Getting to Know You: Noor of Noorvana
Meet Noor, a psychology graduate turned fashion designer with a passion for handmade creations and a drive for world domination. At only 21 years old, she runs a celebrity worn fashion label, called Noorvana, and is pursuing her own version of success regardless of the restrictions and pressures placed on her by tradition. Here she shares more about her journey to crocheting, the challenges she has had to overcome in choosing her own career path and the evolution of her brand.
At the beginning of last year, I came across the Instagram account for Noorvana, a new brand of crochet clothing. Being a fellow crocheter myself, I was amazed not just by the impressive looking designs but also the incredible consistency and creativity involved in the pieces. All hand-made items, I couldn't help but admire the effort, dedication and time it takes to create these outfits (crocheting even one item demands several hours (read:days) of your life). Fast forward a few months, and I had the chance to model for the brand, as well as meet the designer, Noor - a talented, young woman with an incredible determination to live out her dreams irrespective of any cultural restrictions put upon her. Where there's a will, there's a way, and I'm so impressed by Noor's resilience in fulfilling her own destiny. A true star in the making!
THE JOURNEY TO FASHION DESIGN…
I was born in Iraq but came to the UK with my family as a refugee, when I was a baby. Growing up in London meant that I wasn’t living in areas with other Arabs or Muslims so at times struggled to fully connect with my culture - a result of being exposed to a more modern life. For my parents, however, the adjustment has been difficult and those issues have been projected onto me and my life. For example, I’ve always been interested in fashion. During reading time at school, I’d hide my notepad behind my books and sketch outfits instead. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. I even wrote in my Year 6 journal that I wanted to be the world’s most famous designer. However, my parents - being quite traditional - hoped I would grow out of ‘the phase’, as it wasn’t an acceptable career choice for them. I think they worried that it would stray me further away from our culture and religion.
Come to secondary school, I was painting my nails a different colour every day and styling up my uniform - whether cutting the sleeves off my shirts or buying my blazer from H&M instead of wearing the designated school blazer.
I started making my own clothes as well because nothing I bought fit me properly. Plus, we couldn’t afford to buy new clothes all time so I would just get some fabric and make my own pieces. Others would ask me where I got my altered clothes from and requested similar for themselves, so I before I knew it, I was making clothes for other people too.
My plan was always to go to Art School so I decided to study Art in Sixth Form but unfortunately, it clashed with my other subjects. As a result, I took classes at another school to accommodate, however, there wasn’t always a teacher available so I ended up working on the module myself. Unfortunately studying Art at University wasn’t an option for my family - even though I achieved the best grades in my class - and I ended up studying psychology at London South Bank University instead. Yet, regardless of my circumstances, I was determined to become a self-taught artist.
THE INTEREST IN CROCHET…
I started sewing my designs to begin with. However, I first became exposed to working with yarn whilst taking art classes at a different school. One of the teachers taught me how to finger knit and I thought it was so cool that I could make something with my bare hands. I didn’t delve into it then because it wasn’t a suitable time to teach myself a whole new craft, so I put it to the side and focused on my studies. Just before my second year at university, I started noticing that there was a new interest in crocheted clothing on social media and I really loved the look of it, so I set up an Etsy account. However, it wasn’t until Maria Pearl took an interest in me, and helped me shoot looks for a new website, that the ball started rolling.
Before I finished university, I was posting outfits on socials and as my following increased people were bombarding me with questions about when the new site would be ready and when new pieces would be uploaded. Yet I was still at university, taking my final exams and trying to keep up with orders. Things were selling out so quickly and I was struggling with demand.
As soon as I finished university, Jourdan Dunn messaged me on Instagram, asking to buy my pieces. As a result of her tagging me in pictures, things really took off. It was perfect timing.
I’ve never really had a particular set style. I appreciate so many different looks and that’s how I make my pieces. Lately, I’ve had to make items that are easier to crochet because the things I would be most inspired to create are so labour-intensive that a lot of people would not be able to afford it. It’s a compromise and perhaps why I’m feeling a bit unfulfilled at the moment. I would love to make things for the sake of creative direction and art but at this stage, I’m still working to build up my savings and so the financial pressure is limiting.
Sometimes I’ll see things and think to myself, “I wonder what that would look like in crochet”. I loved the blue dress Rihanna wore in the Wild Thoughts video and decided to make a two piece inspired by it. However, with crochet, there are certain things you just can’t do, which is a disadvantage to the craft. For example, I really love the way clothing moves when people walk. That is such a major part of how we dress but I can’t make my crochet pieces move the way I want them to. So now I’m inspired to incorporate more couture pieces that play with different textures.
I’m vegan, so as a knitwear brand I try to avoid wool at all costs. I create for people who appreciate handmade clothing and want to have an alternative to high street brands. In my last year of Sixth Form, my final project was based on sweatshops and the patterns of clothes. I remember I had purchased a blazer and undid all the stitching to redesign it. In doing so, I became aware of the fact that it had originally been hand-stitched by someone in a developing country working in unsafe conditions.
At the time, there were several scandals around this issue in relation to brands and I thought it was so messed up that by buying clothes from them, I was indirectly paying for child labour. From then on, I became very sensitive towards high street shopping.
Keeping up with stock! During my final year of university, I was going through a lot of personal issues, which affected my studies and meant I had to retake an exam. I felt quite isolated so crocheting became my creative outlet. As soon as I started making money, it began to feel like a job. It went from being my source of meditation to a never-ending demand for custom orders. So I decided to remove myself for a bit and am taking a small break now.
I love seeing my pieces on people that inspire me and others. And not just the celebrities, but people tagging me from their holidays too. It feels like a piece of me is with all my customers and I work hard to put positive energy into every outfit. Recently, I had an order from South Korea and was blown away that my clothes from South London were being ordered by someone on the other side of the globe!
Branding is so important when you’re starting your own business and working out your unique selling point is the biggest factor for success. For example, I know there are loads of other crochet designers out there. And yet, for me, it’s about taking an ancient method and designing modern clothing from it. So while others are also crocheting, I’m making pieces they aren’t.
My site is currently all sold out and I’m brainstorming how to do things differently in order to prevent that happening so often. The issue I currently face is not being able to predict how I’m going to evolve my brand because it is heavily interlinked with the direction my life goes in.
I’ve had to sacrifice certain things just to be able to live the life I want and do the job I’m so passionate about. Yet while I'm going through personal difficulties right now, the end goal will always be to create a House of Noorvana!
Designer... I love Balmain. I love the brand and what Olivier has done with it. His story is amazing and I could watch his shows again and again.
Collaboration... Jorja Smith. She first wore a set from me at Lovebox before she was signed. I recently sent her something to wear to Coachella and to see her in one of my pieces again, after all these accomplishments, makes me feel like there is a synchronised growth. When I crochet for someone I feel like I’m apart of their life.
Noorvana Piece... One of my proudest pieces was the dress you (Elvira) wore. I was inspired by Dolce & Gabbana when I made it.
CHECK OUT NOOR's INSTAGRAM FOR MORE.