In Conversation: Emily Nolan

E Nolan

We caught up with Melbourne-based founder, tailor, and designer Emily Nolan to discuss her personal style and how she grew her womenswear label, E Nolan


If you could sum up E Nolan as a brand in one sentence, what would that look like?

The purpose is to delight, this is the ‘why.’ As creatives, we always have to come back to this. E Nolan is nonchalant, comfortable, wholehearted, intentional, intuitive and an honest reflection of day-to-day life. I want to create seatbelt garments for the wardrobe with an astute focus on a bedside manner in the dressing room. Product focus, quality focussed.


Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?

The only way I know how to work is to make a mess. One of the things I love most about living and working in the same space is the act of making a mess and cleaning it up before the morning when the E Nolan day begins. I like to work at night whilst everyone is asleep, there are few interruptions and it feels like you have a secret. I come up with the best ideas in the bath, driving or trying to fall asleep.


We’re extremely excited to be housing a few of E Nolan’s ready-to-wear pieces, including the Cotton Vests, Oversized and Tailored Shirts. Can you share with our Denton House community a bit about what sparked this collection, and what makes it so special?

The garments have been informed by dressing room conversations. It is important to understand the target market and what is missing from their wardrobe. The cotton vest feels like an entirely new item in the wardrobe as it is dressier than a T-shirt, and can be used to belt in shirting, especially over a bust. Our shirts: tailored shirt is a slim fit style through the arms, and has been created with a bust in mind, and side seams to allow styling options, such as tucked in. The oversized shirt is a conclusion of deep thinking around the “boyfriend” / “Grandpa” shirt. Personally, having such a big bust and broad shoulders, it is difficult to find a shirt that feels oversized without swamping with cloth. A fit detail that I am proud of here is the bicep and bust measure, mixed with the side splits, meaning you can play around with volume, tucking the shirt in and pulling the sleeves up to manipulate the shirt to suit you. Our size grading for our ready-to-wear collection was built off the body measurements of all of the women and LGBTQIA+ people that came for Made-to-Measure suiting. This created a realistic representation of the bodies walking the streets of Melbourne. We invest in extremely high-quality cloth, as everything designed should be made with longevity in mind. Made to last.


We’re completely drawn to your quote “I like to take the menswear rules, and then, just break them.” can you expand on this a bit more?

Historically, the binary between menswear and womenswear, what is deemed masculine or feminine has controlled the way we dress. I create with this in mind. Playing in the space in between. I am obsessed with how Italian Grandpas dress and this informs a lot of my cloth designs with our shirting.


What are your five fashion staples that you can’t live without?

Hardworking pair of trousers. Pockets are essential for ease during the day. And a fit that makes you feel fabulous even on your period (or after a big lunch). - Need a shirt you can put on that elevates your outfit. One you can chuck over your jeans and a t-shirt that makes you feel as if you have dressed with intent. - Shameless plug, E Nolan cotton vest. You can comfortably wear a bra underneath with no straps on show. Great with shorts and sandals too. - Ballet flat / Mary Jane. I rarely leave the house during the week as I live and work in my studio. Miu Miu are an inside shoe only. Velvet Mary Janes. If I'm leaving the house, it's my Wales Bonner sneakers. - Bucket bag - Louis Vuitton 1994. You need a Mary Poppins bag that fits everything you always need, and even the things you sometimes need.


Do you think your work has affected your personal style?

Running a small business, you make many sacrifices. Sleep, personal life, and I’, often overwhelmed with imposter syndrome and decision fatigue. I don't know my name before 9 am, so I do not want to make decisions of what I am wearing in the morning when the day that lies ahead is filled with making those decisions for others. I need to feel safe in my clothes, and so a lot of the ready-to-wear garments I can very easily pair with trousers. Since starting my business, it has changed my spending habits. I invest in shoes, jewellery and skincare and I get very disgruntled with unrealistic margins added to poorer quality competitors. It further ostracises people and is a shit education to the consumer on what is good value. You don't need a huge marketing budget, you need a top-quality product that solves a problem for a target audience. Even if the market is niche, customer loyalty and empathy for their needs are key. I want to create wardrobe mementoes for this client. 


London is known for having four seasons in a day – same as Melbourne, apart from the weather, are there any other similarities you think will connect the London clientele and E Nolan?

Traffic in Melbourne and London is excruciating, so when you leave the house you need to know what the day consists of, as well as the weather. Unless something is within walking distance from home, you need to dress for the commute, and the changes in your schedule. Garments that can take you from work to pub, from weekend admin to a dinner party - rain hail or shine. 


What is the best style tip you have been given, and ignored? 

- Remember that getting dressed can feel like child's play
- Always have a good relationship with your hairdresser
- Befriend a cobbler, they're saviours in a last-minute crisis
- Invest in your bed and in your shoes, because you're always in one of them
- Trust the women in Bra stores, they are there to support you in finding your daily support

Given and ignored:
- I hate dressing rules and dress codes
What has been the most challenging lesson learned so far in your business?
The sacrifice teamed with the realisation you can't do it all. Having a business is like a baby that does not stop crying. It doesn't get easier, but you get better at tasks that would initially debilitate you. A lesson I am trying to learn is work/life balance. If you don’t feel at peace you cannot be the best friend/sister/daughter/partner or boss.


Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work? 

Nobody will buy your product if you don't believe in it. Follow your passion, those who adore you will make space for that. This also invites people who are in sync with your passion. Everybody knows something that you don't. Take the time to figure out what that is.


What’s next for Emily Nolan?

Joy. I want to fall in love with my life outside of work. Perhaps I’ll figure out a morning routine. For what's next for E Nolan: a new collection of trans-seasonal ready-to-wear garments. Think raglan sleeve jackets, and resort trousers in wools. I have been toying with ideas around what women want to wear when they are pregnant and postnatal; how can I make her feel good when all her energy and attention is not focused on herself? How can I support her wardrobe for garments that aren’t “maternity wear" and that she will still reach for in the next two years? Also, I am excited for the introduction of Made-to-Measure coats in Wool Cashmere.


And lastly, what would be your top recommendation for a Londoner travelling to Melbourne? 

For the best feed in London, you need to go to the Plimsoll. For Melbourne, Hector’s Deli and sit in Carlton Gardens: I’m mad about sandwiches. I’ll eat anything between two pieces of bread. My favourite is the fresh eggplant with a side of hectic sauce. Cam’s Kiosk Abbotsford for Melbourne’s best pasta Spaghetti Napoli with buffalo mozzarella. Much like the V&A, the National Gallery of Victoria is your first stop from the airport. I love to visit Andy, Mitch and Annika at Oigall Gallery on Gertrude St. I am right in the thick of it here in Fitzroy. Live music, galleries, vintage shopping, beer, and pub food.

Shop our curated edit of E Nolan on Denton House.

Emily Nolan
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