I’m totally in love with US fashion designer Peggy Noland’s creations. Her wearable art makes the world a much more fun, brighter place! Musicians CSS’ Lovefoxxx, Kianna Alarid from Tilly & the Wall, SSION, Jonny Makeup and more rock her designs with a lot of pride and love for the designer. I recently chatted with the Missouri native at a really interesting time in her life, to find out why? read on…
PEGGY NOLAND: What time is it there?
It’s about 8:30 AM.
PN: Oh god you got up early!
I usually get up at around 4:30 AM so it’s not too early for me.
PN: You get up at 4:30 in the morning?
Yeah I do.
PN: Oh my god why? Just because?
I guess I’m just a morning kind of person.
PN: Definitely the older that I get I have definitely turned into more of a morning person. Morning for me is more like 7:30 AM not 4:30 AM [laughs]. You’re good.
I attribute my getting up early in part to an early morning meditation schedule. I feel that a lot of my best work happens early on in the day.
PN: Oh well that’s important then. It’s funny that you have to find your time. My time is at night. You’re right, there’s definitely a time where the stuff that I’m doing is better than other times [laughs].
Is there a particular reason why you think working at night is better for you?
PN: I guess maybe by that time my creative juices are really flowing by that time. My best, best ideas are right as I’m drifting off to sleep, as I’m drifting off to dreamland my best ideas come. I’ve never been one to keep a notepad by my bed or anything like that, I probably should. I kind of like the idea too of there not needing to be so on top of all your creative ideas and dreams too; that they can just come to you and leave you all at the same time, like not hoarding your ideas. Sometimes I remember the ideas in the morning sometimes I don’t.
I find that if I remember stuff in the morning then it’s important and I have to do it.
Have you always been a creative person?
PN: Yeah I think for sure it was bound to happen. My dad is an artist. I grew up with having our kitchen table be his art studio space while my brother and I were young. It was always around. I feel like I was creative in the way that every little girl is creative like making little hair ties, hot gluing stuff on to clothes, things like that; in the way that every little girl has their fun experimenting with crafty things. It’s definitely what me and my friends spent our time doing.
You still make things like hair accessories now!
PN: Right! [laughs] It’s evolved for sure.
Have you always had a wicked sense of humour?
PN: Yeah there’s always been that kind of… I always feel like it’s unintentional. It’s not something that I go out of my way to communicate through the things that I make but I think it more stems for a grounding place. I feel I have a very healthy perspective on what I do and where and when it matters and how it fits in. I feel like sometimes the things that I make are just clothing and it’s not the end all and be all of who I am and what I do and that there is a lot more important things going on in the world. However, I also realise that without artists being passionate about what they do and believe in the world would be a much unhappier place. I think I see both sides o that, I think it is important for me to begin and end things as it is and it is important for me to encourage other artists to do what feels important and right to them. At the same time, I have it in perspective as far as, where it fits in in the whole scheme of things in my world at least.
I find it fascinating that you majored in religious studies and planned on being in the Peace Corps.
PN: Right yeah [laughs].
What drew you to religious studies?
PN: So I told you my dad was an artist growing up, my mom is a very religious person. I was raised in the Catholic church. My mom as the choir director at our church. My dad happens to be agnostic however they are still happily married. They had this really interesting dialogue in our house as my brother and I were being raised, one that had to do with creativity, one that had to do with religion. They both kind of boiled down to what your passion is and what drives you. To me, although I don’t know if I have been alive long enough to effectively communicate how or why but I’m still exploring it for myself, how religion has a lot to do with my creative process and has a lot to do with me being passionate about… even clothing! They are related somewhere in my brain but like I said, I don’t know if I am smart enough, I don’t know if I have that right words yet at this point in my life to communicate how or why—I wish I did!
That’s what I wanted to ask you; is there is a spiritual element to creativity for you?
PN: There is in the most in-depth sense meaning, I know that there is a lot of artists, a lot of fibre artists included, that find what they do in their time with their hands or what they do in their time behind a machine very therapeutic, almost meditative. That’s not necessarily the case for me. I feel like there is definitely a spiritual vibe in my clothing but only because it’s my spirit that is driving me to make the things that I do. I in fact find making things sometimes kind of painful because I like the ideas more. The reality of making dreams come true, as anybody knows, is hard work. Anyone who follows their dreams knows that it is really hard and not very glamorous at all. I don’t always enjoy it, it’s not always spiritual or meditative or peaceful for me. What is very peaceful for me and relaxing is knowing that I’ve set out, I’ve named a goal and I’ve accomplished it—that feels really good to me. It’s not always the funnest thing to sit behind a sewing machine for hours and hours, I’ve never pretended to enjoy that [laughs] I wish I did. I wish I had the money to hire someone to make the things, to make my dreams come true for me that was better at sewing because even though I feel like I’m a good sew-er and to see what’s in my head materialise, there are people that are much better than me. I think I see my strength is not necessarily as a seamstress, I think it’s more imagining things that can be made.
