Designer Q&A with Audra
You went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Did you enter college knowing you wanted to be a fashion designer?
I entered SCAD not knowing what I wanted to be at all, being that lost 18-year-old. My sister encouraged me to take intro to fashion and intro to metals and jewelry. I remember not sleeping that quarter — my fingers bleeding, crying, and thinking, “Why did I do this to myself?” But I did love working with my hands. I loved creating something that someone could wear, that could evoke something beautiful or powerful in them.
At the time I was in school, my neighbor worked for Ralph Lauren and she said, “I’m in the business. You should apply.” So I applied and ended up getting the Ralph Lauren internship based on my fine art drawings. That, with the classes, is where everything clicked for me. I think SCAD taught me to continue to hone my work ethic and presented me with very career-driven opportunities. Creating is one thing, but you have to be relevant. You have to be wearable. You have to be approachable and marketable.
Early in your career, you worked under Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. How did you get there, and what lessons did you learn along the way?
During my senior year at SCAD I did an in-school mentorship at Zac Posen and really got into that world of couture and 1930s, learning embroidery and godets and bias gowns. André Leon Talley was a big supporter of SCAD at the time and he saw my collection and wrote recommendations for me go to Paris and meet with creative directors there, which was such an enormous blessing.
So I went to Paris, and after completing a summer project I ended up getting an internship at Lanvin, which was a dream come true — I really respect what the house has done, and obviously, what Alber did during his time there. I worked under two different designers, learning embroidery and draping and leather. Towards the end of my staj I had the opportunity to draw the collection for the merchandising book in the hand of Alber. That allowed me to get to know him a little more. I got to observe those processes, attend creative meetings, and work with the atelier, all during a very exciting time with three weeks leading up to the show.
Having my eye on that luxury world and being exposed to the machines, the craft, the process definitely started to shape my creative process.
What inspired you to launch your own brand?
It was a gradual thing. Over time, I started thinking about the skillsets I had honed. I was exposed to a lot in the two years post college, and I started wanting to have my own voice in a pure way — not that my designs weren’t beautifully represented at Lanvin or Galliano, but they weren’t necessarily pure to my vision. They were the brand’s vision.
I began to define what I wanted to say about women. I’d sit at a coffee shop in Paris with my friends and just dream about it. And one day, it clicked: when I have a daughter, I want to show her my clothes and have her be proud of that woman that I’m representing and have her feel inspired by the woman she will become.
How do you describe the aesthetic of AUDRA?
AUDRA is a luxury womanswear brand that fuses the ease and comfort of American sportswear with the allure reminiscent of European couture. I aim to create a timeless, emotional piece that will grow with the woman, and that evokes her beauty. It’s all European-made fabrics. It’s made in New York, and we would love to have some made in St. Louis one day.
How does your creative process begin?
My creative process begins with a story. I always pull from my own personal testimony. I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of women — that coming-of-age story which I feel is a constant one. We’re never done evolving. I’m 28 and there are some days where I’m confident, and other days I feel like a fish out of water playing dress-up again. So I take a part of my personal testament and I show that transformation through tangible details: through fabric, drapes, tucks, and the proportions of the garment. That’s the beginning.
You seem to be very inspired by strong, confident women. Did you have a foundation of powerful women growing up?
I have a sister who’s 20 months older than me and she’s my best friend. She’s the yang and I’m the yin — she’s sensible and stable, and I’m the emotional creative. I had a mother who was strong and wise, and I have a grandmother who is humble and pure. And I think that you see them in the collection. This new collection that will come out in February is about them — it’s about how women shape women and how what we do today can affect someone across the world.
What advice do you have for a designer who’s just starting out?
Business-wise, I would say, in the end, you’re a business. Lower your overhead and sustain. Creative-wise, your integrity is more important than anything. Look at someone like Miuccia Prada — she wasn’t trendy or sexy or relevant when she started, but she ran her race and stayed her course. She’s one of my fashion idols. For young designers, it’s very easy to focus on what’s needed to gain fame or buzz or press or sales, but in the end, if it’s not you, don’t do it. It’d be way easier to go work for someone else.
Who is your style icon?
Women that exude confidence. Miuccia Prada. Iris Apfel.
What is your go-to tool for designing?
Felt pen and pencil.
Who do you dream of dressing?
Cate Blanchett. Adele. Natalie Portman.
How would you describe your line in one word?
Timeless, emotional, authentic.
Favorite piece you’ve designed?
Jersey Cape Dress or Flare Sleeved Top.
A trend you’re not into?
That plastic, translucent stuff.
What inspires you most?
First piece of clothing you loved?
A pair of American flag jeans.
Photos by Geoff Story, toky branding + design
After a childhood and early education in Delaware, Audra Danielle Noyes completed her Bachelor in Fine Arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2010, with a concentration in Fashion Design. She was awarded scholarships by Cotton Inc. and the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, as well as selected for the Style Lab Mentorship with Zac Posen. Upon graduation, Noyes was personally recommended by André Leon Talley to train under the direction of Alber Elbaz at LANVIN.
After relocating to Paris to work with LANVIN, Noyes developed her skills under Elbaz where she worked her way up through the design and production departments. Eventually Noyes moved to John Galliano in 2012 where she joined as an Assistant Designer. With a wealth of design experience that included couture pattern-making, draping and illustration, she was compelled to launch her own brand AUDRA in 2013, debuting her collection during Spring ‘14 Paris Fashion Week.
Since launching AUDRA and making New York City the base of the brand, the collection has been featured in the pages of Vogue Italy Talents, Vogue Japan, Vogue Mexico, W Magazine, L’Officiel, and Tatler Russia, as well as web publications WWD, Refinery29, Manrepeller, and The Sartorialist. AUDRA is seasonally reviewed by Vogue.com and featured as part of Vogue Video Fashion Week. Additionally, AUDRA has been worn by many cultural leaders such as Caroline Issa, Kim Kardashian, Keke Palmer, Tracee Ellis Ross, Jane Larkworthy, Joana Preiss, Annie Greenberg, and Chloe King.