dream job?
Absolutely. I wasn’t happy with the work I was doing as a financial analyst.Ā  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.

Lookbook - smaller filesThe 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.

Lookbook - smaller filesYou 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.

PrintWho 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.

Lookbook - smaller filesYou 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. ā†’

5 thoughts on “NOMAD FASHION: EXPATRIATE by Kita Nolley

  1. It takes gut to follow your dreams, to do what makes you the most happy especially when it is related to the arts. To quit a ‘sane’ job that pays the bill, and start something ‘crazy’ that may not work out, but that everything in your being is excited about. I know this feeling.

    I am happy that Kita is this brave, because her work is really quite stunning. She manages to work with African Prints in a ways that comes out with a cosmopolitan air.

    Great interview, Sionne. I really enjoyed reading this piece; I find it quite inspiring.

  2. The patterns as well as the choice of fabrics are simply great. What immediately comes to my mind looking at the pictures is my favorite fabric store called King Textiles here in Toronto where I usually find everything I need to design my own clothes and honestly the next pieces in my collection will definitely be inspired by these photos. šŸ™‚

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