What happens when you think a little bit out of the box? You end up designing dazzling pieces to wear while swimming, practicing yoga or just letting your body carry the swing. This London-based designer, who is a huge fan of Frank Ghery –“his buildings literally dance in front of me”– and declares Gaudí is her muse, went once to Barcelona with the desire to get lost in its luminous streets. Unexpectedly, it turned out to be a catalyst moment for her to embark on a project of contemporary sports-luxe collections. And it is precisely the idea of pure movement what drives Laurie Nouchka.
What led you to place your paintings and drawings into such an efficient and useful way as a sportswear collection is?
Thinking outside the box. As an artist I was tired of seeing my paintings on walls or in private spaces where they couldn’t be so visible. The subject matter, tall buildings, lent itself to another interest of mine: I decided to make my own pair of yoga leggings with my paintings of the Sagrada Familia on. I liked the idea of this beautiful building towering up my legs. I gave a few to some yoga teachers and soon orders started rolling in.
Where are you from? Have you always lived in an urban environment?
I grew up in a small town in Suffolk but moved to London after university in 2004. I’d always been quite intimidated by the city but I learnt to love it and now I can’t imagine London not being a part of my life in some way. I came to London to be closer to arts and culture and for work. Around six years ago I took a four month break from my then job and went off to draw. It took a few months but on my trip I accidentally ended up in Barcelona and discovered Gaudí. His iconic architecture plus the energy of the city inspired me in a way I’d never experienced before.
I love being in the countryside but it’s a place of retreat, silence and stillness for me whereas in the city I just see so much energy, colour and movement all around me. I hope my designs add energy to the people who wear them.
From swimsuits to crop tops and leggings: wearable art aimed to practice sport. Are you a sporty girl? What do you enjoy doing the most?
Swimming and yoga are a big part of my every day. I’ve also recently got into surfing, which I am very slowly getting better at. I love it, it’s just difficult to get to the sea regularly enough to really improve. Any excuse to get in the water and be on the waves though!
The pieces are aimed at those who move – but I’m interested in movement in every sense. That doesn’t mean you have to be a gym goer or run marathons but someone who is interested in their body. I like to consider people a total work of art when they move them. Like a moving painting perhaps.
Your pieces are functional, clean and colorful, made of extremely comfortable nylon lycra, and they are incredibly sensual at the same time. How do you do it? Where do you take inspiration from?
That’s a really nice way to describe the pieces – thank you. I don’t feel art needs to be defined as one thing or another, and I guess this is part of my statement. I certainly make my work with aesthetics in mind so beauty is important to me for sure – but I have ideas for collections in the coming years that will be much more contextually challenging. I think there is an entire beauty in itself when we use the body as a walking canvas. These are functional items because I want to make them more accessible than something unwearable, but they are also a statement piece in your life.
Each print and style is limited edition so there will only be a select number of people with the same piece, and each is a work of art in its own right. I’ve always seen it as the same as investing in a limited edition print, like you would from any artist, only this time you can wear it. You become a walking piece of art – and you could equally frame it if you wish!
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London is your hometown. And what about Barcelona? How do you feel in this city?
This is quite a poignant question for me. I fell in love with Barcelona from the moment I arrived. I think it was to do with how open it felt and how safe I felt. I was also in a luxurious period of having time to just explore, draw and be. Also it marks the beginning of my true journey as an artist. It was the catalyst behind my most significant body of work. London is incredible in its own way. The ideas and creativity that come out of this city are like nowhere else I’ve ever experienced. And you can make things happen. I’m testament to that. I had plans to live in Barcelona indefinitely but it became clear that I needed to be in London for my business. Since being back I’ve found a deep love for London and it will always be a part of my life but a huge part of my heart lies in Barcelona. Every time I touch down there my heart aches with a deep love. If I close my eyes I can smell the heat of that city. I make sure I go back one or two times a year.
What do these buildings mean to you? La Sagrada Familia, The Sydney Opera house...?
Interesting questions. Gaudí was the catalyst for my drawing as I have mentioned and perhaps also the reason behind why my work took such an architectural turn. I tend to draw two things: buildings and bodies. When I’m not drawing buildings I love to draw the figure from life. I see the two as linked. I’m interested in the form and the energy hence the use of colour and expressions of movement in a lot of them. In so far as the buildings I choose to draw for the collections: it’s less about what they mean for me and more about what they mean to us. I’m interested in the iconic buildings because undoubtedly they have a form that is pleasing to the masses and that interests me in its own way.
You’ve accomplish to gather the energy of assorted urban landscapes. From the buzzing London spirit to the Mediterranean light from Barcelona or the sail-like taste from Sydney. How is the creative process of the collections like?
All the designs are inspired by iconic architectural landmarks and the energy of the urban landscape. The choice of colours is really quite instinctual. It’s hard to explain why I use one over another. I tend to draw big too. Sometimes I’ll roll out meters of paper on the street and throw ink around and see what comes out of it. I’ve also taken much more to creating work on the iPad. I was quite resistant at first but then my dad got me into it, mostly for practical reasons as lugging around all my materials was becoming quite laborious. In terms of the actual pattern designs of the garments –this tends to be led by what will be the best canvas for my prints– but also from feedback. I get emails or comments almost every week asking ‘when are you going to do cycling gear’ or ‘what about XYZ?’ – I really listen to that.
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You also have some soundtracks about several buildings and monuments in London. What does London sound like? Is it important for you the fact that each city moves, evolves and sounds in a determinate way?
The sound pieces were a collaboration with the very talented Auclair. She took inspiration/sounds from the buildings to create a range of audio pieces to go alongside the London collection. I let her take it in whatever direction she felt right so I guess she would be best to answer those questions.
The movement question is an interesting one – I guess it feels to me that every city moves, that’s the nature of a city. It’s the exact opposite of the countryside, which is all about silence and stillness and the city about sound and movement. Indeed tuning it to each individual frequency is what I try to do with my drawing in a way that Auclair would have done with the soundtracks.
Part of your lookbook and photo campaign has been shot by Jack Johnstone, and styled by Aartthie Mahakuperan. Their work is really interesting. It is the first time you work together? How was the experience?
Both Jack and Aartthie are very talented and have great ideas. They had a lot of inputs in the creative direction. One of the nicest parts of creating the work I do is getting to work with other artists of their own craft who make them look even better. They have a great vision and see things about my work that I wouldn’t have picked up on. I worked with them on the first two lookbooks and hope to do so on many more.
Could you tell me a great piece of advice you have been given and you will never forget?
I’ve recently been working with a friend who has taken a huge interest in my work and he has taught me something that I think is invaluable to both life and work. Confidence is everything. Be confident in your ideas, your creativity and your ability.
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