NONIE's Nina Kharey on 'surreal' moment seeing Meghan Markle in her design: 'I love dressing strong, influential women'

By Meaghan Wray

At a time when most people are just starting their day, Nina Kharey, founder of high-fashion brand NONIE, experienced what she says is a "rare" opportunity. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, stepped out on Tuesday (July 17) in one of her latest creations, bringing yet another Canadian designer to the forefront of global fashion. The moment was unforgettable, and not just for the Calgary native. "My dad was in tears," she told HELLO!.

MORE: Meghan Markle's best looks since joining the Royal Family

Nina was in bed when her phone started wildly sounding off with texts from her publicist at around 6:45 am (MDT). "It was unbelievable; it was really surreal," the former CAFA nominee gushed. "I just started Googling right away and looking, and I was in awe of how she looked. She just looked so amazing it."

The royal had brought back her edgier, pre-wedding sensibility, when she styled her hair in messy buns and pushed the boundaries of how royals typically dress. For her visit to the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition at London's Southbank Centre with Prince Harry, Meghan oozed cool in the NONIE Trench Dress (CA$1,085) – a versatile, made-in-Canada piece that's both classic and unconventional.

But for Nina, the first-generation Canadian and mother to Diya, 5, and one-year-old Prem, this moment is much more than a typical royal outing. "I finally not only get to prove it to the world that I'm worthy of attention and time, but in a way I also proved it to myself and my family," she says. "I have something!" HELLO! caught up with the Calgary based designer to chat the "Meghan effect," the new duchess's changing style, the inspiration behind the Trench Dress and what it means to dress such an influential member of the Royal Family.

Meghan wore the NONIE Sleeveless Trench in pink. Photo: © Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Have you been experiencing the "Meghan Effect"? It’s just been crazy. I was telling my PR that I woke up with [my phone] battery at 100 per cent and by 9 am I had to plug it in because it was dying. My Instagram has blown up, [and] my emails, and I can just imagine how the orders are looking at the moment!

Did Meghan's friend and stylist Jessica Mulroney pull the piece for her to wear? [Jessica has] been a client of a few of my pieces and she’s also a strong advocate for Canadian designers, so I’m sure she showed her my look book and then that’s how it started.

Why is it so amazing to see those two women wearing your designs? They both are amazing women. I love supporting other women and I love dressing strong, influential women and I would love for it to happen again. I am relishing in this; I’m enjoying the moment!

How do your designs fit with Meghan's aesthetic and signature style? I believe in less is more, and I’ve always designed simple pieces – pieces that have longevity in your closet. And it seems like that’s how she dresses as well. She’s very classic, she’s very chic and she’s very well put together with just even one piece. That’s always been my thing with designing. I want whoever is wearing it to feel extremely confident, just by wearing even one of the pieces.

How has Meghan's style changed since joining the Royal Family? I think her style has just been refined. I think that’s natural, [and] that would happen with anyone that goes from being a normal person or an actress to royalty, you’re all of a sudden exposed to so many things, so many designers. Naturally, your style would become more fine-tuned. It’s nice to see that she knows what she likes and she knows what looks good on her.

Nina is the founder of the Canadian label NONIE.

How else could you picture Meghan styling the Trench Dress? Well, the beautiful thing about that piece is that it could be worn open, like a vest, with a dress underneath. It could be worn as a dress, like she has it. You can put it off the shoulder, if you wanted to. There are so many ways to style that one.”

When it comes to designing, what are you inspired by? For that particular piece that she’s wearing, that collection, my inspiration came from my parents’ immigration to Canada. I’ve always been inspired by my Indian heritage, the clothing that I’ve grown up wearing and seeing my mom wear. I was sitting one day looking through old photo albums and I saw pictures of them in the 70s when they came here, and I was just so moved by what my mom was wearing and how they looked and the feelings they must’ve had. That’s how I came up with that collection, with the draping and the bellbottom pants and the big bows.

You source and produce all of your clothes ethically as well. Why is that important to you? I have been educated in what fast fashion is and also how much consumers are consuming at the moment and what it’s doing to the environment. I realized that I’m in an industry that is leading that kind of negativity and I don’t want to be a part of that. I want to make clothes that are made to order so we’re not wasting too much fabric, we’re not wasting a lot of time and resources and I’m giving people things that they can have in their closet literally forever. They can pass it down to their kids. These aren’t statement pieces, they are basic pieces. And they’re handmade in Canada by trained seamstresses.

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