Emily Nolan feels most at ease in a suit. She claims to work in chaos, but the founder and designer is the ultimate ambassador for her polished namesake label.
Launched in 2018, bespoke suiting brand E Nolan aims to build a considered wardrobe for women and LGBTQI+ folk. Nolan sees made-to-measure clothing as the antithesis of “flippant add-to-cart purchasing, overconsumption and wasteful manufacturing”. But bespoke pieces are also a gateway to feeling good about yourself.
“I always think: what does this client want to wear whilst heartbroken? What do these garments need to do to assist the wearer in getting out of bed and into the world? How can I make someone who feels vulnerable or is lacking confidence feel more like themselves?”
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Housed in the old MacRobertson confectionery factory in Fitzroy, Nolan’s work and home life exists over three levels of converted warehouse space. It’s here she geeks out over form and function, and plays with the distinction between high style and low.
Alongside custom garments, the brand offers a range of ready-to-wear pieces sized 4 to 22. These everyday basics, modelled on fitting data from Nolan’s clients, are designed to work with and without suiting, and echo her wholehearted approach to getting dressed – clothes that work for you, not against.
What does an average workday look like for you?
To be honest, most start with chaos. I’m not a great sleeper so it takes me about an hour to remember my name in the mornings. With an ADHD/neurodivergent brain, I sometimes try to wear all the small business hats at once.
I see clients from 9am to 6pm. Then I pattern-make, get my admin ducks in a row and creatively work after dinner, usually until about 1.30am. I like to work at night while everyone is asleep, there are few interruptions and it feels like you have a secret.
How do you separate living and working in the same space?
The levels of the space separate the functions. The Dressing Room on the bottom floor is the client fitting room and ready-to-wear showroom. Our workroom and head office are on the middle floor. [Upstairs, the bedroom is] my cubby house. No work comes with me up that last flight of stairs.
What do you require from your clothes to be able to do your job properly?
I need to have a trouser that is comfortable and has room in the leg for the bending, pinning and kneeling that taking measurements requires of me. I also can’t ever figure out if I’m hot or cold so layers are important – especially given Melbourne’s temperament.
How do you describe your personal style?
I like to look thrown together, not put together. I’m time poor and it feels more honest and less intimidating meeting with clients. There is always a high-low mix. Think tailored suit but with sneakers and a band T-shirt.
Who are some of your favourite fashion designers?
Grace Wales Bonner, Alessandro Dell’Acqua, Phoebe Philo and Donna Karan. I admire the worlds that Simon Porte Jacquemus, Sandy Liang and Emily Bode have built. I love the career progression of Marc Jacobs. And Jonny Johansson at Acne Studios.
What’s your most beloved item of clothing?
I have a vintage Nascar T-shirt. I am obsessed with it. It’s so old and the perfect worn-to-shreds weight. I also have a vintage shearling jacket I love; Owen Wilson ran me over with his bike 30 seconds after I bought it.
How did you get into tailoring?
Clothing is how I express myself and I believe it’s how I can help others. I like to think of it as my love language. I learnt this growing up in my granny’s sewing room and my grandmother’s millinery school. I studied fashion design at Whitehouse [Institute of Design], graduated designer of the year and then went on to complete my menswear apprenticeship and worked as a menswear tailor before starting my own business.
Women and LGBTQI+ folk are neglected when it comes to product and garment design. Historically, it has always been men first and then women second – the afterthought. I wanted to create a space and a made-to-measure product for clients who weren’t catered to.
Do you have any favourite skincare or make-up products?
I’ve only ever worn this Chloe Signature Eau De Parfum, and when I say ‘worn’, I mean drenched. I am obsessed with James Vivian – I’m a smoker and he makes me look like I’ve remembered to drink enough water, get enough shut-eye … I visit him and his team about four times a year where I get laser genesis and stock up on my skincare routine. For everyday maintenance, I love Dermaquest Even Skin Vitabrite, the Darl Cleanser and for sunscreen it’s Dermaceutic Laboratoire K Ceutic Post-Treatment Cream SPF 50. Nails are always OPI Lincoln Park After Dark; 2008, made the executive decision.
This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.