These Manhattan Beach-made dresses are always a perfect fit

The South Bay embraces the talents of dressmaker Sis Noukhay with a perfect fit.

Written by Tanya Monaghan  |  Photographed by Lauren Pressey

It was two years ago that I first walked into the doors of Sis Noukhay’s boutique, Greigh Goods, in Downtown Manhattan Beach. She had just opened. I remember it vividly because she was actually sewing at her sewing machine at the cash wrap when I walked in.

She popped up to greet me, and I learned quickly that this very talented woman had sewn the entire collection in her store. I was floored by her talents and walked out knowing that I had just experienced something new and different. This was a story I needed to share.

I sat down with Sis to find out more about her journey. When she was growing up she thought she was going to be a doctor; she never entertained being in the arts. She actually started at UCLA as a biology major studying pre-med on the track to medical school.

Her introduction to sewing came from watching her stepmother. She took it on as a hobby and was basically self-taught. She went to vintage stores to repurpose things. She would make costumes and clothing for herself or for her dolls.

Fast-forward to college, where she felt stuck—not really enjoying her studies. She said she was really lucky to be surrounded by friends who encouraged her to change course and pursue fashion design.

The real push came later, however, when Sis was injured in a car accident and was unable to work at her job at a doctor’s office. She went on to FIDM, graduated and got her foot in the door as a fabric purchaser for a clothing company.

It was later as a design assistant where she got the opportunity to create a collection for a contemporary label. The sales team loved what she had produced. That helped Sis get the recognition she needed, and she quickly got promoted. She went on to design for many different companies.

It was during one of her breaks that she reached the next level. She was helping a friend at a retail store in Venice Beach. Her designer friend would produce her own stuff and then sell it in her own store. The light switched on for Sis.

She had always been on the distribution or wholesale side, but this opened up a whole new concept to her. She could make her own clothes, have her own showcase storefront and sell directly to the consumer. She loved the idea of a direct relationship with her own customers.

There was no simple formula … her road to find her perfect space was very circuitous. She was designing for her own aesthetic, and it was a real challenge to find the perfect marketplace for her store. What appealed to her about Manhattan Beach was the laid-back and understated elegance—something she thought her clothes shared.

“When I design, I think about function and versatility,” she says. “I love the concept of being able to wear something that is functional, easy, comfortable, feminine, accessible and sensible at the same time.”

Sis feels that a lot of her customers share the same sentiments when it comes to style. Her pieces can be dressed up or down and transition easily from day to night by just changing a pair of shoes.

What it is so refreshing and different about Sis’ boutique is that you can actually see her working her patterns and cutting the fabrics in the store. When I asked if she planned it that way, she responded, “It’s one of those things that happens for a reason. I really wanted a space that could operate as a work studio and storefront at the same time so I could be more productive in my downtime. But because the space is so small, there is nowhere to hide. I believe that seeing me work this way makes it more interesting, creates a dialogue and
really helps bring the customer in to connect with what I do.”

Her store is also different because she does not have the challenge of competing with other stores for carrying certain labels. She designs all of her clothing, and it is made locally here in LA—with all of the fabrics repurposed and recycled.

Her design process is quite unique. In the past, she would let the fabric dictate the design, but now it is more centered around her customer. She asks herself, “Will it be flattering? Is it functional? Will it look good on all shapes and sizes?”

Sis knows who many of her customers are, as she is the one personally selling her product to them. She used to keep just two sizes, but lately she has been gravitating to making some of her dresses one-size-fits-all—something extremely difficult to accomplish. Most of her designs have flow or can be tied to fit tighter or looser.

“I want to create garments that work with who you are,” she shares. “In my design process, I think about the body and make it functional and comfortable. I create things that aren’t too fussy and that can work with different shapes.”

The other advantage of having a storefront is that it gives Sis the opportunity to try these designs on her actual customers to get the cut just right. She calls it her own personal laboratory where she can experiment.

The other unique service she offers is to personally customize her designs for customers. For example, if you were to walk in and love a print but prefer it in a different style dress, she can make it for you. If something doesn’t fit quite right, she can also alter it to get the perfect fit.

Received so warmly by the South Bay community, Sis just had to become a part of it. She now calls the South Bay her home too. We’re lucky to have her. |||