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Who’s that girl?


Office – I love the fleece jacket, I feel like it’s almost a fashion crossover for people who are into the whole hip-hop look. Like a high-style North Face.


Yara Flinn – I’m a hundred percent inspired by outerwear, especially the North Face. High school is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. I went to high school in Chelsea, on 17th St., and when I was growing up, everyone wore khakis and North Face jackets.


O – Sounds like I went to a very similar high school.


YF – Same vibe, right? Like, preppy thugs. What color North Face did you have?


O – I think I had the blue…


YF – I had tumbleweed, remember the sage green one? That was like the new color, I was so psyched.


O – Absolutely, that was the one the crunchy kids had, who were like, hiking in them. Nobody was comfortable dressing like an actual thug at my high school, because it was like “Dude, we know where you live. Give me a break.”


YF – The yellow ones were for the ballers. Red and yellow, you were like, that’s a cool kid. I remember it was really hard to convince my parents to buy that jacket for me, they were like “What? This is ridiculous.” I was like, “This is going to be my jacket forever, it’s got a lifetime warrantee!” That definitely lasted a while. Then I was really into Triple Five Soul, I was kind of like, into the conscious hip-hop thing.


O – That was big for a while, especially in San Francisco. Conscious hip-hop, spoken word, poetry slams…[Laughs]


YF – Yeah, I went to Nuyorican [Poet’s Café] when I was in high school. I even wore headwraps sometimes. [Laughs] Oh god, that’s the darkest thing about me that’s ever come out!


O – [Laughs] I love it. It was a whole awkward phase for a lot of people.


YF – Aesop Rock came long before A$AP Rocky. Calling you out A$AP Rocky!


O – The first time I saw the name A$AP Rocky I was like “Wait, is Aesop Rock rebranding? Is he trying to be relevant again?”


YF – Yeah, did he get like, twenty years younger?


O – [Laughs] Right, and super into fashion?

YF – Being really into fashion was definitely not cool in our high school days.


O – True, but it felt like kids would try anything in the search for their identity. I can remember the hip-hop phase, then there was punk rock.


YF – That you really couldn’t pull off.


O – Yeah, it’s like, I’m supposed to dress like a junkie right now?


YF – I’m sure your parents loved that one. I think that’s so important though. When I see kids now that are so fashion-conscious and they’re like fourteen, I’m like “You’re supposed to look like an asshole at that age, you’re supposed to be wearing thrift store shit.” It’s too advanced. Those kids will get excited and be like “You’re a fashion designer!” and I’m like “Yeah, that’s lame though. I want to be a rapper, that’s so much cooler!”


O –  Tell me about Nomia, what’s happening with the line?


YF – Well, I am shipping my first Resort collection to Barney’s, which has been my dream store forever. So that’s exciting. But then also I have my personal favorites, really obscure stores that I love, like Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Totokaelo, Creatures of Comfort, that mean a lot to me because of how small they are.


O –  Because your brand has a greater presence in those smaller settings?


YF – Yeah exactly. But at the same time I think it’s really important to have a major like Barney’s to give your brand the validation that a lot of consumers need to believe in it. But I don’t really shop that much, to be honest. I feel kind of bad making clothes and not shopping. One day I’ll shop a lot though!


O –  Where do you get your clothes then?


YF – These pants are Dickies, this is a Gang Gang Dance T-shirt.


O –  You had to buy those shoes…


YF – I had to buy these shoes, I love these shoes. Specifically, I love silver shoes, I have four or five pairs. You know what’s really sad? Oh god, I don’t even want to say this. I want to say it, but not in a misogynistic way—girls really like shiny things!


O –  [Laughs] There’s nothing wrong with that!


YF – I know but it feels kind of wrong to say it. We’re just 

I want to say it, but not in a misogynistic way—girls really like shiny things!

kind of magpies. I don’t know what it is about shiny things, but they definitely attract people. So I think it’s nice to have something shiny, especially sneakers. So yeah, I don’t shop that often. I feel guilty spending on things for me, because I should be investing in my line. I also feel like I really should be making things that I genuinely want to wear.


O –  Do you wear your own line then?


YF – I do. I find that it’s overly simplistic to be like “Oh, I’m a woman who designs clothes that I want to wear.” It’s obviously not that simple. But it comes from a place of authenticity, and that’s really all you can hope for as a brand, is to come off as authentic.


