Fashioning a colorful little white shirt
The classic white shirt is fashion’s heroine. It can be worn with jeans for a casual look, dressed up with a suit, even made formal with a ball gown–remember Sharon Stone on the 1998 Oscar’s red carpet in a lilac Vera Wang evening skirt with a Gap button shirt, belonging to her husband? It was a style a coup that had Hollywood abuzz. This little white button down shirt became a wardrobe staple, and still is today.
Tell us a little about each of your fashion backgrounds. Did you study design or art?
Eve: We met on the very first day of our freshman year at the Rhode Island School of Design. We were waiting in line to get our dorm room assignments. We both speak quickly and we immediately began a rapid lifelong discussion about art and design!
Jill: Eve studied textile design as an undergraduate while I studied printmaking. We both got some experience with hand silkscreening which is the same process we use to print our fabric now! Little did we know back then that we were laying the groundwork for NF!
What’s the story behind the name, Norval Finkelstein?
Eve: Norval Finkelstein is a combination of our mothers maiden names. When we first put Norval and Finkelstein together we cracked up laughing and thought it sounded ridiculous!
Jill: We also love how Norval Finkelstein sounds like a fictional character! We imagine them alternately as an old-school artisanal tailor or as our style muse. Sometimes we ask ourselves, “Would Norval wear that?”
What inspired you to give the classic white button down shirt a makeover?
Eve: A few years ago we realized the classic button-down had become like a uniform for us. Button-downs were a wardrobe staple for most of our friends both male and female.
Jill: We chose to reimagine this classic item because of its ubiquity. There is a familiarity and an ease to wearing one. Almost everyone has one in their closet and everybody rocks it a little differently. Also, the white cotton fabric is the perfect blank canvas for our bright prints.
What is the process for creating the designs on each shirt?
Jill: True to our art school roots our design process starts in our studio painting and drawing with ink, pencils, and crayons.
Eve: We amass a pile of sketches and then look for ones that resonate with one another to create a theme. Our two newest patterns were both inspired by the gritty New York City pavement.
Which design is your most popular?
Eve: Right now, it’s our pattern Pinto in the color Ink.
Jill: All of our prints are available in our Ink color. We love this almost-black shade of blue! It has the boldness of black but with more depth and personality.
If you could dress someone in your shirts, past or present, real or fictional, who would it be and why?
Jill: No one rocks a button-down shirt better than Patti Smith. I would love to see her in ours. And Lana del Rey, she has incredible style!
Eve: Michelle and Barack Obama! I’d feel like my work as a designer was complete if I saw them in our shirts.
What do you like to do when you’re not designing?
Eve: When not working on NF, Jill and I see countless art exhibits at galleries and museums around every neighborhood in New York City. We never manage to make it to them all.
Jill: After all that arting and walking, Eve and I usually sit down for a glass of wine–or two. and we usually discuss whatever books we are currently reading. Now that summer is on the way, we are likely to be planning our next trip to a local beach.
What’s next for Norval Finkelstein? Will you eventually include dresses, pants, etc.?
Eve: NF is a shirt company so more shirts are definitely in our future. Some of the ideas we have been tossing around are denim shirts, bleached prints, and florals.
Jill: More patterns are around the corner.
Can you share tips on styling a button down shirt?
Jill: Our customers are an endless source of inspiration for how to style a button down shirt. One female customer wears our basic white shirt buttoned up to the top and then pops the collar straight up for a very dramatic look. I personally love to wear my button-downs open over my swimsuit with my huge beach tote and flip flops.
Eve: One male customer shared photos with us of him wearing his teal NF shirt with a jean jacket at brunch, and then the same shirt worn with a suit jacket and tie for a wedding party. I loved seeing our shirt worn casually and formally by the same person. A friend showed up to dinner the other night wearing an NF shirt underneath a sleeveless dress. I am excited to copy that look!