Break-ups can be a wonderful thing. For Melbourne’s Emily Nolan, it was heartbreak that led her to channel her experience into a surge of creativity, creating an impressive graduate collection while studying at the Whitehouse Institute of Design.
“We had to present our concept to the class the night after the break-up. I was emotional, and I just started bawling my eyes out,” says Nolan.
“My teacher eventually asked to see a photograph of him – and I showed her one where there were several flies on his back. In her thick Colombian accent she said, ‘Emily, you should have listened to the flies. Don’t you know they only hover around shit?’”
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Her collection of deconstructed, masculine tuxedos for women – which, lo and behold, had blowflies embroidered on them – earned her the 2016 Designer of the Year award at Whitehouse, the same institution that produced Rachel Gilbert, Camilla Freeman-Topper and Yeojin Bae.
Nolan’s campus-born eponymous label, E Nolan, went commercial in December 2017 when her debut range of T-shirts (featuring an embroidered moth and spider and a blowfly motif) were stocked at one of Melbourne’s best luxury fashion retailers, Le Louvre. Nolan seized on the goal she set herself when she was just 16: to have her own label by the age of 22.
“I don’t want to be an ant, I always wanted to be working towards my own dream,” she says.
That dream is suits. E Nolan now offers jackets and trousers made with natural fibres, which are designed, fitted and hand-tailored in Melbourne and Sydney for the modern woman. (Or as Nolan explains, “for busy schedules, manic minds and loving hearts”.) This is welcome news – Nolan fills a gaping niche in the Australian marketplace for made-to-measure women’s suits which, until now, have been almost impossible to find.
For now, there’s only black super 140s wool, but soon E Nolan will add white and navy wool, as well as cotton and linen varieties.
“My mum has always worn suits, and I have always worn suits and men’s clothing. I can’t work out if I feel powerful because it’s a man’s uniform, or because I am able to do so much more when I’m dressed comfortably,” says Nolan.
Here’s how it works: customers book a one-on-one appointment (online) for the roving trunk show in Melbourne in June, with one to follow in Sydney later in the year. They’ll try on one of three styles of fully lined jackets: a single-breasted peak lapel, a six-button double-breasted peak lapel, or a double-breasted tuxedo jacket with black-satin lapels. For bottoms, there’s the square-leg, high-rise Heidi pant or the double-pleated trousers with pockets and belt loops. The suit pieces are then tailored to fit the individual (all of which is included in the $1200 price). Turnaround time for a full suit is expected to take a week.
“The customer will purchase that garment they first tried on (with the alterations), rather than from a fabric swatch sample,” she says.
“So they’re made-to-measure and you get that one-on-one experience. Plus the design and the fabric mean they’re comfortable and made to last. It’s just how I like to dress, so it’s actually a really selfish venture.”
Nolan envisions her suits easily transitioning from day to night, paired with a shirt for the office or a T-shirt and sneakers on the weekend.
There’s also a little reminder that you’re wearing an E Nolan suit: It’s that blowfly.
The first E Nolan Trunk Show will be held in June in Melbourne; time and date still to be confirmed.