O –  Right, but authentically what?


YF – Authentically you. Just not emulating others too much, not following trends that don’t make sense for you, not trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Just “I believe in this.” I’m not in a vacuum, and I certainly don’t avoid looking around me, but I also don’t want to regurgitate, and if I stay true to what I think is cool, for lack of a better word, than I won’t stray.


O –  Your palette is very subdued, do you express yourself in your collections more through shape and form?


YF – Yes, they’re expressive silhouette-wise, and I think that the most successful pieces that I’ve made have had a certain relatability. Appealing to people’s nostalgia is a powerful thing, and I think a lot of designers work that way. Designers always use their formative years as a touchstone. If you’re talking about Raf Simons and eighties skinhead culture, that’s always going to be a reference for him. And I think that’s totally fine, I think it would be inauthentic for him to all of a sudden say he’s inspired by flappers or something. It’s not like you can’t evolve from your original basis of inspiration, but it’s nice to have something that you always just go “Oh, I know what I like. It’s this.” And preppy thug, for whatever reason, is something that inspires me. I like outerwear. There’s something really pure about that age, around sixteen, when you’re first sculpting your own identity, and all your music references, film references, art references feel so yours. It’s like when you’re the least jaded about stuff, you’re just like “I love this band! I love them the most, and they get me.” Then as you get older and realize everybody likes them, it doesn’t feel as special. So this collection in particular is even a little bit inspired by…ravers? Especially the vest, I feel like vests were really big at that time, with like huge JNCO jeans. [Laughs] And the color is a little bit candy raver-ish. I miss shopping in New York at that time, like the Canal Jeans era, where there would be actual vintage army stuff, with weird latex, goth stuff—everything all together, and you would just think “Wow, everything I need to look cool or weird is here.” Everything was thirty dollars, or at least kind of affordable. And you couldn’t look online to see what was the cool thing, you just had to see people, and then try to source it yourself.


O –  It’s funny you mention raver culture, because everyone who wasn’t in that group clowned the shit out of those kids, but you can’t say they weren’t pushing boundaries and doing something more adventurous than the North Face-and-khakis crowd.


YF – Right, they were wearing something radically different than the “safe” uniform.


O –  Did you see a lot of live music in high school?


YF – Not really, cause my parents were kind of strict. But I saw DJ Shadow for sure, at Wetlands, which was a cool venue, and I saw Beat Junkies, Qbert…

O –  Seeing shows in high school is so formative as well. You’re suddenly in a spot with people of all ages, most of them posturing themselves in some way around a specific style, that specific genre of music.


YF – It’s true. Plus graffiti was huge, that was the coolest crew that you could try to be a part of. There weren’t any legit writers in my school, but I was friends with some other kids, Dash Snow was actually in this crew with my friends from Soho. I did a little bit of graffiti, but it was more in my sketchbook. One night I went bombing on like, Bowery, and I was terrified the whole time, I was like “What am I doing?!” It was like nine o’clock, it was way too early! [Laughs] It’s so embarrassing to look back on those things, but if you don’t have embarrassment as a kid, that’s just wrong. You need it. You need that humility.


O –  Have you ever lived anywhere but New York?


YF – Not besides Ohio for college. I kind of knew when I went there that I would come back to New York afterwards, so I wanted to go somewhere totally different. I kind of regret that I haven’t lived anywhere else. I just love New York. My family’s here, it’s my hometown. I can’t imagine doing New York without my family, it’s really daunting and competitive. It’s a really intense time to be doing something here. I feel really fortunate to have graduated in 2004 and not now. I don’t know what I’d do.


O –  I feel like a challenging job market forces people to experiment a bit more though, and just try different things. Nomia began as an experiment, right?


YF – I was just trying it at first, and now I’ve had it for six years. On varying scales of course, but it was tough in the beginning. If it had happened any faster than it did, I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle it.


O –  It’s valuable to let something grow naturally over time, and not put time limits on success. You can’t leave it fully up to fate, but you can put yourself in a position where fate can intervene.


YF – I know, and I tend to have a little bit of that fear of success, more so than fear of failure. Where the expectations just keep increasing.


O –  That’s true for a lot of people, the fear of success.


