A Conversation with St. Louis Fashion Fund Designer Audra Noyes
Through the eyes of intrepid artist and creative businesswoman Audra Noyes, the clothing she creates is for real women, with real dreams. The feminist fashionista hails from a small town outside Philadelphia, but her career has taken her all over the world—from Paris, where she perfected her craft under fashion icons Alber Elbaz and John Galliano, to St. Louis, where she now runs her own eponymous line, AUDRA, through the St. Louis Fashion Fund Incubator program.
We sat down with Noyes to chat as she finishes up her newest collection, propelled by her signature fresh, evocative designs, in New York City.
What steps did you take to launch the AUDRA brand? How did you find your voice?
At [the Savannah College of Art and Design], I honed my skill sets as a designer. And then, after traveling to Paris and working under Alber [Elbaz] and John [Galliano], I think that’s really where I found my voice. I started thinking about what I wanted my clothes to say about women; I was ready to share my pure message as an artist. It really began at a coffee shop in Paris; it was a dream with my best friend.
From there, it grew into little moments that showed that I could do this. The hunger just continued to grow. I kept thinking about how I wanted to redefine the standard of women and how they’re portrayed in the media. There are a lot of designers really raising their voices about this, and I’m proud to be one of them.
You spent a considerable amount of time in the fashion capital of the world. How does Parisian fashion influence your own design style today?
I think observing the two houses [Elbaz and Galliano] and [seeing] how they function was instrumental in my career. At Lanvin, I learned that luxury can be playful. It can be elegant and sophisticated but also quirky and youthful. I think you see that fusion in my brand today. I also learned how to dress women of all shapes and sizes, and Alber did that with excellence.
People always ask me what I like about Parisian style. I think what I like most about women in Paris is their conscientious mindset. When they invest in something, it becomes a part of them. There’s an emotional connection there. That’s something that I try to evoke in my own clothing.
Who is the AUDRA woman?
I don’t like to box her in too much with an age or a demographic. I think she’s quite self-aware, and she’s also informed about what’s going on in the world. She cares about the environment. Focusing on ethical fashion and sustainability are a big part of my brand. I think she’s unique, bold and not afraid to take risks–but at the same time, classic and timeless.
We speak to intellectual women. We speak to thoughtful women. We speak to women who specifically want to invest in pieces and develop an emotional connection with the clothing. It’s very important to me that my clothes complement the woman. The woman wears the clothes, and not the other way around.
What is unique about working as a fashion creative in the Midwest?
I think, first and foremost, it gives me the opportunity to interact with my consumer on a daily basis. That really gives me an advantage over my competitors. Through the incubator, I’m on the floor adding that retail component, and it’s a rare opportunity to get to know the woman I’m designing for.
I also think the themes in my recent collections are a result of being so engaged with the women of St. Louis. There are so many gorgeous and chic St. Louis women! I see them wearing Celine and Chanel and, more importantly, these women are doing remarkable things in their community.
I also think the opportunity to build and sustain something away from New York is a challenge, but it’s something our country needs: bringing in that educational component, sharing my knowledge and skillset with people here in St. Louis, and taking what I’ve learned from them and bringing it back to New York. Here at the incubator, we learn from each other. We support and nurture each other’s talent. St. Louis is a home for my business, but it’s a home for me as well. This city has completely embraced me.
All photography courtesy of AUDRA