The music starts, the stage brightens, and the first model strides into the spotlight. As the audience enjoys the show, the designer watches from the wings. The weeks of preparation are finally paying off. By working from the moment her eyes open in the morning until her head hits the pillow at night, Nicole Snobelen is making her dreams come true.
The 24-year-old designer behind the fashion line Evelynn has been working in her London, Ontario apartment designing dresses full-time for 2 years. She would make and wear her own clothes, hoping to attract customers for her unique designs when she worked at The London Tap House, a bar in London, later renamed Hideaway. Many of the other staff and bar goers would admire her clothes. After the initial success she started her business in September 2013 with only $100. She had to sew during all her free time when she wasn’t working at the bar.
Snobelen faced health issues that limited the time she could spend working for her new business. She was diagnosed with endometriosis in January 2013 and celiac in January 2015. Endometriosis occurs when tissue that normally grows inside the uterus – endometrial tissue – grows outside of it. As the tissue thickens and breaks down, as it would in a normal menstrual cycle, the tissue outside of the uterus has no way to escape the body and becomes trapped, causing intense pelvic pain. Celiac disease is caused by a hypersensitivity to gluten in the small intestine that leads to difficulty in digesting food.
“Celiac really only affects what I can eat but endometriosis would stop me from working.” Snobelen has to deal excessive pain in her daily life and even with treatment the pain can persist, as it is incurable. “When I was working a lot, all the hours affected my health and I was tired all the time. I couldn’t do much and so I couldn’t work on my business a lot.” Now Snobelen works full time in her business and has improved her quality of life. “Doing what I love has changed my health. It makes me feel a lot better and I am able to determine my own schedule to fit with my needs.”
Snobelen is able to maintain this positive attitude against all adversity thanks in part to all the support she has received from family and friends “Its hard to say who my biggest supporter has been. It’s hard to just pick one. I have Andy, my boyfriend; Jenny my bestfriend; Shannon, my photographer and bestfriend; my models; and my parents. Andy has been with me since the beginning and he comes to all my events but so does Shannon.” All of her volunteers and customers who supported her from the beginning also keep her going. “The people who have been there from the beginning who worked for free like Shannon and a lot of my models. They really supported me even when the quality of my work was very different.” She jokingly adds, “I can’t believe I sold stuff back then.”
In order to develop her company, Snobelen turned to social media to market her items. “I used Facebook and social media to build my business, to make myself known. In the beginning it was how I would sell my designs.” However, as one of her newest models, Jessica Stuber, notes, “Even with the help of technology, advertising is still really hard for her small business. It is hard to grab people’s attention.” Thankfully this difficulty has not stopped Snobelen and social media continues to play an important role in attracting a larger customer base for her. You can find Evelynn on everything from Facebook to Snapchat to Instagram. Sharing photos of her new designs from fashion shows, photo shoots, and even of her own customers wearing the items. Most notably, she recently shared a photo of Meg Maley, star of Big Brother U.S., wearing an Evelynn original on Instagram.
Snobelen also organizes multiple fashion shows a year to exhibit her work. Every show she does takes lots of preparation: picking the outfits and accessories for the models to wear, creating inventory to sell at her booth and pricing the items, organizing volunteers to model and take pictures, planning the runway walks including rehearsals, and setting up the booth for the big day. Without the help of numerous volunteers, the shows would not be possible. “I’m the only seamstress but I have lots of other responsibilities for my company to function. I have to really manage my time really well since I also have to design everything and do all the marketing and promotions for my company. But I have a lot of great people that I work with so that really helps.”
The great people she works with recognize that Snobelen is a special boss. Stephanie Brannigan, director of models for Evelynn, loves working for Snobelen. “It’s fun and inspiring. She makes working with her easy.” For Brannigan, as well as many other Evelynn staff members, working with Nicole is more about friendship than anything else. As Brannigan gushes, “The best part of this whole experience is that I made a new best friend in Nicole. I’ve also been able to network like crazy and all the friends you make through her are amazing and I’ve met so many great connections through her. She is now the godmother for my daughter.” Nicole is also the designer of choice for Nicole’s model, Jessica Stuber. “I have modeled for three other designers but they don’t have as much of a relationship with their models so she is for sure my
favourite to work with. She treats everyone like friends, not just employees.”
While developing her company, Snobelen allows her friends to flourish in their own endeavours as well. Shannon McCabe is the resident photographer for Evelynn. She has developed her own business through the Evelynn line. “Working for Nicole allows me to express my own creativity at the same time. She supports my creativity.” With the support of Snobelen, McCabe has been able to improve her photography skills and network with possible clients. Jenny Cowley, videographer and model, expressed similar sentiments. “I have the opportunity to network with other businesses while improving my portfolio and skills in the media industry.” Snobelen’s company offers opportunities to these young women to develop along side her.
Evelynn is really about empowering women and fostering friendships as much as it is about fashion. Nicole has hired a wide variety of models to wear her clothes. Her models, including Brikena Qamili, appreciate the acceptance of varied body types. “The line is made for all shapes and sizes. I am proud to be a part of a company that celebrates all women. There is too much body shaming so it is nice to see something that is trying to change the stereotypes even if it is just in a small part.” Model and Stylist, Sara Haney, describes the line as everyday chic. “It’s not just a runway thing, it looks good on every single body type.”
On top of all her hard work building her business, Nicole also uses her design skills to give back and empower young girls. A year into her company, Snobelen created her own charity, The Abby Girl Fund. She raises money to make dresses for girls who are sick or in the hospital. “I have always wanted to help people. It started with just giving away free dresses around Christmas to people who couldn’t afford them, but then I started a kids line called Abby Girl and last year I started giving away dresses to sick kids.” Overwhelmed by the nominations for recipients, Snobelen started the Abby Girl Fund to raise money for the dresses. “At the time I started, I could only afford to make three dresses. Then I started my fund. At first it was just a jar where I added money whenever I could.” Snobelen then hosted a charity fashion show in her hometown of Blenheim with the goal to raise $1,500. She ended up raising $5,000. “I was not expecting that at all. At the fashion show, people started crying in the audience. It was nice that they felt what I was doing.” Now, because of the generosity of her community, Snobelen is facing the opposite issue: finding little girls to give the dresses to. “This upcoming year, our goal is to design and create 100 dresses to be donated to children in hospitals.” The Abby Girl Fund is very dear to her heart and she loves being able to see the girls’ faces when she can finally give them their dresses. “I like that it can take them out of their situation for a bit.”
Snobelen is a generous, hardworking, and positive person, which is obviously clear to anyone who has met her. The obstacles Snobelen has faced have not seemed to faze her. From broken sewing machines, to last minute model dropouts, to music and light issues at the venues, Snobelen has overcome it all. She has a different standard of living than most people. “I’ve had to sacrifice having a steady income, not knowing how much I will be making each month. I miss out on some fun stuff because I’m constantly working on my business. For me, it’s worth it though to follow my dream of having my own fashion line. Hard to say I am giving anything up when I get to wake up and do what I love everyday.”
As her fashion show ends, Snobelen makes sure to give every model a hug to let them know how much she values their help. She is a woman who works hard everyday but doesn’t forget about all the people helping her along the way. She knows that reaching her dreams takes more than hard work. It takes passion, love, and friends, everything Evelynn represents.
Shannon McCabe Photography