Designer E Nolan on Minimal Makeup, Oil Cleansing & Dancing Like an Idiot

Emily Nolan is the founder of made-to-measure womenswear label E Nolan. The 25-year-old Melbourne designer, who graduated from Whitehouse Institute of Design in 2016 as Designer of the Year, previously worked for esteemed men’s tailor P Johnson. The only female tailor in the business, she spent 18 months working under director Tom Riley. In March this year she took a leap of faith to branch out on her own to launch E Nolan, applying her passion and expertise to tailoring the female form.

Nolan offers one-on-one fittings with clients during trunk shows of 28 appointments every four-five weeks out of the E Nolan Dressing Room; a converted shipping container in an unassuming Hawthorn backyard. This business model allows Nolan to foster an intimate connection with her consumer and create personalised garments—trousers and jackets—of the highest quality in 100% natural fibres of Italian wool and Japanese and American cotton. She also offers a small range of ready-to-wear t-shirts and plans to launch into knitwear, shirting, and more ready-to-wear pieces at the end of this year. For such a personalised service, the price point is competitive. Trousers, she says, are the “gateway drug to the E Nolan experience,” at $450.

We visited Nolan on a sunny afternoon and, over coffee in The Dressing Room, asked her to share what wellness means to her.

On beauty

The less fuss, the better. That’s why skin is so important. I hate foundation. It makes me feel ick. I feel like the sweaty upper lip situation becomes like war paint. It’s just too much. I put moisturiser (La-Roche Posay Lipikar Baume) on after the shower and I use the Boy Brow from Glossier because it keeps everything attached. Concealer if I need it. Blush or bronzer for my cheeks. For me it’s about eyebrows and a lip. Hair; I never brush—and it usually looks that way too. I got a haircut yesterday, which is why it looks kind of fancy. You wash it and it never looks the same. It’s like, ‘Why do I look like Hermione Granger now?’ The least amount of effort is when I look the best. I feel very uncomfortable at events. If I’m in a suit or if I’m wearing trousers it’s much better, but if I have foundation on or get my makeup done, I just feel fucking weird. I would love to have my nails done, but I can’t. The sewing needle just chips and—ugh. It’s better to have nothing than chipped nails. I do love a sun tan, never fake. Everything’s better with a tan.

On facials

I get facials whenever I can, which is such a guilty pleasure. I go to this woman named Amy who has this place called Skinphoria in South Melbourne. They give you the heated, weighted blankets; it’s like a productive cuddle. I also used to do acupuncture. That was awesome, I should probably start doing that again. Anything where you have to lie down is good.

On fitness

I can’t meditate; I fall asleep. I can’t do yoga; For me it’s dancing, boxing or running, my own sort of mindfulness. I love this woman called Kat John who runs a group called Zero Fucks Tuesdays. You basically just dance like an idiot to the Striptease soundtrack or Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Exhausting and energising.

On skincare

I used to be on Level 3 Beauty Loop at MECCA. I was obsessed with Glossier, their whole thing. I mean, Emily Weiss is so fab though. Now I look at my bathroom vanity and just see money (and branded plastic) down the drain. I can never throw away clothes because I invest such emotion into them and also because I know how much I paid for them, which usually is not that much, but it’s still my wallet. Whereas with skin: I smoke and drink, I’m going to have pretty dehydrated skin, you know? Why do I have to have all these products that don’t really do the trick that I impulse bought on a Sunday? So, I started oil cleansing. I do one-part castor oil, one-part jojoba oil and the other one marula oil. I mix it up and use it in the shower and it completely changed my skin.

On her wellness routine

I have bad sinusitis, so I wake up most mornings with awful brain fog. I probably don’t eat enough vegetables and all those things that I think align with being healthy. I also don’t wear enough sunscreen. But most Fridays I’ll have a beer in the shower. It’s a little routine. I love it. My version of wellness is drinking beer and going dancing with my girlfriends, listening to podcasts, and eating too much with my boyfriend. It’s so much to do with great people and my labrador Rosie. I also love a cigarette. I got to Juul a bit while I was away in New York, which I liked at the time but it was too addictive, so I quit. It made me dizzy. I’d be sweating and sitting in bed doing it going, ‘This is disgusting!’ I also felt like a cardboard cut-out of a millennial.

On running a business

In terms of wellness and running a business; no one tells you how hard it’s going to be. The hardest part is the isolation. Every single flaw, who you are as a person, the energy you give off, good days and bad days—it’s all right in front of you all the time. I’m not naturally an organised person, so running the business and having all of those things be so illuminated; it’s a lot. I always knew there were Column A people and Column B people. I’m sort of the dregs of Column C. I think it’s about knowing yourself properly—not procrastinating from tackling the shittier sides of your personality. Energy is everything, all you have is what you can give to the people in front of you. Celebrating the small things is important and something I have previously skipped over—it’s sort of like, Okay, now whats next?’. It’s important to not fast forward and to sit in it, the same goes for criticism and reflecting on how processes, product, patterns, and energy can be better next time.

On sleep

I’ve always gone to bed at 1.30am or 2am. The difference is when you work for someone else you still have to be up at 8 and at work at 9, so you burn out. But working for E Nolan, I don’t schedule appointments earlier than 9. It’s better to know your own productivity. I feel like I’m getting more sleep working late but not having to get up as early. After dinner is my biggest energy surge of the day, and that’s when I get to my more creative work. It’s like having a secret. Everyone’s asleep and I’m working away. I really can’t do anything in the mornings. I get up, grovel to the loo, and then I don’t have a single thought until I’m halfway to work.

On food

Oh my god, food is everything. If my tummy is smiling, everything is grand. I’ve started cooking. I don’t know if I’m good at it, I just like cutting things up. Food, eating out—it’s such a deep pleasure. Buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto and bread and oil. That’s my favourite meal. I’m not a big breakfast eater. I wake up, have my coffee, and get carried away. I probably don’t eat until 1pm. Apparently it’s called intermittent fasting. Growing up it was like, ‘Oh it’s so bad, you’ll ruin your metabolism because you don’t eat breakfast’ and now everyone’s fucking doing it!

On fashion

I love what Gucci is doing. I think Alessandro Michele is just unreal. Don’t you think he’s just bringing so much excitement and fantasy? I haven’t been this addicted to watching shows since McQueen. Actually that’s not completely true; I love Miuccia Prada. I’m obsessed with Bottega since Daniel Lee came on board. He’s brought that kind of Juergen Teller, Celine vibe when Phoebe Philo was at her helm. I cried watching the Jacquemus ten year show, I thought it was beautiful.

On style

It’s so important to LOVE your sunglasses as they cover your face. I don’t have my ears pierced but costume jewels; I hunt around for fab things. Bella Clark is my very favourite fine jewellery designer in Melbourne. Ugh, I love vintage shopping. The hunt is like a drug and I love eBay too. Style for me is about smart purchasing, buying and wearing to death. I hate shopping in stores, everything is so often too expensive, doesn’t fit me, or made of polyester. I am lucky in that I can wear E Nolan all day, everyday paired with different things. I cannot think of when a suit is not applicable to life or a dress code. It’s completely about the cloth choice of course, but it’s also about what I can be bothered wearing on my feet. In terms of outfit building, if you have something that is made well and feels beautiful as a base it doesn’t matter what you put underneath: t-shirts, shirts, knitwear, silk. That’s sort of where we’re heading with E Nolan.

You can find our more about E Nolan here and follow the label on Instagram. Photography and words by Really Well.

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