An Island girl, the baby of five children, Noava Knight is bursting with personality. You can see it even before she speaks. The body of a model (including some serious height), short funky blonde hair (for the moment) and a hint of mischief in her eyes, Noava knows exactly who she is and is not afraid to be herself.
With so many siblings, Noava got a lot of hand-me-downs throughout her childhood. Not always her style, which she developed early on, she was able to make her own mark on these clothes. She learned to sew at age 10 from her mother, who was a children’s clothing designer (I imagine a great talent to have when you have five children). Her mother’s handmade clothing was sold at Bramhall and Dunn and a couple of other Island stores. I guess you could say that sewing was in her “jeans” (haha).
Aside from feeling the need to alter clothes to her taste, Noava had to make a lot of her own clothes. She is 6 ft tall and grew 8 inches from 8th grade to freshman year in high school alone. She was so tall and so thin. I know that seems silly to complain about but she had a really hard time finding clothes off the rack.
Luckily because of her mother, there were bolts of fabric all over the house, some of which were the most amazing patterns and some that were a bit a crazy. Her mother worked with a broad range of prints and textures, so her fabric collection was pretty interesting.
Noava’s favorite thing she made during her youth was a pair of exaggerated bell bottoms from navy polar fleece. Polar fleece was all the rage at the time, and these pants were definitely one of a kind, sort of her signature style. I bet they were fabulous. Not something I can wear being 5′ 4″ (barely) and sort of stocky. Definitely a look for a lean, leggy gal not afraid of doing her own thing.
Before Noava really got into being a fashion designer, she wanted to try out modeling. Being a teenager on Martha’s Vineyard, there’s not always a lot to do or a lot of excitement, and I imagine the grass really looks greener on the other side. So, at 14, she was in NYC hitting the modeling agencies. Noava had sisters who already lived in NYC, so she thought it would be easy.
She would not be able to be true to her own identity if she decided to be a professional model. She would have her clothing, her hair, her make-up dictated to her on a daily basis. She would have to have the look of whatever was “in” at the moment, and this was not something she wanted she realized.
Also, she found the city to be a lonely place. Millions of people walking the street passing each other by without a smile or looking at you in the eye. It was even lonelier than Martha’s Vineyard. So, she left the city, came home, and dyed her hair pink.
Noava continued to live on the Island, making clothes, finishing school, and living her life. Her first paid gig as a designer was at the Vineyard Playhouse making costumes. She enjoyed creating these fantasy looks for people, especially for kids. She was the 4th grade costume tech, and loved every minute of it.
Noava was amazed at the way a costume could impact how an individual was perceived by others, and that individual felt. Further cementing in her mind the importance of expressing individuality in her clothing.
She started designing more, and was getting noticed for her work. Then tragedy struck. Her sister died at age 25. One of Noava’s biggest supporters and a source of inspiration. This was a very difficult lose for her. However, because of her sister’s support and love of life, Noava decided she had to continue designing, and ironically, Noava had her first fashion show on the one year anniversary of her sister’s death.
Making clothing was always a passion for Noava, but not really a source of income. It was not until she was laid off from her job that she had time to think about what she wanted to do with this craft she enjoyed.
She decided to travel to St. John’s. There she apprenticed as a bikini maker, and dabbled more with fashion and design. She realized that there was no reason for her not to pursue fashion. She was just as talented as many others who were doing just that. She also realized that you have to be able to do it on your own, not be beholden to anyone, so there’s no compromise in your work.
Back on Martha’s Vineyard, Noava was making clothes. You could find her work in Pandora’s Box (Menemsha) and a couple of other stores. Pretty cool to have your clothes sold in stores at such a young age.
She probably would have been able to sell more if she wanted to produce her designs commercially, but Noava had no desire to do that. She likes making each piece. For her it is art. If she could, she would have an art gallery with her clothes on display. Since each is handmade, no two are the same, and she gives so much of herself to each piece she creates.
I have to mention that Noava works at Chicken Alley, the MVCS thrift store in Vineyard Haven. She loves her job. She gets to meet so many great people, and help a lot of people who are in need that live here.
It saddens her that there are so many who are in need, and filling some of the gaps for these people helps fulfill her humanitarian side. Also, she comes across some of the most amazing fabric, whether in a bolt, a tablecloth, or clothes. Everyday brings something new.
In Noava’s clothing, you can almost get a sense of her and her place in life when she is designing. For example, one of her collections, Jungle Beach is full of fun prints and flowing shapes. It’s perfect for the beach but the prints have a urban jungle feel. There’s a lot of fun represented in the collection. That’s what was going on in her life at that time — a little fun and a little chaos.
I am particularly found of the Starry Night Dress. I love that it’s long but has a structured, interesting top. I also love the Midnight Hoodie. Taking something street chic into beach chic. Some of the collection was shown in last year’s MV Fashion Week.
This year, Noava is creating 10 pieces for MV Fashion Week, and her collection has a totally different feel. It is romantic, feminine, almost ethereal. She is tapping into her feminine side with fashion and is loving it.
For the first time in her life, Noava feels settled. She’s in love, has a home, a studio for her work, a job, a working cool car, healthcare – everything she could want. She used to fight normal and having all these things for fear they would fall apart.
She swallowed her fears and opened herself up to creating and having the life she wants and deserves. All of this is reflected in her line – her happiness, her acceptance of being a woman and being strong but feminine, and walking her own line.
Sadly, I can’t show you any photos of Noava’s 2012 line – though I got to see five of the looks for myself. She’s keeping her collection under wraps until Saturday night’s fashion show. I can tell you this… wait until you see the floor-length lace gown with the open back. It’s phenomenal.
And to make it even more stunning and interesting, it was made from a recycled vintage tablecloth. Each of Noava’s pieces are one-of -a-kind, so if you are interested in a piece, talk to her after the show or stop by Chicken Alley.
Talking with a designer like Noava Knight, you understand that fashion is an art. Clothing takes time to conceptualize and create and style. A little piece of the designer walks away with each look. Also, you get to see the expression of the designer — her hopes, her feelings, her joy, her pain. You can see these things in their collections.
I am in awe of the people who have the ability to create things so beautiful from nothing but a thought or a piece of fabric. Create a piece of wearable art.
The show on Saturday night, A Marvelous Night for a Moondance, the closing party at Dreamland, is truly the event for all you MV fashionistas. They’re rolling out the red carpet for that evening’s festivities. There will be models from Boston (they’ll be in Boston’s Fashion Week the following week), five other designers, Chelsea Phaneuf / Rose Goff Maidoff, Karen Russillo of Menagerie, Marlene DiStefano / Randi Sylvia, all in addition to Noava.
We’re talking about a lot of clothing from our MV designers. How exciting to see the collections of these talented women on the runway! There will also be a number of stores showing too. Fashion, fashion, and more fashion — I hope you’re ready to be inspired with your own look.
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Noava’s Jungle Beach Collection