Meet the Woman Behind Inclusive and Environmentally-Friendly Brand Nonie

By Alisha Mughal

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We believe in supporting Canadian products. Not for the sake of it, but because our nation boasts some of the most incredible brands and designers in the world. This issue, a Calgary-based fashion brand with a royal connection and deep community roots.

Nina Kharey, a Calgary-based fashion designer whose pieces have been worn by the likes of the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, and Rupi Kaur, is leading the way in the Canadian fashion landscape. 

As the founder of high-fashion brand Nonie, Kharey creates pieces inspired by the boxy silhouettes of Indian menswear. These are pieces with squared shoulders that stand proud, necklines that in all their drapery remain impossibly structured, and skirts and dresses with utilitarian beauty. The designer is unique amongst her cohorts in her background as an engineer, which has imparted a commitment to exquisite technical details. Nonie features delicate fabric and feminine details married with practical, rugged forms to acknowledge one key aspect of its clientele: women need to live in clothes. “Even when you have stay-at-home moms, they’re […] not sitting and doing nothing,” Kharey, who is a mom of two, says. “They’re taking care of the kids, but also thinking about [what] they can do on the side. I see a lot of ambition and drive.” It is a modern brand that fits perfectly into the lives of entrepreneurial, working women. 

Nonie creates all of its pieces after an order is placed, meaning Kharey is doing her part to lessen waste in an industry obsessed with overproduction. She only orders what she needs and chooses to focus on creating well-made pieces that will last. “It’s something that will be in your closet forever,” she says. On the manufacturing side, Nonie keeps it in Canada and employs mostly female seamstresses, many of whom are immigrants. “It’s expensive […] to keep production here, but it’s worth it for me because it gives them work. It helps the industry and the economy here as well,” the designer says. Her commitment to Canadian manufacturing can perhaps be attributed to her parents, who both worked in the textile industry. Her father, the manager of a knitting factory and her mother, a seamstress for a menswear line, derived joy in what they did. 

“The factory shut down in Calgary and [my dad] was miserable after that. He was happiest when he was working in that knit factory and had such a great bond with all the employees. They respected him, it was like a family. Seeing that happiness was something that I learned from them. It’s passion.”

Community remains a pillar of her value system, especially when she can draw on her family experiences. Kharey had a brother who, at the age of 25, fell to gang violence in Calgary. She has since then worked with Calgary Police Services to mentor youth and teach them about the effects of violence, using her story to teach a powerful lesson. “I just didn’t want another family to go through what we went through,” she says. Through her work, Kharey aims to create measurable change as a designer leading in the community.

Doing as much as she is doing — engineering, designing, advocating and teaching, and being a mother — Kharey has realized the difficulty of doing it all, all the time. Her advice to other women building a business? Be fair to yourself. 

 “It’s okay if you miss a day or two and you can’t get anything done,” she says. “You just have to be fair to yourself. It’s hard, and meant to be hard. There will be days when you don’t get anything done, and other days that are great where you accomplish a ton.”

Because being fair and realizing limits will ultimately allow you to conquer it all tomorrow, she says. Kharey bridges the gap between practicality and creativity in a way that serves as example for creatives in need of a successful role model. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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