Emily Nolan, Bespoke Founder of E Nolan, Makes Suits – Women’s Only

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Even for those familiar with the process of making a bespoke costume, having one made by Emily Nolan is an adventure. For one thing, Nolan’s studio space is a converted shipping container, bought on eBay by his business partner’s father, located in a backyard in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Filled with sardines, with his samples of ready-to-wear and suits, as well as a wealth of precariously balanced framed art and works of art, Nolan’s office is deafening in the rain and , until recently freezing during harsh winters (now has an air conditioner installed).

After seven years here, she needs more space, of course. “This space allows us to have one-on-one fittings,” says Nolan, who speaks at high speed and with an inordinate energy that belies the patience and rigor required in tailoring. “But in this business, nobody really tells you what to do. I talk to my clients. Where do they want me?

Emily Nolan: “The wonderful thing about custom-made is that it doesn’t matter what size you are.” Josh Robenstone

Nolan, 28, founded E Nolan as a ready-to-wear line in 2016 before branching out into bespoke tailoring in 2019. Obsessed with “appropriating the beautiful techniques of menswear for everyone she has earned a reputation with brides and clients looking for second-hand wear. The surprise growth segment, she said, has been women who want suits. “At first, I was like, ‘Who needs a costume? Will anyone come to see me? But suits aren’t just for work anymore.

Having one made by Nolan is really an exchange of ideas. “It starts with a cup of tea,” she says. “I ask them, ‘What’s your favorite thing to wear?’ And I don’t want to hear about a disguise. I want them to tell me about the T-shirt they’ve loved for years, or the pants that make them feel good. My obsession is with the in-between moments, the times when you want the clothes to comfort you.

Nolan began sewing in elementary school, learning the craft from his two grandmothers – one a milliner, the other a seamstress. “Mom wouldn’t let me hem my school dress, so I stapled it,” she says. “And then my grandmother said, ‘If you’re going to do it, do it right.’ Her milliner grandmother took samples from customers and made accessories to match. “It was a celebration of the best of Sunday.”

This Bowerbird approach—couch-ready comfort, made beautiful—echoes Nolan’s pick ‘n’ mix career path. After sewing with her grandmothers, she joined a neighborhood sewing circle at the age of 13, surrounded by women in their sixties. “Four hours a week, all the elders and me,” she says. “Some of my fondest memories are in that room, learning from women much older than me, eating Arnott’s cookies, and listening to SmoothFM.” Nolan enjoyed it so much that she continued to join the circle weekly until she was 25 – five years after starting her own business.

After graduating from the Whitehouse Institute of Design at the top of her class and on a scholarship, Nolan sold her entire graduate collection to Georgina Weir, owner of the luxury fashion boutique Le Louvre in Melbourne. It wasn’t quite enough to pay the bills – she also worked in a café, did an internship at vogue and dabbled in public relations before apprenticed with suit maker P. Johnson in Melbourne. The experience was formative and Nolan saw that there was a market for a suit specifically for women. It became his dream.

“I always felt like an impostor in dresses,” she says. “It has always been a costume for me. I’ve always felt awesome in double-breasted blazers with big ’80s-style lapels.” Initially, she admits, the oversized suits hid a body she was uncomfortable with. “Now they just make me feel good.”

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