A Hit of Yara Flinn, Nomia's Cool Girl Designer

Yara Flinn does not follow trends. As a young American fashion designer, almost every aspect of the way in which Flinn runs her womenswear label, Nomia, is surprisingly alternative to the majority. Take for example her brand’s head quarters. Rather than flocking to Manhattan’s Fashion District like her colleagues, Flynn set up camp in New York’s epicenter of cool-- Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Once inside the ground level design studio, you will again notice distinctions in the way in which Flynn works. On my own invitation, I was on a straightaway mission to find her inspiration materials. Intriguingly, as long as I tried to find it, Flinn assured me that there is no mood board to be found and further, that there never will be. She explained that she does not draw inspiration from people, places, and things but instead creates based on colors, textures, and utility. Under her work desk where’d you expect to find a pair of heels stored for professional happenings, you are more likely to come across sports paraphernalia. That day, I found a basketball. Remarking on the environment she chooses to produce her work in, it’s easy to see why her garments end up looking so incredibly cool. And to my pleasure, like her brand, Yara Flinn herself is exceptionally cool. It was a grey and muggy day when I met up with Flinn at her design studio. Upon our first introduction, she immovably confessed that she forgot we were meeting today. In her nonchalant and effortlessly chic style that only few can master, I could barely tell. A tall, thin and tanned, Flynn gorgeously appeared in a tailored navy blue dress that featured an interesting embroidered snake across the chest. She paired the look with Adidas slip on sandals. An uncommon match, Flynn easily made the outfit work. Her casually chic aesthetic is one that all of us put a lot of effort into emulating, for her it’s nothing. Luckily, the clothing collections she creates for Nomia allow all woman to put little effort into looking that cool and chic. On that warm day she sat and chatted with me on all things Yara Flinn, Nomia, fashion and it’s complements. 

How long has Nomia been around for?
Six years. Yeah, it’s been a while, but I kind of tend to say that it’s only been really a fuller collection since 2009. So, then four years of full collections. SM: How did you get it started? YF: I got it started kind of by accident…in the sense that I didn’t really know what to do. I was working at Prada’s Art Foundation and I kind of had a feeling that I wanted to try something different. So, I made a couple of pieces. I actually had no formal design training. My background is in art. I made a few dresses. One of them my friend Pam Love wore too a meeting with some Barney’s buyers and they asked her about it and she told them about my collection, which didn’t even really exist yet. So it felt like it was fate in a way, pushing me, because I’m not a very risky person. So, I think having that little push helped me a lot.

Apparently, you’ve done some great work. Can you tell me what Nomia is? What does it mean? 
It’s a nymph. It’s the name of a nymph in Greek mythology.

Are you Greek? 
I am not. I am half Brazilian and half American, but my name Yara is actually the name of a mermaid in Brazilian Indian Myth and I felt like it’s kind of appropriate to be this alluring yet powerful female symbol so it made sense to me.

So when you’re producing clothes for Nomia, what things inspires your designs? 
I’m inspired by a lot of different things. I’m inspired by sports a lot. I’m inspired by art and music. I think for me what’s really interesting to explore, as a designer is the tension between masculinity and femininity- a space where it’s tomboyish but still alluring, feminine, and definitely very modern. That’s definitely what I strive for.

So then who is the woman that you design for? 
I think women who gravitate towards arts and maybe, themselves, work in a creative field like design or a gallery, things like that. Honestly though, I’ve found a very varied audience. I just think that people who are attracted to newer designers tend to be experimental by nature so that’s who I generally design for.
Do you still do anything in the art industry? 
No, I don’t. Not really. This takes up all of my time! But, I do like to collaborate. I collaborated with an artist, Nate Loman, on some jackets and this dress actually (points to the dress she’s wearing) and doing videos and stuff like that. I like working with other people. This is creative for sure, but that’s another aspect I really enjoy.

Of course! So if you didn’t end up falling into this what would you be doing? 
I don’t think I fell into this by mistake, I just think it was like someone pushing you a little bit more than you’d want to push yourself, but if I weren’t doing this? I mean honestly, in reality I have no idea. In fantasy, I’d be a rapper. That’s literally what I would do. Not if I were me, but if I could do anything in the world I would love to be a rapper. I think that would be the coolest.

Do you listen to a lot of hip-hop music? 
Yeah, a lot! Haha

Who are your favorites? 
I really like Cam’Ron and I really like Pusha T. I love Pusha T. I like people who have a very unique style. I think that kind of speaks to the way I design in a way. I don’t really like trends and I don’t really like pop culture so I tend not to listen too much to very popular rap or very popular music because I really like people who just really have their own style. That’s what’s interesting to me and that’s what I try to do with Nomia, have a style that’s uniquely Nomia’s. You can’t obviously ignore trends totally, but I definitely don’t put a focus on it.

