Nora Petersen

November 2, 2021

Nora Petersen is a multi-disciplinary designer residing in Los Angeles, California. Their focus is primarily on shapes, form, and subtle details. Taking a more playful approach to their design practice, Nora blends the peculiar qualities of their clothing and objects with universal shapes that encourage everyday use. Nora graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies specializing in Design of Architecture, Landscape, and Urbanism. Their work highlights the cross-functional capabilities of design, emphasizing repurposed materials and their coexistence within urban environments.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
My name is Nora and I am a clothing and (aspiring) industrial designer. I finished my undergraduate degree in architecture earlier this year and started my own business selling the items I make.

How did you begin making clothes?
I learned how to sew when I was in about 3rd grade, and I made myself a couple skirts back then. After that I didn’t sew much, I just altered a few thrifted clothing items in high school to fit me better, and when I moved to university, I didn’t have a sewing machine. I finally got one from a thrift store about two years ago, and made myself a few shirts and a tote bag.

Petersen in her “Twisted Shirt” and Shorts.

You are a major proponent of minimalism. How would you describe your philosophy toward buying and owning objects?

I believe I am more of a proponent of individualism when it comes to design. I’ve always encouraged others to cultivate their own taste. Minimalism just happens to be at the center of my interest / practice so I’ve defended it a lot, but I wouldn’t say I’ve tried to convert anyone to it. When I buy things I make sure it is something I truly need, it fits in with my other things, and the price is worth it. There’s lots of things out there that I like, but it doesn’t mean I should buy it. If I don’t use or wear something any more, I sell it, even if I don’t dislike it.

Who do you make your objects for?

I make objects for anyone. Right now I only have 2 available- clothing baskets and an incense holder, and I don’t feel like they are confined to any particular style. I want to make objects that can fit in a variety of homes and don’t cater to a specific audience. That way they’ll be used longer and won’t grow boring when trends change. The same goes for my clothing. I love seeing my pieces being used in lots of different spaces.

Single Stem Vase/Incense Holder by Nora Petersen

What role has social media played in the development of your design practice?

I kind of owe everything to social media. I currently sell what I make to my followers. I gained the following I have through making educational architecture and design related TikTok videos. I probably put hundreds of hours into doing research, writing, and engaging with my followers, so there’s a lot of work behind it all(although sometimes I diminish it to “being lucky with the algorithm”).

Portrayals of yourself with your works are a central part of your image-making process. What does it mean for you to wear your clothes?

Everything I design is something I want to wear myself. I want people to see that I’m not just designing what I think other people would wear or buy. I also think it represents my business because I make everything myself at home and I want my followers to know that it’s just me and not some large brand or corporation. I think that helps build a more meaningful relationship with the garments I make.

Petersen wearing the “Twisted Shirt”.

Can you talk about the incorporation of ‘universal shapes’ in your works?

I’m drawn to the simplicity of universal forms. I don’t think design needs to be embellished by overly decorative qualities, sometimes it takes away from the form. I like to highlight the beauty of “simple” shapes. Just because something is visually “interesting” doesn’t mean it’s a good design.

How do you see your design practice expanding in the future?

I would love to have the opportunity to work on larger projects like furniture, as well as collaborate with different designers.

Detail of the button closure of the “Twisted Shirt”.

What role does materiality play in your work?

Material plays a huge role in my work because texture is very important to me. I’ve spent a lot of time trying out different fabrics for my clothes to make sure they work well with the design because I want to make sure it’s something people actually want to wear. As for the incense holder, I love concrete and I love brutalism and I wanted to explore working with concrete. It’s usually just a backdrop, so I like the idea of using it on a smaller scale and turning it from utilitarian to decorative.

Papier-Mâché Baskets by Nora Petersen.

What do you have planned for 2022?

So far the only thing I have planned is a move to New York City. I don’t like to think about the future too far ahead, right now I just take things a few weeks at a time. I think my short term goals are to look into having some clothing produced so I have the time to work on more intricate designs.

Interview conducted by Joan Roach and Sam Dybeck.

Interview edited by Sam Dybeck.