Interview with Michelle Nunes, Designer of Nunes Scarves

Nunes, nunes scarves, michelle nunes, handmade

All photos by Alex Burdick, courtesy of Nunes | Model: Rachel Ludemen

Nunes is the new line of statement scarves by Michelle Nunes. Custom-designed in Phoenix and digitally printed in Italy, the 50×50 scarves are made on 100 percent silk Crepe de Chine.

Michelle Nunes, a first-generation American whose parents and family immigrated from Portugal, was raised in eastern Pennsylvania. “My heritage was a big influence on my upbringing here in the states,” she says. From an early age, Michelle was interested in the arts — comedy, music, dance, you name it. Music took precedence as a young adult and led Nunes to study audio engineering at The Conservatory of Recording Arts in Tempe. After graduating, Nunes lived in New York City where she worked for a jazz and classical recording studio. She returned to Arizona after a short stint in the Big Apple and focused her creative efforts on art, design and fashion.

“Another important influence in my background is that my grandmothers, my mom and three of my aunts are all incredible seamstresses. My mom and aunts here in the states were garment workers in the industry, so that’s always been a part of my life,” she explains. “I wasn’t interested in getting hands on with it so much as a kidbut was more into making arrangements and always had ideas for clothing or putting things together. My mom would make these funny pieces that I wish I still had. I just never took it seriously and music was more important to me at that time. It’s interesting that it’s coming back around and making a full circle.”

The Nunes online shop currently features four geometric prints that are bright, bold and modern. Read my interview with Michelle below…

Nunes, nunes scarves, michelle nunes, handmade

Can you tell us a little about who you are, including your background in illustration and design?
Since I could remember, I’ve been into dance, music, art, comedy – just anything high energy – though music was the biggest driving force. And not just making music but wanting to get behind the scenes and get into the art of recording and sound. That’s what led me to study audio engineering at The Conservatory of Recording Arts in Tempe, Ariz.. After I graduated, I spent time in NYC working as an assistant engineer for a jazz and classical recording studio. I couldn’t shake off Arizona and, on a whim, I came back.

That’s when I started exploring art and design. While I was working for a small magazine during the day, I took art classes at night. Then I started getting into coding for web and that became my gateway to graphic design. I think what made it click was that it involved the tools I used in audio but rather than music, it engaged in visual language – so it was a happy marriage. Through word of mouth, I started getting small assignments that lead to long-term relationships, which I still have, with non-profits and small businesses. While my work and assignments were very straightforward corporate work, I still got a lot from it – learning the ins and outs for print and web, working under pressure and deadlines, finding something to learn from the project or client. What I loved the most was the freedom to work independently and under very simple terms.

How this led to scarves and fashion? I continued studying other design work that hit my gut – like Sagmeister, Niessen and de Vries, Karlssonwilker, Marian Bantjes, Snask, etc.. During my down time, I kept stimulated by sketching and making my own patterns and comps, but there was no real objective or goal other than to make something that was self-led or self-initiated, and just be open to surprise. I experimented and made small prints, but it wasn’t until I started printing directly on fabric that I started getting really excited about the application and where it could go. I would get panels made and have my mom hem them into tablecloths, and I’d just give them to friends or family. I started experimenting on silk and I remember after getting a sample, I wrapped it around like a big shawl and the idea just clicked. So scarves grew from ongoing experimentation.

Nunes, nunes scarves, michelle nunes, handmadeWho are the people, places or things that inspire you the most?
I am inspired and moved almost all the time. It’s hard to turn it off. It depends on the day. It could be watching a snippet of Charlie Chaplin, to watching an athlete perform, to hanging out with the kids in my life. Anything that stimulates and turns on on other possibilities in my head. I think if I boiled it down and found a common denominator, I’m just turned on by people who do what they love and do it with grit and abandon. As far as places go, I think I feel more inspired and moved in nature versus city.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process? Your least favorite part?
Favorite? Incubation, intuition, trusting ideas and instincts and knowing when to act and when to rest and revisit later. Least favorite? If I find myself overthinking or trying to force something to happen.

When it’s time to sit down and work — what are your in-studio essentials?
Good music, good mindset, pens/markers/highlighters, paper, ruler, mood board, scanner, Mac, Illustrator/Photoshop

If you had the opportunity to collaborate with one designer or artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If I could go nuts with this, I think the dream opportunity would be to art direct and choreograph a music video or music film with Michel Gondry. I just love and adore his work. Some of his videos and films from the past engage the better part of me. His freedom, inventiveness, playfulness just makes me feel good and puts me right.

In what ways does your art reflect your personality?
I’m not sure. I think it’s just a natural extension of who I am. I think my current project is just a reflection of where I’m at now in life, a little older and wiser, and I’m ready to share and make more and reach out to others and engage. I keep asking myself, “why not”?

Using only three adjectives, describe Nunes scarves.
Engaging, uplifting, alive.

Nunes, nunes scarves, michelle nunes, handmadeWhy scarves? Do you have plans to expand your product list? If so, in what ways?
The scarves grew out of experimenting with digital direct-to-fabric prints and from the intention to create a simple and flexible application. I’m excited for the next steps. I’d like to design a small collection that includes my custom prints and clothing design and really see things come to life. My aunt Ester and I recently spoke and we both want to work together. She’s connected with other people in the garment industry, so I’m very eager to learn more and immerse myself more in clothing design and fashion.

Additional thoughts:
The main guiding principle in my work and business is simple – I just want bring positivity to fashion and style. I want to keep things playful and curious. I want to help promote healthy body image. I want to work ethically with manufacturers and people that are satisfied and happy with their jobs. I think it’s an exciting time in fashion right now. I’m very interested in slow fashion and the sustainability that’s holding more value and relevance in the fashion industry.

Congratulations on taking the leap into becoming a business owner — do you have a particular quote, piece of advice or other stimulus that motivates you to press forward, even when the going gets tough? If so, please share!
Yes! I have so much faith in small steps. Just keep going, keep making, just show up and good things will happen. Do what you love, find a way. When you’re done doing the work you sometimes have to do, make time to do the work you want to do. If you don’t know what that is, just insist that you do know and it’ll find you. I think something good happens in this world when humans engage in their daydreams. Get involved in life, work with what you have, and be an open and grateful human.

What do you think of Nunes? Do you have a favorite way to incorporate scarves into your outfit?


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