As the pandemic has forever changed some individuals, it has been a similar case for certain brands — at least for Canadian label Nonie.
Launched in 2008 in Calgary, Canada, Nonie became known for minimalist women’s clothing and was later nominated for the Swarovski Emerging Designer of the Year Award in 2017 and 2019. In January 2021, designer Nina Kharey plunged into antiviral medical wear (more streetwear than scrubs) with the launch of “Folds” — an inflection point for her career that has led her to reframe the brand.
Meant to outlast traditional medical wear, Folds uses fabrics that employ silver ion technology at the yarn level, along with a TiO2 compound added to the polymer to give the unique antiviral property, according to the brand. Since its launch, Folds has grown 75 percent month-over-month. The first launch sold out in 45 minutes and the second sold out in two days. In order to keep up with demand, the brand is moving to a preorder model — with more than 1,000 pieces on preorders.
By fall 2021, Nonie will adopt Folds’ antiviral fabrics and seasonless appeal including a mix of timeless staples like trenchcoats (as in the one Meghan Markle favors from the brand), blouses and trousers. As with Folds, Nonie will use fabrics like 100 percent nylon polyamide — a post-consumer plastic.
“Going through this pandemic taught me a lot about how we consume and how little we really need. I couldn’t go back to Nonie the way it was,” Kharey said. “My whole career was based on pushing consumerism and honestly, there’s no shortage of clothing out there. I really wanted to figure out how I can do what I love, but make it clean and sustainable.”
Clothing as protection is a narrative Kharey is taking seriously as the Delta variant causes an uptick in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated individuals. “We need more protection from clothing now. I’m thinking ahead a bit in that sense by bringing the Folds technology now into Nonie and making all our fabric antiviral by the use of nanotechnology. With variants like the Delta, or whatever else is in our future, Nonie is committed to not only make clothing that looks good, but also keeps the wearer protected and clean,” she said.
Fabric manufacturers are already betting on the stickiness of next-generation antiviral fabrics poised to become a new market standard despite vaccines.
Like many designers riddled with challenges to forge new sustainable paths, Kharey said her “goal is to bring clothing to people that are mainstays in closets but also eco-friendly.” Championing the notion of “asking where our clothing comes from and where it will go at the end of its life,” the thought prompted Nonie’s rebrand. The pandemic, she said, showed every industry the grave need for “crisis management.”
This time around, Nonie aims to be a fully circular label, allowing customers to send back items to undergo a repolymerization process that converts the original yarn back into new fibers (a process used by innovations like Evrnu). For reference, Folds scrubs have a predicted useful life of four years.
Like Folds, Nonie taps its European lab partner to test and develop fabrics, maintaining the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and certifications from the Microbe Investigations Switzerland, the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency for its ultra-protective fabrics.
To meet these sustainable ambitions, Nonie’s Vancouver-based manufacturing operations adapted in some ways to accommodate the rebrand.
“Throughout this process, there was a lot of learning for us. We had to change a few machines and figure out different techniques to sew with these new fabrics. We have come a long way now and our local manufacturing is stronger than ever, which is an important priority for us to keep manufacturing with our all-female-led team here in Canada,” Kharey said.
“For us, this is the future of fashion — both protective of the environment and the wearer,” Kharey said.
The price range for the rebrand is said to be “affordable.” A Nonie trench previously retailed for around $865.
“One of the things I really didn’t like before was making big collections of clothing and then trying to push sales. We don’t need all the overwhelming amount of options,” Kharey said. “Instead, we really need good quality clothing founded on the principals of less is more.”