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Tiffany Thompson, a local studio manager and Noland customer, says the clothing isn't for everyday wear. It's more of a sartorial Paxil.
"The only time I would wear it on a regular day was if I'm really trying to lift my spirits," Thompson says. "Wearing her clothes, you feel a little brighter. If I'm needing a lift, or if I want to be a little outrageous, I'll wear one of her bodysuits."
Still, a designer doesn't land a show during Fashion Week by sewing alone in her bedroom. Fashion is a business that hinges on the blood sport of networking and grinding through small shows. It's a game that Noland knows well, having worn the "up and coming" label like a noose or a medal since Women's Wear Daily included her work in a trend-forecasting article in May 2007.
Noland's path to a 2010 Fashion Week show was cut in 2007 when Noland met Kathy Grayson, who was working as a curator at the now defunct Deitch Projects gallery in New York.
"We had dinner, and Peggy said she would send me something in the mail, and I didn't believe it. Because in New York, people say that all the time, and they never do," Grayson recalls. "But a week later, I got a pair of scratch-and-sniff tights in the mail that really smelled like apples. They were fantastic."
After Deitch Projects closed, Grayson opened a gallery called The Hole and invited Cody Critcheloe, the Kansas City filmmaker and singer for the band Ssion, to hold an art show. She also asked Noland to join him with a pop-up shop.
A veteran of the fickle New York art scene, Grayson says Noland offers something different. "The fashion world is full of people who are uptight and snooty," Grayson says. "She can breathe fresh life into a boring and repetitive parade of Vogue-approved designs."
Noland's clothes had already appeared in Vogue, but the promise of a New York debut wasn't lost on her. While she prepared, Critcheloe asked if she would style a music video — as she had for Ssion in the past — which he'd been hired to direct for the band Gossip. The group was set to release its major-label debut and had a budget for a location shoot.
"The opportunities get bigger," Noland says of her work with Critcheloe. "I've done many things like this, but I've never had to go to L.A. to do a video shoot for a band."
Noland also benefited this summer from a longtime friendship with artist Peregrine Honig, who gained national attention as the runner-up on the Bravo reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Honig, who owns Birdies Panties two doors from Noland's shop, wore Noland's clothes on the show and worked her friend's name into several interviews.
When style paragon Sarah Jessica Parker complimented Honig on the maroon-and-pink cocktail dress that she wore to the show's finale party, Honig name-dropped Noland again. "It is a very fine night when Sarah Jessica Parker asks who made your 'amazing' dress and a girl can say, 'Peggy Noland,' " Honig wrote on her Facebook page.
Besides Honig, Critcheloe and a few customers such as Thompson, Noland hasn't found the retail success in Kansas City that she has elsewhere. She says her store has never done much business.
"I've never really made money out of Kansas City," she says. "I always say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere because you've found a way to help yourself stick around." Only a small sector of the market is eager to wear her clothes, she says. "That's why it seems like a novelty here, and only a novelty here."