Every morning Nina Kharey wakes up with two passions in mind; two passions that little by little have formed her up to the woman she is today; two passions that are different from each other but are also the best complement. This woman who was born in Canada, of parents who emigrated from India, describes herself as a "strong, persistent person who knows what she wants and who will not give up until she finds a way to achieve that."
This can be seen in Kharey's day-to-day life as the founder and designer of NONIE, a clothing brand that in less than five years has managed to position itself nationally and internationally.
It all started thanks to her family, which is why Kharey feels so much love and passion for them. Since childhood she was always very close to them; in fact, her relationship with her brother was one of the aspects that most impacted her as a person.
“At one point, he was pretty much my only friend when I was little,” she says. “We had a very strong relationship and he was very protective with me until the day he died.”
It was that day in January 2005, in which a shot ended the life of her brother Jaspreet, when she decided that her life needed a change.
“It really pushed me to be the best version of myself and in order to do that, I really had to do what I love and where my passions are, so I have to thank him for what am I today,” she says.
Kharey graduated from the University of Calgary as an engineer and, in fact, worked at it for a few years. During this time, NONIE was just a hobby. However, in 2016 — eight years after the brand first launched — Nina quit her engineering job and dedicated herself to full-time fashion design. This, because “one thing was the whole part of that ‘I need to do what I want to do with my life’, and also because I was very naturally just drawn into the clothing style of things.”
The truth is that since she was in school she accompanied her dad, who had a knitting factory, to work and he showed her the entire process behind creating something out of a piece of cloth. She remembers an anecdote that made her realize that designing clothes was for her.
“I got a box of scraps from my dad one day, and I was just playing around and instead of pretending to be the model wearing the clothes, I started to pretend I was the person making the clothes and designing them," she says.
NONIE was born as a way to feel peace after the unexpected news of her brother’s death — but also as a way to inspire other women.
“I believe in equality, I believe in love, I believe in all that good stuff, so I just want the person wearing my clothes to feel inspired to live the best version of their lives as well," she says.
As for her designs, Kharey bets on the quality of her garments and the classic styles that never have an expiration date. She does not follow trends because there is the purpose of "always look classy, chic and well-put- together."
Jamelie Bachaalani, marketing coordinator and content writer at PARK (Promoting Artists Redefining Kulture), (a fashion consortium of emerging Calgary designers that Kharey is part of), describes Kharey's designs as "minimal and effortless with a twist of Eastern inspiration; NONIE is about ease, sophistication and confidence."
This vision is the one that has made notable people interested in her brand, not only in the country, but also outside of it. Bachaalani says that, “there are so many amazing, talented designers and creators living in Canada and NONIE is really highlighting that on an international platform. She’s bringing a lot of attention to Canada’s fashion scene.”
Barbara Artkin, at that time V.P. Fashion Director of Holt Renfrew, became her mentor for her first collection.
“I got her on the phone and we just start to talk and she invites me to her Toronto office to show her my collection, and she told me that she see talent on me, and that she sees something to pursuit, and in that moment I decided that I was going for it.”
That all led, in the summer of 2018, to the remarkable experience of having Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, wear her pink sleeveless trench coat dress for the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition at the Southbank Centre. This specific event has been one of the most memorable, because “when you think of the Royal Family, you think that the Royal members just wear probably the best for themselves, so to have that stamp of approval means a lot to me.”
Most recently, her run of success ended with the two New York Fashion Week events which allowed her to live an awakening dream.
“There are some times that I have to slow down and kind of remind myself that this isn’t a dream and that this is actually happening,” she says. “And also take a moment to realize that I’m very blessed of being available to do what I do.”
Recently Kharey was nominated for various awards, and her designs have toured several catwalks. From Bachaalani's perspective, the future for the brand is heading towards “Paris Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week."
"NONIE is just getting started," she says. "The brand is definitely gaining more and more recognition.”
Behind the designer there is also a person who still wants to learn and generate impact.
"A lot of growth is happening for me on the business side and on the company side, and also just personally learning more about myself and what I am capable of," Kharey says.
So much so, that Kharey is currently involved in a program with the Calgary police to help children in troubled neighborhoods, so that they can realize that life in gangs will not bring them any good.
“If I can just save one family for going into what we went through, that would be enough for me," she says.
Nina Kharey is the living demonstration that when you do something you love for the right reasons, the results do not take too long to arrive.
- By Maria Alejandra Chaparro