CARTE BLANCHE: What's in the Name & Why Monica Chose to Stray From The Traditional Fashion Model

 Photo (c) Eva Sakellarides.

Photo (c) Eva Sakellarides.

One-on-One with Monica Noh: Behind the Brand.

Q: Where did the inspiration for your brand name Carte Blanche come from?

A: Carte Blanche is a really important idea for me, and it really underlies every major decision or pivot I’ve made in my life. It’s the idea of having the freedom to make your own rules: to re-examine or question the way things are done and change what isn’t working. I love fashion, but there’s so much in the process of designing and manufacturing clothing that we can improve.

Q: What are all the jobs/internships/volunteering you've had that has led you up to this point in your career?

A: I've definitely had an odd trajectory for a fashion designer. I thought there was something wrong with me when the majority of my classmates at Parsons were applying for summer internships at high-end luxury brands, and I just didn't share that enthusiasm. I was more obsessed with getting to Barcelona to see Antonio Gaudi’s architecture, or studying French in Paris. That sounds insanely pretentious, I know, but I think that’s the curious and romantic side of me that had a big influence on my choices and probably still does.

After I graduated from Parsons, I spent a few years designing knitwear at a large fashion company and eventually got burnt out on the 15-hours days that were spent largely on Excel and e-mail and not very creative at all. I think every fashion designer goes through this reality check and either makes the choice to accept it, leave the industry, or strike out on their own.

After that I really felt the need to remove myself from that world for a while and regain inspiration in a completely different environment. I signed up for WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in France, and spent the following year and a half on a farm learning to speak French, make bread, cheese, wine, grow fruits and vegetables. It was so new and exciting and I learned so much. Even now when things get tough, I remind myself of that time and I think 'Hey, you survived a year without your friends, a cell phone, or hot running water. You can do this."

Coming back to New York, I knew I wanted to return to fashion but in a very different capacity. I spent a year or so freelancing here and there, and grew really inspired by what was happening in the tech industry so I started following lots of tech news and blogs. I felt strongly about finding a way to make fashion and technology meet in a way that felt authentic and innovative to me, and that’s when I started working on Carte Blanche.