Women in Charles Nolan

Photo: Brian Doben

4 of 8
Charles Nolan
Some people might be too haughty to admit they once worked for a corporate outfit. Not Nolan (who designed for Anne Klein and Ellen Tracy): "It taught me to put the customer first." That conviction—plus lashings of sincerity, authority, and romance—informs his four-year-old label, which channels, but never copies, the nonchalant charm of America's sportswear tradition. 

Why You'll Like His Look
It has cross-generational appeal "I make pieces that a 20-year-old and an 80-year-old can wear," says the designer. Ghylian Bell, 44, once went after the same jacket as Nolan's chic, practically ageless mother-in-law—at a sample sale.

The ease factor Clothes are closely fitted at the rib cage rather than at the waist, where anything tight can pinch. Bonus: The raised focus makes petite women look taller.

Meticulous detail Nolan is a perfectionist, yet his collection doesn't look fussy. It's modern, streamlined—no unnecessary doodads.

Clothes with modesty and dignity "Charles and I both come from big Irish-American families," Kerry Kennedy says. "His clothes are feminine and sexy, but you'd be comfortable wearing them in front of a nun...or your mother."

The fits are democratic Nolan's designs work for size 2 or 12–14; for the tall or small. "That's my definition of real success," he says.