November 2019

Bela Shehu,

On Saturday November 9th, Joan Shepp will be hosting a special event for November's resident designer, Bela Shehu of NINObrand. We joined Shehu at her atelier in Rittenhouse to get an inside look into her modern brand.

The NINObrand showroom and atelier stands, beautifully lit, at the corner of 20th and Pine in the currently swampy and leaf-covered city of Philadelphia. Bela Shehu, an Albanian immigrant, has resided, dreamt and effectuated in this City of Brotherly Love since the nineties. She came here as an exchange student and found it to be the perfect platform for her modern brand. Shehu radiates positivity and determination: two traits essential to the success of an independent fashion designer. She's poised, warm but professional, sharing details about her collection with a gentle peppering of her personal life. Shehu chooses her words carefully when describing her garments, communicating aspects she finds most important like shape, silhouette and drama.

What does your design process look like from head to hanger?
The design process is pretty fluid and emotional. Since design for me is an extension of the state of mind, the designs simply display a complimenting layer of that at all times.
Once the clothing shapes and textures are established, next is communicating the details with my amazing pattern makers who have been growing with me and we, together, have created an incredible system of development in our Rittenhouse atelier. This is where the search for the perfect fabric starts - and sometimes this process takes days and sometimes months. There is nothing more satisfying than when we reach that perfect balance of weight, shape, temperature, and touch - this is the stage our pieces reach when they become #FUTURECLASSICS and stay in our collection permanently.

As a creative, the world is a stage. How has your newest multi-disciplinary project, Private School Experiment, influenced your designs? How has your design aesthetic influenced the project?

What a wonderful question! Thank you for being aware of Private School and the movement around it! The spirit of the experiment is very energetic and curious which makes the perfect environment for all the details to be very thoughtful and effective. The way I see and approach design now is very thorough and multi-layered with surprises.  


How and why did you choose Philadelphia as not only a place to live but a city in which to thrive?

I think it has been a mutual courtship between this unique city and myself. We have been tender and firm with each other, but overall inseparable. I can't ignore how much Philly has shaped me and I think I've had a small contribution shaping a small scene of it. How can one walk away from such a relationship?

How do you view the current state of fashion in Philadelphia? And what does its future look like?

I have been starting to notice the newcomers in the city and how they're challenging the style status quo. Social media has also inspired and pressured to raise the bar not only for how we look but also how we approach consumerism. Fast fashion has been (finally and not soon enough) unwrapped from its "accessible price" and cute packaging to what it really is; a large terrorist group that is depleting our planet of its resources and harming the life on it greatly. Please SAY NO to fast fashion.

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career, what would you say?

Stay nimble and present and find the humor and joy in every moment of life. Careers are made up games, so one ought to approach it with playfulness.