Noémie Wilson Returns With Community and Culture at the Forefront of Her Brand
Back in 2018, a bright new brand burst onto the scene with a colourful luxe sportswear aesthetic made for those who dare to stand out. The LCF alumni offered a unique take on British streetwear, which was really beginning to gain momentum at the time. Bold hues, colour blocking, and playful piping defined Noémie Wilson’s aesthetic to create elevated tracksuits, co-ords, playsuits and jackets made from PVC and neoprene for the fashion-conscious who prioritise style but not at the expense of feeling comfortable.
A year after launching her brand, Noémie Wilson joined the Benjart team as Head Designer to gain more industry experience, putting her creative venture on the back burner for a minute. Although the brand appeared to be doing well with music artists such as Nadia Rose and Afro B wearing her pieces, Wilson felt she lacked the business knowledge needed to run a brand–a dichotomy many can relate to. Contrary to what Instagram might have you believe, being a creative and a business person is a complex yet necessary balancing act to achieve, especially in the fashion industry where a successful fashion brand is defined as one that sells.
Armed with the knowledge gained working for Benjart, combined with her previous experience interning for Marc Jacobs and experimenting at Nasir Mazhar, the Caribbean designer returns with a refined vision and community and culture at the forefront of her brand in her latest campaign for her AW23 collection ‘A Calming Storm’.
The latest collection from Noémie Wilson explores her multi-cultural roots, presenting modernised, tailored silhouettes inspired by the style of Caribbean and African migrants who moved to the UK in the 1960s. The AW23 collection goes back-to-basics, utilising a muted colour palette that draws from the landscape of Trelawny, a rural town in Jamaica where the Caribbean designer’s grandparents are from, and the surburbs of Derby, where Noémie Wilson grew up with her family. A Calming Storm is a refresh for the designer as she steps into the spotlight.
Hear more from Noémie Wilson in our interview below:
TJ: Where have you been?
NW: I took a well-needed hiatus after doing a lot of trial and error as a creative. I wanted to re-establish myself with a clear purpose, so I took the time to experience life and study the things that inspired me. When I started out, a lot of people were advising different things, but at some point, I had to shut out the noise and trust my instincts that I know who I am as a designer, and there’s nothing more to it than just creating pieces. I also spent my years off working with other brands and being a part of their growth, which is a beautiful feeling.
TJ: How did you become interested in designing and making clothes?
NW: It started with my family, seeing my aunts in Barbados who were designers and made clothes for local professionals. Seeing the garments my grandparents would wear, and how they would dress up to just lounge in the house, a lot of this subconsciously influenced me. During college, I was exposed to more cultures and noticed how clothing was used as a uniform for different traditions and occasions, which intrigued me because what would be my uniform? So I became more serious about using fashion as an expressive medium, learning how to make clothes and create new silhouettes while experimenting with textiles.
TJ: Your love and understanding of colour are very apparent in your previous collections and your personal style – where does this come from?
NW: Colours have always fascinated me. Sometimes as blocks, sometimes complimenting or sometimes clashing. Caribbean culture is known for its bright colours and bold prints, and seeing a lot of the clothing my grandmother’s generation would wear and how they would colour co-ordinate each garment, these are some things that were naturally embedded in me. In more recent times (pre-covid), partaking in carnival, I was in awe of the colours, and seeing them all together just looked like a photo of the spectrum of colour. It felt surreal.
TJ: The new collection, A Calming Storm, which reintroduces the brand is a very neutral colour palette – why did you decide to use muted colours for this collection?
NW: During the time I was away, there was very much a focus on craftsmanship and individual garments. Before creating their collection in their chosen colourways, most designers create toiles made from a calico (raw cotton). This practice is to develop the product. This collection was kind of a refined way of me doing that, the lack of colour forces you to focus on the garments for what they are. This collection was very much a journey about who I am as a designer. I wanted the pieces to have clarity. But colour will be back for sure, as this is what I’m now building from.
TJ: You put your brand Noémie Wilson on pause for a moment and worked at Benjart for a few years as their head designer of womenswear, as well as on other projects. Why does now feel like the right time for Noémie Wilson to return?
NW: Turning your passion into a career or business can become quite emotionally draining. The same thing that once brought you joy and an escape from reality, is now the thing you run from. For myself, I took a break as I felt I lacked the knowledge, experience and skill set to run a brand. It just so happens this occurred around the same time as meeting the owner of Benjart. This was a huge opportunity for me. Benjamin mentored me and showed me parts of the business which were foreign to me. However, now feels like a good time to return. The fire and passion has returned, but now with infrastructure and understanding. It took a long time for me to develop and figure out my design style, and I’m sure it will develop a lot more moving forward.
TJ: How has community & culture nurtured you as a person and designer?
NW: While living in Derby, I was primarily around my grandparents and the network of Jamaicans living in the Midlands. I saw how they had managed to retain their culture over the decades and welcomed other cultures while also trying to assimilate into British culture. By doing this, they created their own community, something I have always wanted to cultivate; a community of like-minded individuals with eclectic taste, a certain eye for design, and a carefreeness that empowers others. That’s what matters to us. That’s who we want to feel pride wearing our clothes. Culture has been the biggest influence on me as I am a constant observer, inspired every day by the metropolis of London as a mixing pot of all kinds of people from different backgrounds, classes and cultures, along with my own. Whether it be the silhouettes of the women dressed in Ankara or the vivid colours and tailoring of La Sape, these can all be the inspiration for new designs.
Keep up to date with Noémie Wilson here.
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