10 Questions for Nola London Co Founders
All Images: Nola London
Nola London is the new label blowing the cobwebs off of the traditional bridesmaid dress. With an emphasis on eco friendly systems and a focus on wearability beyond a wedding, Nola are seeking to redefine how we think about bridalwear.
The wedding industry is catching up to sustainability in exciting ways. Chief on their minds are eco fabrics and making pieces wearable for longer. Having been notorious for encouraging single use fashion ( does anyone else remember the horror of #trashyourdress?) designers are now approaching their pieces with more wear in mind. As Bridal designer Kate Halfpenny explained to us, creating wearable pieces and considered separates enables a Bride to rewear her wedding outfit. But what about Bridesmaids? Many reluctant friends of the bride will remember unflattering, expensive dresses they knew they would never wear again. However, all that is changing thanks to the launch of new label, Nola London.
Created by friends and fashion industry veterans Sophia and Abi, Nola London is attempting to blow the cobwebs away from dusty, unwearable bridesmaids dresses. Not only that but their careful research means they can cater to a variety of body shapes and sizes with a made to order service. Friendly factories and eco fabrics were a must, and even more essential, each style should work seamlessly into the bridesmaid’s wardrobe. We ask co founders Sophia and Abi 10 Questions about slow fashion and why rewearing our clothes, no matter what the occasion, can help us all to live more consciously.
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The Vendeur: You have both worked in fashion for a while, tell us about your previous roles and what they taught you?
Sophia Munro: Between Abi and I, we have over 30 years of fashion industry experience. Previously, I was a senior branded buyer at Asos. In my career to date, one of the key takeaways for me has been the importance of understanding the ‘why’ of your brand and its purpose. My favourite brands were created to solve a problem, and that’s a philosophy that we applied when creating Nola. With our combined experience, we have felt first-hand the urgent need for brands to have a slower, more considered approach to fashion. We all know about the impact that irresponsible fashion is having on the climate crisis. Constantly striving to do better is our ‘why’.
Abi Heinimann: I’ve worked in the fashion industry as a designer for the past 15 years at the likes of Topshop and Urban Outfitters. In that time, I’ve been fortunate to travel and work directly with factories that produced my designs. I soon realised that you are only as good as the team of craftsmen and women who make your vision become a tangible product. This realisation fuelled the desire for us to have close relationships with our ateliers at Nola. We work with a small London atelier where we know everyone by name. This not only allows for a lovely environment, but it also means we can ensure responsible, safe & prosperous production. It sounds so basic, but is surprisingly rare in the fashion space.
TV: You were each other’s Maids of Honour, how easy was it to find bridesmaids dresses?
AH: We found it really difficult. Finding designs that catered to our friends different body shapes, as well as helping them to feel confident and stylish was so hard. In tandem with this, we felt really frustrated at the one-wear mindset of bridesmaid dresses. We wanted to find styles that our friends could wear again, be that for another occasion or simply dressed down for a summer soiree.
TV: Why did you both decide to start your own label?
SM: Abi and I began making dresses on the side for friends who were frustrated at the available choice. The response was so positive that we took the plunge to create Nola. We spent a long time researching the market and speaking to people who were either looking for or who had been bridesmaids and the feedback was consistent. People really struggled to find bridesmaid and occasion dresses that ticked all their boxes. They wanted flattering, wearable dresses that were responsibly and ethically made, and that crucially, could be worn again.
AH: We wanted to create a brand we felt truly proud of in terms of our values. Throughout our careers, we both felt the environmental weight of fast fashion and were compelled to change tact. We wanted to slow things down, to keep our impact to a minimum and support local crafts men and women.
TV: Do you think the wedding industry is inherently unsustainable?
SM: Not necessarily. Ultimately weddings are about celebrating longevity, building relationships and focussing on the simple, meaningful things in life. Like all industries, things have become excessive. We think weddings can be low impact if consumers make more informed and considered choices to reduce it. It’s also important that they have the options within the market to do so! Nola London is about providing people with responsible, thoughtful options for their bridesmaids, wedding guests, and even brides.
TV: How did you go about designing the dress shapes and what body sizes do you cater to?
AH: Our dresses are designed with all body shapes and wedding styles in mind. The design process starts with visualising a friend wearing a dress at a specific event. For example – our Willow wrap dress is designed with a relaxed festival/coastal wedding in mind. The dress therefore is a relaxed wrap style with soft frills for a floaty feminine feel. For us, it’s so important that our designs feel approachable and relatable for anyone.
TV: What led you to choose EcoVero viscose for the dresses?
SM: Whilst I was at ASOS, I completed the Sustainable Fashion Academies ‘Sustainable Fundamentals’ course. One of the modules focused on the various fabrics used in the fashion industry (both manmade and natural) and the impact they have on our planet and its manufacturing communities. It was here that I learnt about Lenzing and the work they have done to produce EcoVero. From the beginning we made the decision to avoid plastic based materials as much as possible in our brand. EcoVero is derived from wood and pulp. It has a lot of the qualities we wanted from our fabric, for example; a lovely feel and beautiful movement. EcoVero is a much more sustainable form of viscose because it comes from certified, controlled sources. It uses 50% less emissions and water than traditional viscose, and comes with complete supply chain transparency. This way, we can be confident that our fabric is sensitive to our environmental values.
TV: Why was it important to start with a simple core collection in a variety of colour ways?
AH: We decided to create a capsule collection of dresses and take our time to truly consider every element of each style. Ensuring each dress ticked all of our boxes – from how it catered to different body shapes, to the way it was made to ensure a low environmental impact – was crucial. The challenge was to create less, but make the offering better. Essentially, a smaller, more thoughtful collection means less risk of waste.
TV: How do you minimise waste throughout production?
SM: By keeping our stock holding super tight and making each dress to order we only produce what we need. This also enables us to adapt quickly based on customer feedback, an element that’s so important as a newly launched brand. If a style isn’t working we will simply stop making it and move that fabric into something else rather than the traditional model of marking down large quantities of an underperforming style.
TV: How did you go about finding the people who make your dresses?
AH: Throughout our time in the industry, we have developed a strong network and clear understanding of the people we want to partner with. We met our manufacturer when she was just starting out on her own. Her ethos and approach to her business aligned with our own. She too wanted to work with brands with integrity, with a focus on minimising waste at all costs. This resonated with us as a brand. It’s so inspiring to work alongside creative, talented and forward-thinking women.
SM: Our time in the industry has been invaluable in helping us find the highly skilled industry specialists that we wanted to bring on board in the Nola process. Over the past few years the landscape of our industry has changed a lot for the better. Many people have either gone freelance or are setting up on their own in order to produce more responsibly. We’re thrilled to be supporting progressive ateliers and businesses in what we do.
TV: How can Nola London as a brand help their customers to rewear their bridesmaid dresses?
AH: Nola dresses are designed to be worn again, both in terms of style and quality. Our styles like the Lily, Rae and Willow can easily be worn to a summer BBQ as well as to a beautiful wedding. We’re working on some really exciting photo shoots at the moment to help demonstrate how customers can re-wear their dresses to ensure it has a long lifecycle. When it comes to fashion, if people can have a long-term mindset it can only improve the industry.
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