Your mum taught you to sew?
PN: Yeah she did, little Halloween type costume things. She’s not a heavier sew-er, never has been and still isn’t to this day but she’s definitely a creative person herself although I doubt she would think of herself that way. She taught me on commercial patterns. We would go to Wal-Mart and buy pattern for a Halloween costume for my brother or I. She taught me how to put things together and how to use a machine. I feel like somewhere after high school is when I started to explore my own designs. As you know my college background is not in art or fashion design at all so it kind of just happened way more organically. I didn’t have a business plan when I opened my store (pictured below) or launched my line. I would never have expected it.
I find when you don’t have expectations and you do let things happen organically a lot of the time things just click. In moments like that, when you following the energy and your heart, things just click.
PN: Yes! It seems to be something that I am finding out in my life more and more. Whatever it is that I am interested in, in that moment or that day, as long as it is pursued genuinely, I feel like it’s the right thing to be doing. I feel like we are all hard on ourselves too, we’re taught that we should have a plan, an A-Z kind of idea of what we’re doing and where we are going and I feel like that for creative people it just doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes it does and it can be amazing, I’m really envious of those people but, for a lot of people it’s a lot more explorative than that.
I understand that when you first started working in fashion and with clothes you were a Production Manager in New Delhi?
PN: I was! I was hired by a clothing line to handle their production management in New Delhi because they were doing all their production there but were in Kansas City. The time lost in shipping and in communication was death to a trend-based industry. You can’t wait months to get a jacket right if it isn’t absolutely necessary! It was a very small clothing company and the only other person available to go was the owner of the clothing line and she was too embarrassed to admit to herself that she was having things produced in New Delhi because she didn’t know the circumstances as far as the factories where she was having things made. I was kind of like a guinea pig in this experiment for her and her business endeavour to go over to New Delhi first to sniff out what was really going on because none of us wanted to be a part of any sweatshop or child labour. I came to find out that it was a very clean organisation. The factory owner was a woman and all of the people that worked there were adults making livelihoods for their families with these jobs. It was a huge factory and we were probably her smallest client, we were just having twelve pieces of each style made. It got to be too expensive of an endeavour for the woman whose clothing line it was. She ended up retiring. That was my first foray into the fashion world before I ever designed any of my own things.
New Delhi was a real trip because I was there by myself, I don’t speak Hindi. When I got back to Kansas City from that I realised I really enjoyed it and that I had the knowhow and motivation – which I feel is the most important whether you know what you are doing or not – and there was this tiny little storefront that was for rent. I had a good friend that had a store next door. I decided that I would try to do it on my own. I have since not needed to have a factory behind my line because I do much more of a speciality item where I am able to handle my own orders and do my own thing. When I have orders that are beyond what I can do or my employees or interns can do I’ll hire contract sew-ers. It was definitely an interesting way to enter the fashion world.
How did you come to working with some many musicians?
PEGGY NOLAND: That’s also very organically. How it happened was I was at my store one day working the store and Kianna from Tilly & the Wall came in. She was dating one of my friends. We had an instant connection cosmically as far as what we were aesthetically into and as far as the type of people that we were. We’re still friends to this day. She took some of my clothes with her on tour. It was the first tour Tilly & the Wall did with CSS. It was really amazing for me because that was never part of my plan. I don’t think I even knew who CSS were before they went on tour with Tilly & the Wall. Lovefoxxx was short some clothes and Kianna had a tonne of my clothes with her and sent me an email asking if I’d mind if she’d pass some of them on to Lovefoxxx. CSS at the time were already huge and I thought, oh my god! Are you kidding?! Sure. That’s amazing. That’s how Lovefoxxx and my relationship got started. It was incredible and encouraging, it was complete happenstance that it all happened. Right place, right time I think for everybody.
I’ve read somewhere that you’ve also sewed hair weaves for Public Enemy’s Flava Flav?
PN: Yeah, that was also for through the company I was working for in New Delhi. I don’t have any photos of that unfortunately.
