Fashion designer Nurita Harith tells Tengku Nor Azah about her signature style — layering, drapes and pastel colours
NURITA Harith had her first glimpse of the fashion world when her mother’s friend gave her The London Fashion Book when she was in secondary school.
“It was that book that introduced me to designers like Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood, shoemakers Manolo Blahnik and Patrick Cox and milliner Philip Treacy. It also featured supermodels,” says the designer.
The tome ignited her immense interest in arts and fashion.
Nurita, 30, has always been curious about models and the human body. She learned to do sculptures before pursuing her fashion degree at Surrey Institute of Art and even took up figure-drawing night classes upon encouragement from her stepfather.
She understands the different figures of women’s bodies and this is the reason why she prefers trying her creations on people.
“I can see how the dresses swirl and move — it’s not the same on mannequins because they are motionless,” she says.
Accidental shapes and interesting silhouettes created on mannequins are tried on models to create a romantic, almost whimsical look that is instantly recognised as Nurita’s signature.
EXPERIMENTING ON FABRICS
Nurita likes to experiment with crepe, silk and chiffon but organza is her favourite. You will find soft layers, swirls and drapes in most of her designs which exude femininity and give the wearer a very flattering silhouette.
Sometimes you see influences of her favourite designer, Bora Aksu, in her creations. The latter is a London-based Turkish designer known for intriguing designs.
Nurita is also a fan of local designer Khoon Hooi and print designer Jonathan Saunders. “When I was in college, my class went to a science museum for inspiration. That’s where my draping technique is inspired from — dinosaur skeletons!” says Nurita, reminiscing her days as a student in London.
She loves to play with dusty shades because they create softness. She likes navy blue for its elegance.
“I’m not a fan of bright colours, but sometimes I will choose burgundy or emerald,” she says, adding that deep and rich hues look regal.
Her favourite colours also seem to be those of Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, whose impeccable style is followed by legions of fans around the globe.
A three-month stint with Bill Keith paved the way for Nurita to showcase her designs in her first fashion show at KL Fashion Week 2006 alongside other big local names.
“Bill was really nice to me. He encouraged me to start on my own,” she says.
She later took part in Project Runway Malaysia and became known to locals. Her excellent taste in fashion has also landed her a job as a Malaysia Tatler stylist, which means she has dressed many of the country’s elite.
From a home-based designer who did work for friends, Nurita marked her first major milestone in her career when she opened her first boutique in October 2008 with her then auditor boyfriend (they married two years later).
Customers through word-of-mouth and those who have seen her work on television or runways have been keeping her busy. Having celebrities like Lisa Surihani, Dynas Mokhtar and Aishah Sinclair wearing her label does not hurt either.
HARD AT WORK
Her boutique produces up to 40 dresses a month during the second half of the year and an average of 25 dresses per month in the first half.
She takes the opportunity during the low season to create new designs. In April, her Raya Collection was ready for photo shoots and she started taking orders last month.
“Raya orders will close this week but we will still accept late orders for post-Raya open houses. Many people want new clothes for open houses as well, there are Chinese women who buy our Raya collection,” she says.
The low season also sees Nurita making time for special projects. She had previously collaborated with international brands like Thomas Pink, Kiehl’s and Jaspal.
She plans to produce more ready-to-wear clothes for her new brand, NH by Nurita Harith, where the designs are more relaxed and chic, with prices from RM170. The brand is carried by online shops Zalora and FashionValet.
BRIDE AND BEAUTIFUL
Nurita’s wedding gowns make brides look like modern-day princesses, so with the wedding season excited brides-to-be stream into her Bangsar boutique armed with pictures of wedding dresses.
“They usually have a concept in mind but they still seek my advice on the best look,” she says.
Does she sketch on the spot? She shakes her head and says: “Oh, no, no, I don’t. I will first layer and drape a mannequin, make two or three sketches. Then I show these with the quotations to customers during the second appointment.”
Her dresses for akad nikah start from RM1,500 while reception dresses are between RM2,500 and RM10,000.
She is popular with customers in their mid-20s and 30s and makes more bespoke dresses than ready-to-wear now compared to last year.
All this means she has very little time for herself. She only gets to spend time with her family and to chill out with friends on Mondays, when her boutique is closed.
“I really miss drawing but I really don’t have time for that nowadays. I like drawing objects and I can also do knife-drawing,” she adds, waving her hand in the air as if holding a knife.
The soft-spoken, talented designer plans to do modern prints. “I’d like to use watercolour-like fashion illustrations and translate them into fabrics like chiffon and organza,” she explains.
Nurita’s fashion tips
• Skinny women should avoid wearing anything too tight or with a wide neckline
• Chiffon gives heavier women a slim silhouette
• To look good in a kaftan, wear one that is not too baggy and loose
• A bride with smaller budget can simplify her wedding dress and still look elegant
• Must-have accessory: A ring.