So then who are your favorite fashion designers? 
My favorite fashion designer is Helmut Lang. He is definitely my favorite. I also really like Phoebe Philo and Raf Simons. Raf Simons is a huge idol for me. In fact, those designers have a very unique and recognizable style, but it’s not like over the top. It’s just their own and I think that’s really cool because it outlasts time. If I look back at a Helmut Lang collection from 1998, the clothes are cool. There might be a few details that identify as 90’s but other than that it’s not tied to a specific time and place.

Yeah, their pieces are classic. So, have you been following what Raf Simons has been doing for Dior? What do you think of it? 
I have. I think it’s beautiful. I personally like his namesake men’s collection better or I find it more interesting, but I definitely- well, It’s not more interesting, it’s just more his style. I think of what he did for Jil Sander and what he did for Dior, they’re amazing and he’s carried his style through and kind of been able to merge it with something that was existing. I don’t think without designing for Jil Sander he could be doing what he’s doing for Dior. I think he would never have been able to go from Raf Simons menswear to Dior. It was a step up. First he did only mens. Then he did womens but it was androgynous and now he’s doing a completely hyper feminine line. It’s still super modern, super cool, chic and everything.

Would you ever go into menswear with Nomia? 
I would love too. It’s really hard to say that I design androgynous things. Obviously, the basketball shorts and some of the other styles can be worn by men, but I feel like there’s too much stigma attached for a guy to buy women’s clothing where there’s not as much for women to buy men’s clothing, but I would love to make something that both genders are totally attracted too. I personally think mens’ clothing is more my style. I like making dresses, but I’m mostly into making sportier more street wear influenced clothing and using high end fabrics in a different way.

What are you currently working on? 
I’m currently working on spring 2014 so not much happening, which is kind of a little bit stressful but that’s how I work. Once it starts happening it kind of all comes together. I actually really like designing spring because I like spring and I like doing lighter pieces so it’s always super fun and exciting for me. It’s probably going to be still a touch of sports, a touch of street but artistic and minimal at the same time.

I like that you love both sports and art. They’re so different from each other. 
Yeah, totally. I think that’s what makes a person interesting and I think when that translates through to inspiration for a line that’s what makes it unique. I don’t think I can make the most beautiful couture dress. That’s not where my strengths are. My strengths are merging a lot of different influences you would think would not work together and finding ways to make them make sense. I literally watch every sport. I don’t know why, but I’m addicted. I think my Dad made me watch sports as a child and it just carried through. There’s something about the entertainment of it. There’s something about the bravado of it. There’s something about athletes. They are kind of like what we all want to be. I find them more appealing than actors or models. For me, the style of sports- basketball and football especially. I just really find it cool for lack of a better word.

 So, what can we expect to see in your spring collection? 
I just don’t do something like you know “this season was inspired by Bridgette Bardot in a Riviera during the Summer!” I just don’t work that way. It’s kind of like this evolution of the same mentality that keeps going and evolving in it’s own way. I would never want to make a collection where you could point to the pieces in it and go “That reminds me of the sixties!” However boring it is for reporters and I feel really bad, I don’t have an inspiration. For me, it’s more about colors and textures that inspire the collection than a person. It’s a mood. It’s kind of a cooler color palette. It’s technical, maybe a little bit military, but that’s probably the closest I would ever get to an inspiration quote. It’s easy to write those one liners, but that really over simplifies the collection. It makes the viewer and the customer see it differently when they might see it in a completely different way. I like leaving it open for interpretation.
It sounds like you work like an artist.
I guess so. There’s something so much I enjoy when I see a stylist or even a person who bought something at a sample sale wear something that I made, completely in their own way. It inspires me because I would never think pair those things together or wear it that way. I think if I tell them what it’s about it might change that and I don’t want to do that. I just don’t really think that way either. I would have to go backwards to say the inspiration. It’s not my starting point. So usually when I do something before the show or after the show and they ask me what it’s about I basically look at the collection and say, “I guess you can say it’s about this..”, but it’s not like I start designing thinking about it in that way. 

Are you doing all of this design work yourself?
It’s just me. I do all of the design. I have an assistant sometimes who helps me. No she’s really cool, but basically design is all me. I even make most of the patterns. After I decided that I wanted to take this more seriously I took pattern making classes at FIT. I’m not really into sketching, I’m more into the actual pattern making and draping process so to get what I wanted from a sketch to be able to communicate it to a pattern maker it would just be too many steps so I thought I would just do it myself. I’ve been doing it for six years so I’ve been getting better and better at it.

 Photography by: Jayne Lies

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