In a previous interview, you were asked about your adult diaper series that you’ve produced and asked who would you’d like to see wearing them? You replied, “My muse Jonny Makeup (pictured below).” How did he come to be your muse?
PN: He was in town through some friends, we had mutual friends, and I fell completely in love with his personality, his spirit and his inhibitions as far as… he’s a completely unique individual. It was inspiring to have someone like him around. Jonny Makeup is someone that loves attention and the clothes that I make are attention getting. I felt like it was a perfect pairing. He’s my muse in several ways, as far as being your own person and following your dreams, he is incredibly inspiring. He knows that but in a way doesn’t give himself enough credit for having a lot to do with a large part of his community and the things that they are excited and dream about.
What are some of your biggest dreams right now for what you do?
PN: I don’t know because I am in a really weird place right now. I just went through a heartbreaking breakup with a long-time boyfriend. I’ve half and half relocated for KC to LA so I’m spending a lot more time out of Kansas City than I ever have before. I still have my store here. I’m in a very awesome, vulnerable state right now like vulnerable in the best way meaning, I have a stronger sense of reinvention than I’ve ever had before. I feel like that I’ve always dabbled in several industries—it all begins and ends with fashion though. Whether it’s making movies or experimenting with installations or music, it’s all one package for me. I was just having a conversation with a good friend last night about where I am at in my life right now and were we talking about how it’s a perfect opportunity for me to reinvent myself and do something new again. What that is I don’t know. I have several things I’m interested in. One thing I admire about some people in my life is that those who have found a way to be several different people in one life time and to accomplish several different goals in one life time. I hope to end up being one of those people.
What’s one of your favourite things that you’ve created?
PN: The thing that I’m most proud of recently was a film that I directed (featured below). It is by far the most expensive thing I have ever made. I was a recipient of an award called the Charlotte Street Award where they award four artists a year $10,000 in cash. Most people who are in the arts have a hard time balancing the business and the creative sides of what they do. This award is set up to give artists what they often find themselves without in order to create their work—cold hard cash! I had $10,000 so I was like what do I do? Do I pay off my credit card? Buy health insurance? Invest it back into my business? There were several important things I could do with this money, instead I decided to make a movie with it, which is a horrible business move in one way because it would be difficult to make money off that; brilliant in another way because it will open up a new realm of possibilities for me creatively and collaboratively. It was more just exciting for me to have this chunk of change to do something that I would not had the opportunity to do something like that otherwise. I’ve never had $10,000 at one time to do whatever I wanted to. So, I made a movie. I never knew how expensive it was to make a movie. We ended up spending $12,000 on it and I got like four minutes of footage. That’s with nobody getting paid too it was just really good friends collaborating. It was really hard mentally, physically, emotionally a hard thing to make for several reasons. When it was finally completed… to be really honest with you Bianca, I don’t even know if I really liked it! I really liked that I accomplished a goal though like I was talking about earlier—that felt really good to me. It is far and away the thing that I am most proud of now.
It seems like I am talking to you at a really interesting time in your life.
PN: It is! It’s kind of really scary and really exciting at the same time! It’s interesting, I feel that an artist has a really innate sense to feel their highs really intensely and to feel their lows also really intensely, a lot of creative people get that. I feel like I’m coming out of a real low because of being heartbroken. It’s hard when you’re in those low times to take the advice of your good friends like ‘oh this will be amazing!’ and ‘new doors will open up’ all of these clichés that you can’t grasp yet. I feel like I’m coming out now of a darker period where I’m seeing these little bits of light of like ways of feeling more vulnerable and open than most people really find secure can be incredibly freeing creatively. I hope to be able to use, like you said, the new time that I’m in right now to benefit me. I hope that it ends up that way.
Whenever I am going through a down phase or transitional period in my life, I always tell myself that I will be OK because I’ve made it this far already.
PN: Exactly! Totally! That’s a big one. As a strong, independent individual you sometimes like to think that you’re immune to doubt and the self-consciousness that comes along with anybody putting themselves out there in any industry. It is incredibly humbling to have that reality check of just being a human being trying to participate in some way in this world. It is a good thing. You’re right that you have to rely on yourself in those times and look back on your own history and your own past – things have been hard before, you’ve come out of them, you will again and things will also be hard again in the future. Life goes on and we’re definitely not the first or last to experience that multitude of emotions.
Ssion + Peggy:
CSS + Peggy’s creations: