What happens to a young designer who — after a personal recommendation from André Leon Talley — begins her career in Paris, working at John Galliano and then training under Alber Elbaz at Lanvin? If you guessed that she comes home and felt compelled to launch her own line, you are correct.
Meet emerging fashion designer Audra Noyes, the creator of AUDRA, a ready to wear brand that combines an all-American feel with a European sense of luxury. The line’s aesthetic is clean and chic, minimal and playful and strikes the perfect balance of American sportswear and artisan beauty of Paris haute couture. It truly is a gem.
This year the young designer was also selected for the inaugural class of the St Louis Fashion Fund Incubator program, and had her own personal rebirth. That theme of rebirth conveyed in her Spring 2018, where Noyes collaborated with photographer Sophie Elgort and photographed six inspiring women: Solange Franklin (stylist), Chloe King (digital fashion content manager), Courtney Celeste Spears (professional dancer), Kerry O’Brien (founder of Commando), Tara Levy and Paulina Reyes (Creative Director – Plated). We spoke with Noyes about her emerging brand, lessons she learned in Paris and more.
You have been designing for a few now, tell us how it all started?
Through working at Lanvin and Galliano I was exposed to many facets of the luxury design world and was able to develop my skillsets in couture pattern-making, draping and illustration. I gained so much exposure and experience in such a short time. I developed not only the design skill set I have today but also an understanding of what I wanted to say about women through that skill set. I felt compelled to launch my own brand AUDRA in 2013, debuting the collection during Spring ‘14 Paris Fashion Week. Inspired by the balance of feminine drapery with clean tailoring, fused with the simple yet complex idea of men’s shirting, AUDRA was born and a conversation with remarkable women and collaborators such as Cleo Wade, Joana Preiss and poet Chelsea Hodson began.
This year you were selected for the inaugural class of the St Louis Fashion Fund Incubator program. What do you plan to take away from it?
Specifically working in St Louis has provided the unique opportunity for me to be engaging and interacting with my consumer on a day to day basis. It has informed my designs, fit, fabric selections, and future business growth strategies.
Also, it is such an informative and engaging experience to be part of an Inaugural class and amongst 5 other designers on a day to day basis. We each have unique aesthetics and are at different stages of our businesses, which allows us to learn from and support one another.
Is the brand where you want it to be?
I am always challenged to push forward and reach new goals. It’s amazing to see that each season the brand grows and further defines it’s messaging and aesthetic. As a designer, I want to be constantly learning and evolving so that there is always an element of excitement and incentive for my customer to return. I am excited for what lies ahead!
Talk us through the SS18 collection.
The Audra Spring / Summer 2018 centers on rebirth, commemorating 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 tailored lines of AUDRA’s roots from Paris are reborn in bouquet watercolor florals, stripes, and bold colors. Classic trousers are reclaimed in multicolored plaid voile, and our evening portion of the collection breathes new air in a silvered lamé crepe.
Each chapter of a woman’s life contributes to the individual she has and will become. The AUDRA SS18 collection nods to our past, while it takes up with the future.
Why did you chose to collaborate with Sophie Elgort?
I wanted there to be an intimacy on set, which is why I initially began searching for a female photographer. I am a big fan of Sophie’s work. It has a rawness and approachability, which exposes that the subjects have a great dialogue with her on set, and the shots truly relay an emotion. Both these elements to me were important due to the nature of the portrait series for SS18. I wanted the photos to been an intimate look into each women’s unique story and reflect how they felt in the AUDRA garments. Sophie’s portraits did just that and more!
Why did you choose all these women for the portrait series of your collection?
Each woman selected for the portrait series were muses to me, having collaborated with them in the past or admired their career from afar. They all come from different backgrounds and had a unique perspective to bring to the series and each had a personal story of rebirth that I felt when shared could benefit and help others.
Who are your muses?
Real women…their stories, their emotions, their history.
Let’s talk about your time back in Paris. What did you learn from John Galliano and Alber Elbaz?
Observing, in itself, how these two houses function really influenced my role as a creative director today and the direction I desire my business to go in the future. You have Alber at Lanvin, the whimsical mastermind. Simply observing how he creates, thinks, and leads was important when creating my own brand. Lanvin specifically helped me understand that luxury can be playful. It can be elegant and sophisticated, but it can be quirky and youthful at the same time. I also learned from Lanvin 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. Infusing those influences with my SCAD training equipped me with the very unique skill set I have today. At each studio I was fortunate to have mentors that desired to teach and challenge me, and, in a way, pay it forward. I was able to develop my hand in many different facets of the industry.
Did you learn what not to do?
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.
How did working with such highly qualified designers shape your design methods?
Each season I am infusing the strengths of both my Parisian and American training. 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.
Infusing those influences from my time in Paris, the allure of couture, paired with my American training is at the essence of the AUDRA brand – Fusing the ease and comfort of American sportswear with the allure of European luxury.
Looking ahead, where do you want to see AUDRA go?
I plan to continue to emphasize not only AUDRA’s unique brand positioning, but focus on relationships, authenticity and integrity in each aspect of the process. We will continue to focus on consistent quality, precision, steady growth, and building a trusting relationship with each contractor, retailer, and private client. We want to grow our reach in the US and internationally so we can bring our designs to more women around the world.
Where can we find AUDRA?
AUDRA is sold in luxury boutiques across North America and Asia, as well as on our website.
The last five…
- If you closet was on fire what would you save? — My dad’s embroidered Levi’s from the 70s.
- Who would you swap your closet with? — Miuccia Prada
- If you weren’t a fashion designer you would be…? — An art therapist
- Tell us something about yourself we wouldn’t expect? — I used to be a field hockey player, super competitive. I wanted to play in college division 1.
- Your fall must have list includes…? — Cropped pants – specifically the AUDRA plaid wide leg cropped trousers paired with a chunky black sweater, flat high boots, and a Simone Rochas earring. I’m all about comfort and neutral color palette this fall, paired with statement jewelry.