For better or for worse, the Midwest isn’t typically the first region that comes to mind when one thinks of “luxury fashion.” That hasn’t stopped Saint Louis-based Audra Noyes, however, from grabbing the attention of a slew of urban, bicoastal stars like Kim Kardashian and Tracee Ellis Ross.
The 30-year-old first headed to St. Louis to participate in the inaugural Saint Louis Fashion Incubator program, later launching her eponymous line, AUDRA in 2013. But even before that, the Delaware native’s resume read like a who’s who of fashion — a personal recommendation from Andre Leon Talley, a mentorship with Zac Posen, and design apprenticeships under both John Galliano and Alber Elbaz while he was at Lanvin in Paris.
InStyle spoke with the emerging designer about life in the Midwest versus New York, dressing influential women, and why Adele is her dream celebrity client.
Many people believe that you need to be based in New York City to have a successful career as a fashion designer, but you’re based in St. Louis. Why did you decide to base your company outside of New York City?
I think with technology nowadays, you don’t have to be based here. The crippling overhead of New York City can really stop the growth or stint the growth or maybe slow it down. Whereas, in St. Louis, I have the capacity to overcome that. You know, the overhead is not the same. I can really scale my team and my business.
How has living in the Midwest affected your design process?
When I was [in New York City], I feel like I was kind of in this New York bubble. The New York woman is not like the rest of the world woman. So, it’s important that as designers, we’re out there and understanding who we’re creating for and I feel like my product has gotten so much stronger because I’m living with them, working with them.
It seems your location also hasn’t hindered you from dressing an array of celebrity women, from Kim Kardashian West to Tracee Ellis Ross. How do most of your celebrity placements tend to come about?
Sometimes they will come to me directly and then sometimes they go through the PR firm. Mainly through their stylist obviously and it just depends. I think with Kim that was Monica [Rose] at the time that was styling her, and she reached out to me. I think she had seen me on Vogue and then the PR firm was able to handle that. And then Tracee Ellis Ross was in that same week. We made that custom – they altered the top. But it was very organic. We’ve never paid for placements which something I’m proud of.
You mentioned that Tracee Ellis Ross made an alteration on her look, but did Kim as well?
No. She just happened to take it in for fit. With Tracee, we had to shorten the shirt because she was shorter. But, all the stylists that we’ve worked with have been very respectful. Like with Tracee, they asked us and then consulted us and there was a nice dialogue.
Now obviously, Kim Kardashian’s style is very different from Tracee Ellis Ross’s style. What do you think it is about your designs that attract such an interesting mix of women?
I always thought that the clothes should embrace the woman rather than the woman embracing the clothes. Everyone’s unique and so I love the fact that it has been demonstrated effectively in the fact of my celebrity dressing. You know, like Kim took that one body-conscious dress in my entire line and found a way to make it more body conscious, but then Susan Sarandon wore my suit and she wore it in the modern tuxedo way. She is one of my dream women, so I love that. And then Tracee Ellis Ross was another one of those women that I was thrilled and squealed to have dressed.
Speaking of their differences, with how each woman styled your design, is that how you would have styled it on them?
I love people’s interpretation of my product. I wouldn’t say they are always in line exactly with what I would have done but I think that’s what excites me. I’ve worked with or interacted with other emerging brands that hold on too tight to how their product is interpreted and at the end of the day, it’s meant to be worn and lived in by somebody else other than me. It pushes me. It challenges my point of view, whether I like it or not.
Any dream clients?
My dream celebrity hands-down that I want to dress is Adele. I just love what she’s about. But I think Cate Blanchett is another one that I really this is this unique, intellectual woman.