Nomad Atelier wool gabardine parka (£700), sandwashed silk and lace vest (£395), and jersey leggings (£195).

Nomad Atelier wool gabardine parka (£700), sandwashed silk and lace vest (£395), and jersey leggings (£195).

A few weeks ago, a TV production company landed at The Tobacco Warehouse to start filming on the upcoming BBC documentary, 1966. What was just as interesting as the doco’s subject matter (a potted local social history as viewed through 50 years of creativity in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire) was the reaction of female crew members who had stumbled across the Nomad Atelier collection on the first floor. “I want everything!” declared one of the team in an loud whisper. “I’ve never found a shop where I want everything before but look at these… and these…”

As Nomad Atelier’s latest fan got stuck into a pile of cashmere sweaters, holding each one of them up against her body and admiring their effect in the mirror, she suddenly stopped dead in her tracks; her face betraying the shock of the ‘penny’ which had just ‘dropped’. “We’ve got one of those small box rooms converted into a walk-in wardrobe at home, and it’s just filled-to-the-brim with stuff that me and my husband never wear. I feel like clearing everything out and starting all over again. Yes! It’s time for a new look and all I want to wear are these clothes.”

She isn’t the only one making such declarations. As winter begrudgingly bids us adieu, talk of ‘spring cleaning’ filters through every conversation whether it be health, finance, love life or career. And as we all know, detoxing your life starts with the wardrobe and a clear-out of those guilty reminders of a diet/gym routine that we never stuck to (i.e. clothes that no longer fit) or a life of glamour that seems a memory (that’s most of my wardrobe). “One of the things I’ve discovered is that we only wear approximately 10% of the clothes that we have in our wardrobe,” says Rita Britton, seemingly unfazed by the squeals of excitement that continue to be heard from the TV people. “What you need are the building blocks that everything else works around; like the Nomad Atelier cashmere sweaters which work with everything from jeans and work trousers to our longer skirts which people like to wear for evening. I have four of those sweaters because I wear them all the time and you can just chuck them in the washing machine. They don’t bobble.”

Nomad Atelier sandwashed silk classic shirt (£450), sandwashed silk wide leg wrap trouser (£495) and snakeskin Clutch bag (£895).

Nomad Atelier sandwashed silk classic shirt (£450), sandwashed silk wide leg wrap trouser (£495) and snakeskin clutch bag (£895).

And yet distilling your wardrobe down to those essentials which flatter your body and work with your lifestyle is a skill that few of us rarely perfect. (Like packing a capsule wardrobe for a holiday — nightmare!) As Britton points out, the odds are stacked against us the minute we step into a shop: “Most sales assistants are paid on commission because their basic salary is so bad, so the customer doesn’t have a trusted advisor and are probably going to be encouraged to buy a lot of stuff that they don’t need. With Nomad Atelier, it’s all about keeping the clothes simple, beautifully cut and made in exquisite fabrics so that they look as good in 15 years time as they did on the day that you bought them.”

Cue Britton’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection, some of which can be seen in the pictures here: easy-breezy, drop-waisted dresses and wide leg wrap trousers of washed silk; sporty vests with flattering panels of lace, and a utilitarian lightweight parka of wool gabardine woven in West Yorkshire. “When I design I always think of Jean Muir who was a brilliant designer of her time,” says Britton, citing Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, Mary Quant and Ossie Clark as other style heroes. “Every single one of her designs that ever made it to sample stage would be put through its paces. She would walk around in it; walk up and down the stairs in it; get in and out of the car in it. She made sure that all the things that a woman wearing it needed to do could be done — unhindered. I’ve made that my working practice. Today, I’m wearing one of our new skirts and already know what alterations need to be made to improve it.”

A flurry of Nomad Atelier seamstresses rush in and out with garments that have been tweaked — hem lengths altered, shoulder proportions adjusted — ready for a client who has a personal shopping appointment. “We don’t even know if she will buy any of these pieces but when she tries them on, every piece will fit her perfectly,” says Britton whose reputation for top notch customer service goes hand-in-hand with that as a champion of avant-garde design.

Nomad Atelier drop waist dress (£395) and Pedro Garcia boots (TBC).

Nomad Atelier drop waist dress (£395) and Pedro Garcia boots (available to order).

Such ‘personalisation’ brings to mind the golden age of haute couture when couture clients would know exactly which outfit had been designed with them in mind, from the choice of model wearing it to the proportions of the garment itself. But Britton compares what she does to that of a trusted coiffeur: “It’s about retaining clients because they can trust you, just like a hairdresser. With a Josh Wood or a Russell Eaton you can sit down and relax because you know that they know you, your lifestyle, and what your hair needs. They know exactly what colour your roots should be; talk you out of a bad idea and talk you into a good idea. Would you expect that kind of knowledge and understanding if you walked into a large run-of-the-mill hairdressers where they churn clients out like a factory? Of course not.”

As filming draws to a close, the documentary’s presenter (an acclaimed Leeds-based scriptwriter and actress) sneaks off set to try on Nomad Atelier’s black leather biker jacket. “How cool is this? I want to wear it to a function that I have to go to tonight,” she says with that unmistakable note of excitement that occurs when you discover what Yves Saint Laurent called ‘the very thing you never knew you wanted’. “This takes me right back to 1966 with all the mods and the rockers. How fantastic!”

Britton nods: “If you look at a style icon like James Dean, with his black biker jacket, white T-shirt and 501 jeans he still looks as good today as he did back then. That’s what I want from Nomad Atelier: timeless style that anybody of any age can wear. Nomad Atelier is not about age; it’s about mentality. It’s about the food you eat; the music you listen to; the arts you are interested in. So I design for a woman like myself whether she’s in her 30s, 50s, 70s or 90s.”

Enough said.