Clothing And Shoe Brand Nida Lu Uses Ancient Turkish Techniques And Traditional Uzbekistan Styles

Photography by Shawn Brackbill.

Clothing and shoe designer Courtney Vardar uses 700-year-old shoe-making techniques and one-of-a-kind vintage textiles to create her inspired pieces for brand Nida Lu.

While on a backpacking trip in Turkey nearly two decades ago, the Lawrence-based designer met her now-husband, and soon the couple began traveling the world together. The many places and cultures they saw inspired them, embarking on various shoe-and clothing-related projects through the years, including their company Nida Lu.

They source all their fabrics for Nida Lu at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and manufacture garments in Seydisehir, a small town in Central Turkey. Nida Lu’s shoes are made in Gaziantep, Turkey, where locals have been making shoes for generations using a centuries-old tradition. However, that tradition is dying—only around 40 people in Turkey still use these methods to create shoes. The Vardars are determined to make sure this tradition and skillset aren’t lost, and they’re attempting to preserve it by using it to make their company’s own products.

Nida Lu, named after the Vadars’ two daughters, started as a shoe company before expanding to clothing. Vardar took the ancient shoe design and modernized it for contemporary sensibilities. “They’re all handmade, sewn with cotton twine,” she says. “They mold to your feet because it’s all leather. They’re made for walking. Originally, Turks were a nomadic people and they needed a really comfortable shoe. They’re great for travel and stylish. We’ve also started turning some remnants from our clothing into shoes to use all of the textile—not waste any of it.”

Nida Lu is constantly evolving and expanding, “We’ve been importing textiles, jewelry and clothing from Turkey for the last 15 years,” Vardar says. “We were doing so well with the shoes, but I really love clothing and these textiles calleds Suzanis. They are hand-embroidered fabrics from Uzbekistan, and they’re made for women’s dowries. So they’re all vintage and they all have these really beautiful symbolic meanings to each pattern and shape. And so you really get the whole story of a person in these fabrics. These textiles are art in themselves, and to repurpose them into adornments for women came full circle for me.”

Earlier this year, Nida Lu’s Suzani cape was worn by Egyptian musician Mohamed Ramadan in a music video with Future and was featured on billboards in Times Square and on Sunset Boulevard. Vardar is also showing her line in the West 18th Street Fashion Show in KC on June 8 and in Paris Fashion Week this fall.

Along with designing and selling their usual products, Vardar is busy putting together the collection for Paris Fashion Week. “It’s going to be about Mary Magdalene and her [journey] to France to escape Jerusalem,” she says. “I actually did a pilgrimage to that site when I was in college, so it’s full circle. It’s going to be an ode to Mary Magdalene. A lot of times the Suzanis have symbols in them—the pomegranate represents femininity and the symbolism of the tree of life. Everything will be very intentional, and I’m picking Suzanis that have symbolism that is intentionally feminine.” 

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our newsletters

Kansas City magazine keeps readers updated on the latest news in twice-weekly newsletter. 

On Tuesdays, Dish brings you food news and our critic picks. 

On Thursdays, The Loop offers exclusive news reports and our curated events picks.