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I’m seated on a chair in Yara Flinn’s new studio in Midtown Manhattan. The modern space is lit with bright fluorescent bulbs, and several racks of clothes stand against a wall filled with images of the latest collection from NOMIA, the womenswear label that Yara owns and designs. Often touted as “urban chic,” the garments (and the occasional accessory) strike a balance between sportswear and refinement, resulting in designs that are feminine, but above all else, really, really cool. Dresses are loose and unfitted, with features like plunging necklines, long fringe, and thigh-high side slits.

The Manhattan-native has a Parisian’s eye for subtlety, and in the seven years since NOMIA was launched, it has gained recognition amongst clotheshorses and industry leaders alike. Last year, NOMIA was nominated as one of the ten labels to be included in the prestigious CFDA Incubator Project, which provides guidance and support to young designers. I spoke with Yara about cutting her teeth at Prada, her design process, and how her native city has influenced her fashion sensibility.

Where does the name NOMIA come from?

It's the name of a Greek nymph, who fell in love with Daphnis the shepherd and then ended up blinding him when he betrayed her. My own name, Yara, is the name of a Brazilian-Indian mermaid, and I've always been into the mythology of these powerful and alluring yet dangerous creatures.

What were you doing before you started NOMIA, and what influenced you to start?

I worked on artist catalogues and event production at the Fondazione Prada, Prada's non profit art foundation. Prada and their art foundation definitely allowed me to see how such an iconic fashion company could successfully and authentically support art and be inspired by it.

Have you always wanted to work in fashion?

I think in certain phases I did, I always loved making things and experimenting with my own looks, and how clothing could alter the way you are perceived... I had goth/grunge, preppy raver, underground hip hop, and just plain random thrift store looks throughout high school. Originally, I wanted to be an artist or art teacher, though.

What aspects of growing up in NYC have most shaped your sartorial aesthetic?

The West 4th basketball courts, the subway, high school kids in the 1990s (North Face jackets, Dickies). New York is such a fascinating place where culture and subculture exist in such close proximity, and you can see the spread of micro-trends in such a fast and absolute way. 

The term "style icon" has become kind of trite, but I know that you have some pretty fantastic references as far as stylish women and men - can you name a few?

I think Kim Gordon has great personal style, I remember one look in particular in the 90s when she was about eight months pregnant, and playing on The Tonight Show: oversized Knicks Jersey, with a wide gold chain. So cool and so different. I love Angela Davis, Joan Didion, Chloe Sevigny, Sade... I could go on.

Name one really helpful thing you've learned from being part of the CFDA Fashion Incubator.

Just one? To be honest, every day blows my mind, but one thing I'm really learning is to make actionable plans and not just abstract ideas. I'm learning to have goals rather than just dreams.

Whats the first thing you do when you begin designing a collection?

I am really inspired by fabrics, so I stop into the fabric showroom and just look at everything, and pick out whatever pops out to me, whether it's color or texture or feeling. But sometimes I can have a whole collection inspired by a particular buckle or tiny trim, and the collection expands outward from there... I'm more attracted to hand and wearability than novelty, so we use a lot of classic fabrics. I'm interested in re-contextualizing familiar shapes and making staples and very wearable pieces, so fabric is extremely important.

Who are your top three favorite artists, from any medium (music, fashion, art, film, etc.)?

Viviane Sassen, Michael Jordan, Josephine Meckseper, and Cam'ron.