YF – I think a lot of creative people are like that. You just want to have one little thing that’s yours.


O –  And you want to be able to do something good and then share it, but in an industry like yours, you’re always being asked “What’s next?” There is always pressure to grow, grow, grow. Then the business expands out of the hands of whoever created it, and once there’s no personality as an input into the product, the quality drops drastically.


YF – Yeah I am really trying to keep things personal. I only have two people working with me. It’s a tiny team. Even so, learning to delegate, that’s not anything I ever anticipated having to do, and it’s not a natural thing for a lot of people, especially designers, to do. That’s why this CFDA program is so helpful, because that’s specifically what it’s meant for.

O –  How does the program affect your day-to-day work?


YF – Structure. For sure. Even being in this office, this physical space, has made me take myself more seriously. It’s like, time to shit or get off the pot. You can keep cruising by, but at some point you’re going to need structure, help, employees, advice, and even just a schedule. I used to get in a lot later, and work later, but I wouldn’t be in tune with my factories, and other contacts that would be active during the normal workday. Now one of my main factories is right across the street, so it’s amazing, if we have a question we can just drop in and address it immediately. So any hesitance I had about being part of the program was immediately alleviated once I was here.


O –  So the space is provided through the program as well?


YF – Yeah, there are ten designers in the program and we’re all here, together. It’s like camp. The camaraderie and support, emotional and otherwise, is really different.


O – Do you interact much with the other designers?


YF – Yeah, the girl across the hallway, Kaelen, and Katie Ermilio, from two doors down, we went to Paris together and shared an apartment, and showed together. It was awesome, we had a really great time. It was kind of sad once we got back, we were like “Let’s go get a café crème!” and then realized we were in the garment district again. [Laughs]


O –  What is your relationship with the CFDA itself?


YF – I think it’s really symbiotic. They invest time and money and resources into people like me, and in turn our success is going to reflect the quality of the program and help spread the gospel of what the CFDA is doing. It’s great knowing that someone is invested in you, apart from yourself. It’s really motivating.


O –  You’ve said that there’s not an entirely new inspiration for each of your collections. How then do you build on your concepts and make your line evolve with each season?


YF – I think what’s difficult is definitely the frequency of the collections. You don’t really have the reflection time after ending a collection before you’ve got to be working on the next one. But you can use that to your advantage to create an ongoing language and story. I always start with fabric, so that informs the direction of each collection. I can’t make an inspiration board of movies or references or whatever, and then go “OK, now I need to go find those fabrics.” I just go into a room of fabrics and pick this, this and this, put them together and then ask myself what I can make out of that mix.


O –  Where do you source your fabrics?


YF – I work with a lot of Italian mills, because they make a lot of wash textures that I really like. The greatest benefit of growing bigger has definitely been having access to more fabrics. When you’re small and not meeting minimums, suppliers just won’t give you the fabric. It’s not economical for them to do such small orders. So that limits a lot, you’re kind of using stock fabrics, or leftovers. You could go to Première Vision, the fabric show, and walk around and get a million swatch cards and be like “Whoo!” but if your orders are tiny the mills will be like “No.” I’ve got boxes full of beautiful fabrics that I couldn’t get. But sometimes you use that as inspiration and try and source something similar. That silver fabric for the jacket was one of the first things I saw at PV, and it was in the outerwear section. I just saw it and was like “Ugh, I need that!” Sometimes it just happens. If I’m on the fence about it that’s usually a good thing, because it should be a little scary. Otherwise you settle into a comfort zone, and the clothing doesn’t evolve the way it should. So you should kind of be like “Is this good? I don’t know, let’s just make it and see.” And sometimes it really works. That silver parka is one of the first things I made from this collection, and I was like “Whoa, what have I done?!” It looks like a spacesuit. It stands out, but you need to have some exciting things in your collection. And surprisingly a lot of stores are ordering it. I’m a little bit like, “Who’s going to buy this?!”


O – It almost serves as punctuation for the rest of the collection, which is far more understated.


YF – Completely, it’s punctuation. Everything to me is about balance. Balance of wearable versus editorial. I’m friends with a lot of women who buy my clothes, and whether we were friends first, or we became friends as a result of their interest in the line, all of them talk about how much they wear my designs. That, to me, is the biggest compliment.

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