The backbone of Bela Shehu's new line, NINO, is shape. Or maybe it's versatility, or perhaps function. The point is that it's nearly impossible to pinpoint one aspect as the most dominate thread in her work.
The forces that come through in her designs are like some animated trifecta of superheroes, each with its own special badass power — and together they create something unstoppable.
Partially inspired by the stylings of Joan Shepp, NINO is a juxtaposition of boxy and sleek. Curved spines bend the silhouette and push out the back of a jacket or dress. And tubular sleeves — a favorite of Shehu's — make an appearance on many of her tops, boleros and her famous cape, which comes in three different lengths, creating three dramatic stand-alone statements. Try the longer one for ladylike, timeless appeal; the shorter one comes across as casual and youthful; and the teeny, tiny one is playful and sprightly.
"I really wanted to make a few pieces that show how we view apparel, how we view pattern-making," says the local designer. And that's what this line reflects, a bold stance against boring clothes and dull shapes. Oh, and the "we" Shehu is referring to is herself, two interns and a handful of seamstresses. That's the entire team. That's all it takes to make a line of 45 pieces and styles that are cohesive, sexy and strong. So keep your eyes peeled for boutiques stocking duds from the NINO line. My hunch? It won't be long before you see Philadelphians decorating the sidewalks draped in capes, like Jackie Os for the modern millennium. For more information, visit shehu.net.