Fashion and design are at the center of art and culture in today’s world. Just ask Linda Hamilton, owner of Nomad Chic located in both Sonoma, California and in Todos Santos, Baja California. Her search for beautifully imagined and handmade clothing, accessories and home items from around the world keeps her continuously interested in how fashion and design evolve, and how they are a reflection of cultural, social and aesthetic values.
“It all starts with the artist. I believe in helping artisans, especially young designers. I also strive to support women in business.” –Linda Hamilton
When I first happened upon Hamilton’s boutique, I was compelled to enter. This special shop, just in the heart of the vineyard landscape, fit seamlessly into its lush setting. It is not unlike an artisan’s gallery. The clothing, accessories, textiles and items for the home all spoke of intention.
Her selections emphasize why fashion and interior design, even though they occupy a major position in our culture’s economy – and due to this are often looked down upon as an important area of the world of art – cannot be thought of as trivial.
Hamilton explains, “It all starts with the artist. I believe in helping artisans, especially young designers. I also strive to support women in business. For example, my Tanzania friend, who is one of my accessory sources, offers abused women the skills and training needed to survive and thrive.She collaborates with Maasai women to produce and market high-end beaded jewelry using traditional techniques. By bringing these products to international markets, the beading traditions are preserved. This process also helps to sustain the women and their families economically…”
Hamilton also promotes designers from Australia, Bali and Mexico. “I have put on runway shows not just to show fashion, but to also introduce customers to the artist and vice versa. The artist becomes part of the exchange. All of this is complicit in the designer’s success story. These artists extend their success to those in their own communities.”
The majority of her designers are single mothers or artists in need of the first helping hand. Her customers learn about the stories behind the artists, and join in her spirit of women helping women.
Cultural influences from around the world, along with her love of travel, led to Linda’s study of art, design and architecture at the California College of the Arts.
She began her working career as an incentive trip planner for major corporations. She has lived in Bali, Mexico and London. It is easy to see how Linda’s past has influenced her fashion and design choices. Travel challenges us to think about what is beautiful and to abandon prejudices. We widen our scope of acceptability which, in turn, changes us.
Linda does not define travel as escapism, but as inspiration. Time spent in Bali encouraged her love of …“minimalism, free form and the spirit of Zen. I wanted to share my discoveries, and that is why I created Nomad Chic.”
I love bringing interesting designers from various cultures to those of us who may not be able to travel, or may just not know where to find them. I also work with local California artists.
Aside from fashion, her mix of home accessories and furniture pieces – often designed by Hamilton and made by artisans – encourages personal creativity when designing a living space.
Her home in Todos Santos is an example of her love of architecture, the comfort and beauty nature offers and her preference for minimalism. When I asked about balancing trends with style, Hamilton believes that allowing her customers to choose “from all over the world” supports individualism. Trends employ quick change, but the artisan supports a deliberate, slow fashion mindset.
My interest in Hamilton’s support of the artisan reminded me that it is the artist who is often first to spark a trend. They are inspired by what is happening everywhere–in the streets, small neighborhoods and boroughs. Current fashion modifies and exploits the street artist’s ideas.
As a result, dressing is responsible for reflections of social change, and an awareness of cultures outside of our own. Trends make these ideas available.
They are a commentary on our time, just as other forms of art are. They can be revolutionary, controversial, liberating or entertainment.
Hamilton’s choices allow us to play with the first edition of an artisan’s idea, often before it becomes a trend. She happily admits her fifteen-year-old daughter keeps her up on what is current, and she combines the best of trends with the unexpected.
When selecting clothing and accessories, we become artists with the act of choosing from our own closets. Selecting a handmade necklace, bracelet or ring and mixing it with a t-shirt and jeans is an artistic decision. The art of what we wear is as revealing a portrait of who we are as what we say or do.
I asked Hamilton what is next for her. “There are so many possibilities. I would love to expand my business in pop-up locations around the world. It might be in a hotel in Mexico City, or a resort town that reaches many international travelers.”
I can see putting together travel excursions for vacationers who want to explore places they never could find on their own.There may be buying trips with groups, too.
Her Nomad Chic location in Sonoma is a world-renowned destination for fine food and wine. Promoting a new chef with a ‘chef’s night’ dinner at Nomad Chic is another exciting Linda idea.
She adds, “Perhaps my boutique can be used as a space for an artist salon, a place to discover a writer or painter.” When I asked Linda Hamilton what her greatest challenge is, she laughed. “Time. I need more time!”