Noemie Jouas, a third-year student studying Management at the University of St Andrews, received her first sewing machine when she was sixteen and immediately started sewing as a hobby.
Since then, five years have passed and Ms Jouas hasn’t stopped sewing,creating countless garments to wear for herself.
This passion for sewing led to the founding of Noé Dresses, a business that designs and creates customised dresses for students in St Andrews and around the world.
The business began solely from Ms Jouas’ devotion to creating garments. Earnestly, she told The Saint, “I’d love to say that my business emerged from noticing a gap in the market and wanting to make a large profit from it, but I simply love creating fashion pieces.”
The past year has been a busy one for Ms Jouas. In between her second and third year at St Andrews, the young entrepreneur attended the School of Fashion Design at Boston, which she “loved every minute of.” She also continued to make costumes for theatre shows and took on her very first client.
Ms Jouas told The Saint some of the difficulties she has faced since establishing Noé Dresses, such as ‘ridiculously high’ overhead costs and overwhelming admin work.
“Starting a business isn’t easy, to say the least. Since I am starting off alone as a small business, I’m nowhere near making a profit on a monthly basis. I think a lot of people say this when working on bigger projects, but there’s a lot of admin work.”
These trialling elements of entrepreneurship serve as a testament to Ms Jouas’ love of creating garments. She explained that her website alone took her a couple of weeks to build and that each post on her Instagram page takes hours to put together.
Ms Jouas also lamented the difficulties she faces emerging on the fashion market not only as a sole trader, but as part of a minority, being a student entrepreneur.
“I aim to be as professional as possible but its difficult doing it all alone. I truly wish there was someone who had done something similar who I could go to for advice, but I didn’t know anyone like that, so I had to figure it out all on my own.”
Ms Jouas hopes that she can act as someone who can share advice and guidance for other students and young people who want to start their own businesses.
One of the issues that Ms Jouas is trying to combat with her business is that of fast fashion. She said, “When talking about sustainability, there’s a lot of talk about cutting down on meat consumption, using less plastic and consuming dairy alternatives, but I think that fast fashion is often absent in this conversation.“
The majority of dresses I’ve made for myself over the past two years have been made of sustainable sources; curtains, table cloths and duvet covers that I find cheaply in charity shops.”
Ms Jouas gave some examples of how her garments are made with sustainability in mind and explained that her recent Marilyn Monroe dress (pictured) was made from Morrisons bed sheets she found at a second-hand shop. The outfit Ms Jouas wore to Starfields, a St Andrews festival-style event which took place at the end of Freshers’ Week, was made from one-pound bed sheets from Marks and Spencers that she found at a thrift sale.
“These cheaper and more sustain-able options are definitely something I am going to encourage my customers to take on as well.”
Known for its abundance of fashion enterprises, business opportunities in St. Andrews have come Ms Jouas’ way this year. She hopes these projects will boost her exposure and attract more customers to her business.
“During this academic year, I’ve got the incredible opportunity to work with a fashion show in St Andrews. It’s the first time I’ll be working with a bigger group and thus have less control of what I do.”
Accustomed to working solo, Ms Jouas reflects on the experience of joining a larger enterprise.
“I was a little nervous at first, but it’s nice working for a structured organisation, being able to bounce ideas off others and feel validated by their approval. They have given me so much creative freedom and this will also give me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and design garments that I wouldn’t have on my own. To say I’m excited to start working on this is an understatement.”
As well as being a full-time student and entrepreneur, Ms Jouas also juggles the demanding role of Costume Officer in Mermaids, the theatre and production initiative in St Andrews.
When asked how she balances making costumes for shows, university work and growing a business, Ms Jounas simply answered, “I don’t.”
She explained that she often must sacrifice seeing her friends for months on end, suffer sleepless nights or skip lectures as a means of getting her work done.
Ms Jouas offered three of her own goals in managing her time this year.
“Sleep enough and eat breakfast.Basic advice but it’s the best I’ve ever got. Don’t work too hard to burn yourself out. Have a method of set-ting boundaries. I’ve limited my customers to two a month. On weeks that I know I have less university work, I can take on a couple more clients and on tougher months, I’ll only have two dresses to make. It’s definitely not a fool proof plan but I’m never going to find a perfect balance and I’m okay with that, I just need to keep trying.”
When further outlining her goals for Noè Dresses, Ms Jouas explained that she wants to show people that it is possible to be at university while simultaneously following your dreams.
She talked of the privilege students share when they attend a University where they can be educated yet have access to time and resources needed to achieve other aspirations.
“I think it’s important to take advantage of it. I think a lot about the strong women that break stereotypes and do incredible work in male dominated industries. I really look up to them and hope that one day I can be someone like that too.”
Upon finishing the interview, Ms Jouas sincerely wished that sharing her experience as a student entrepreneur – embarking on an often taxing adventure doing what she loves – inspires other to “use what they have to step out of their com-fort zone and achieve great things.”