Courtney Noelle is the epitome of grace, elegance, and power — and her designs wrap the people wearing them in every ounce of the holy design trinity.
The second we sit down to talk, my admitted nerves wash away. Noelle is one of the warmest, funniest women I've ever had the luxury of meeting. She has an incredible way of being able to talk about the challenges of raising investor money as a Black woman to laughing about her army of loyal followers with flawless ease and endearing humility.
Noelle's designs aren't just beautiful standouts on any red carpet — they're fiercely unique and expertly tailored to fit the person who wears them. Beloved by stylists to the stars, Courtney Noelle is the woman who dresses the curvy women most stylists are afraid of — and when she does, even mass retailers take inspiration from her stunning, awe-inspiring designs.
What is the story you hope to tell with your brand?
My inspiration comes from Black women. I want to show the beauty and power in Black women and women of color, that's why I use all Black models and models of color.
What has been your biggest challenge and highlight as an entrepreneur?
I think with any small business, particularly in fashion, the challenge is always in capital and access to funding. I'm always looking to fund the next collection.
There's a lot of funding out there, but you have to know somebody to know somebody. Or, you're not making enough to get over that threshold. For example, you have to be doing like 200,000 a year in sales. What if you're not there yet? That's my biggest challenge.
The design part has been the best. The best part is when I hear back from customers who absolutely love my stuff, but I love hearing people tell me that they love the way they look and feel. You get to create what you don't see. I get to take ideas from my head and put them on people.
I was just added to Beyonce's Black Parade Black-owned business directory. I had no idea it was going to happen
Shoutout to all of the stylists out there. I'm always super excited when someone wants to wear my stuff. Gabourey Sidibe, Lizzo, Tess Holliday, and Patrick Star wore one of my pieces in his collaboration with MAC.
How much does coming from a marginalized community play into your business?
I don't do anything different as a business owner. I think the way we're perceived is different.
Not everyone wants to put their money behind a Black-owned business. You can definitely tell investors have reservations because one, I'm Black. Two, I'm a woman. Three, I'm young.
There was one time I was looking into purchasing a factory in New York and the guy who was selling the factory wasn't paying attention to me. He was paying attention to my advisor, who was a man. He was directing all his questions to my advisor and I was like, "No, I'm the one who makes all the decisions."
How do you feel social media has impacted your business?
For one, I think I have the best followers ever. They ride hard for me and I appreciate that. For me, advertising on Instagram and Facebook is all free so that's really good for a small business.
When you have quality products, people go out and wear my pieces and tell their friends. Word of mouth is really a big deal with my brand. I feel like I have an army of people who have my back.
What advice do you give to the upcoming generation of entrepreneurs from marginalized communities?
Have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to go. Don't give up, even though you might want to. You're going to get people saying no to you, so expect that.
There are so many people in this world, and there are bound to be those who like what you're doing.
Give yourself a break.
What can we expect from the future of Courtney Noelle?
Right now, COVID has really shaken the table. A lot of my pieces are for social gatherings and parties and weddings and galas, so all of that has changed in the past couple of months. It really forced me to take a serious look at what I'm doing and designing.
I'm really looking to diversify what I do.
I'm looking to doing some loungewear or outdoor wear that isn't super formal — not all red carpet stuff.
I'm all for wearing red carpet stuff wherever you want. If you want to wear it to Target or whatever, do it. I'm looking to do more about turning Courtney Noelle into a lifestyle brand.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on social media?
Tell us a book you'd recommend.
What charities do you support?
The National Bail Fund is a big one for me.
What is the item in your closet you wear the most?
Grey joggers are a staple.
What is the one haircare product you can't live without?
What is on your nightstand?
I have a journal by Omi Grace, my planner, and all of my nightly face products. I'll do the wash and cleanse in the shower, and the moisturizers and serums and stuff, I'll do as a little self-care routine once I slip into bed.