AUDRA, Audra Noyes’s fashion label, is dedicated to approachable and effortless garments. Her designs are created with a dash of modesty and a touch of sophisticated sensuality. Created for women of all ages and shapes, some attract attention through flouncy ruffles, pleats, and unexpected tufts of fabric, while others catch your eye through the way they fall on the body.
The designer’s creative process is influenced by the concept of rebirth and each stage of a woman’s life. “I am constantly inspired by the metamorphosis of women, the constant seasons of transformation throughout our life,” she told us during a recent interview in New York.
Growing up in Delaware, she felt that clothing was a form of self-expression. “It was my voice as a young teenage girl before I had the confidence or words to say what I was feeling,” she added. “I loved the therapeutic process that art and creativity could possess, and initially went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) to pursue art therapy. But it was not until my internship at Ralph Lauren that I knew I was meant to design.”
From there, she moved to Paris to study under two influential houses—Lanvin and John Galliano. “After my time in Paris at Lanvin and Galliano, I felt not only did I want to say something about the value of women and redefine the standards of beauty, but now was equipped with the skill set to do so,” she said.
Now, Noyes is in her own seasonal rebirth in Missouri, where she moved to join the inaugural class of the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator (SLFI). The two-year program offers six participants a shared retail and education space, equipment, access to small run sampling and manufacturing, and mentorship support.
To hear more about her next chapter living in St. Louis and how it all harks back to her dad’s three-piece suits, Whitewall caught up with the designer.
WHITEWALL: Let’s start by taking a few steps back. Was there anything in particular that you learned at Lanvin or Galliano that helped prepare you for your own venture?
AUDRA NOYES: Observing how these two French houses function strongly impacted my role as a creative director today and the direction I desire my business to go in the future.
You have Alber [Elbaz] at Lanvin, the whimsical mastermind. Simply witnessing how he creates, thinks, and leads was instrumental when forming my own brand. My time at Lanvin, specifically, helped me understand that luxury can be playful—and that a silhouette can be elegant and sophisticated but also quirky and youthful at the same time. I also learned from Alber how to dress women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. That really finds its way into my design process as I’m thinking about the AUDRA woman.
At Galliano, I learned to not sacrifice the quality and the craft behind the design. Those small tucks that take hours to get right or that pattern adjustment that provides the perfect drape hanging from the shoulder can make all the difference in setting my design apart from another and making it fit on the woman just right. My designs are wearable without sacrificing creativity or quality for functionality.
WW: Rebirth is a big inspiration for you. Can you tell us a bit about how that concept translates in your Spring/Summer 2018 collection?
AN: The AUDRA Spring/Summer 2018 centers on rebirth, celebrating the turning points women meet and embrace in their own lives. Elements of the collection listen to their origins while also transporting, rediscovering, and growing, flourishing beyond what they once were. The structured sleeves and clean, tailored lines of AUDRA’s roots from Paris are reborn in bouquet watercolor florals and bold stripes. Classic trousers are reclaimed in multicolored plaid voile, and our evening portion of the collection breathes new life in a silvered lamé crepe. I wanted to express that transporting something, or the process of rebirth, can create even more beautiful outcomes.
I am currently in a season of rebirth with my company, as I recently moved to St. Louis to be part of the inaugural class of the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator. Seasons of rebirth bring those moments of uncertainty, times for whimsical dreaming, and the need for constants. I wanted to translate those emotions into tangible techniques and fabrics in the collection. For example, the geometric prints—a neutral twill suiting, or a playful plaid voile—are a nod to the structure and support that one needs during new growth, while the lamé wave crepe is the literal translation of watering and nurturing new life in your life.
Each season of a woman’s life contributes to the individual she has and will become. The AUDRA Spring/Summer 2018 collection nods to our past, while it takes up with the future.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about the Saint Louis Fashion Incubator program you’re currently in, and why you decided to move your studio there? What’s special about the city and its people?
AN: The Saint Louis Fashion Incubator is a two- year residency program focusing on accelerating our businesses, while also revitalizing the local garment district. It is such an informative and engaging experience to be part of the inaugural class and working among five other designers on a day-to-day basis.
I chose to move my studio to St. Louis because I’m passionate about supporting local manufacturing and preserving the craft of hand pattern making and sewing. It’s a future business goal of mine to have all development and sampling in-house, while incorporating a retail and bespoke component.
The new environment of St. Louis has provided the unique opportunity for me to be engaging and interacting with my consumer on a day-to-day basis. The St. Louis women are inspiring, strong, informed—whether a vice president of a global company or a philanthropic mom. It has informed my designs, fit, fabric selections, and future business growth strategies.
WW: Tell us a bit about your design approach— modest in design and sophisticated-sexy in material. How do your designs show emotion in an approachable and effortless way? Which materials do you like to work with most to achieve this?
AN: Each season I am infusing influences from both my Parisian and American training. Fusing the allure of European couture with the ease and comfort of American sportswear is the essence of AUDRA.
I love to have my hand in every step of the design process. Each season incorporates draping new styles, while studying how to reinvent the core styles, hand-sketching the looks and prints, and personally selecting the finest jacquards or silks to bring the collection to life.
The collection will always originate from playing with my dad’s three-piece suits and crisp cotton shirts as a teenage girl. It is always a conversation back to him. The contrast of hard and soft, the tension of feminine and androgynous moments. The colliding of these two worlds greatly informs the materials I choose each season and the silhouettes they are then placed in. I’m passionate about playing with traditional “couture” or luxury fabrics and placing them in clean, young, spirited silhouettes or, on the other hand, draping jersey or cotton to elevate it. For example, taking a mid- length evening gown and putting it in recycled jersey or putting a tailored cardigan jacket in a fluid six-ply silk crepe. The emotions behind the collection are translated into fabrics, techniques, and silhouette.