When Danita Short and Christian Juul Nielsen launched their women’s ready-to-wear line, Land of Distraction, in 2017, their goal was quality, comfort, and versatility. The looks are heavily inspired by Short’s fascinating, if unconventional, foray into the world of fashion.
Growing up on a farm in Canada, Short found that a wardrobe’s functionality took precedence over all else. Heavy coats, lived-in jeans, and easy shirts defined her look. “I was blessed to be raised in rural Alberta, where kids had to develop really great imaginations to entertain themselves,” she remembers. “Being isolated gave me tremendous creative freedom and a sense of independence.”
Racing dirt bikes was a childhood passion, and in 2006 Short bought her first Harley-Davidson—and never looked back. “I crave the freedom of the open road,” she says. “The feeling of independence and self-sufficiency I had on the farm, I found in motorcycles.”
It would be poetic to say that Short took her Harley and rode it directly to L.A. to start her fashion line, but life isn’t always so straightforward. Instead, after 12 years of working as an emergency room and trauma nurse in Canada, Short was burned out and looking for a new adventure. She signed up for a business planning session in California with the idea of starting some sort of enterprise. There, she met a private investor who liked her style and suggested she could make a career selling her look to others.
As for Nielsen, he jokes that he accidentally fell into the picture, meeting Short and the investor at a bar one night over drinks. With an extensive background in design, including serving as Creative Director at Herve Leger and Design Director at Oscar de la Renta, Nielsen wasn’t exactly looking for a third act. But he couldn’t resist the offer: total freedom to design the coolest clothes for the coolest girls—no limitations. “The mandate was, just make clothes you love that you think every woman should be wearing,” he recalls. “I mean, how could I say no?”
As Short and Nielsen began to collaborate, it became clear they both gravitate toward styles that can be easily layered to create day-to-evening outfits. “Our look is versatile with a ’70s vibe,” says Short. “I wear Land of Distraction every day—I relate to every style we carry.” Her favorite look: a silk dress with an oversized jacket, and anything corduroy from the Fall 2018 collection.
To achieve the brand’s utilitarian feel, Nielsen cuts the pieces with a more masculine silhouette, and adds contrasting topstitching details throughout the collection. At Short’s request, many dresses have the bust darts removed to create an easier flow.
Land of Distraction’s Fall 2018 look is all about oversized shapes and plush corduroy in rich hues of burgundy and mustard. The driving force behind the cozy feel: a road trip to Short’s hometown and farm.
“She said, ‘Christian, you have to come with me to Canada,’” Nielsen recalls. “And I said, ‘OK, when?’ And Danita was like, ‘How about this weekend?’” The impromptu visit exposed Nielsen to the life Short grew up with: waking at dawn to feed the horses, throwing on an oversized barn coat to brave the early-morning chill. “I slipped into this jacket she had hanging on the door, and that was it,” says Nielsen. “It was sun-faded and worn, and the fabric was accented with topstitching—just a really comfortable, functional piece. And I thought, This is where we need to take the collection.”
Among the other standout moments from the road trip: learning to drive (Nielsen doesn’t have a license but got a full tutorial from Short and practiced in, yes, a cow pasture), and attending a local motorcycle rally where the functional-meets-cool-girl aesthetic was on full display. “It was supposed to be a cute little weekend,” says Nielsen. “But it ended up forming the foundation of this season’s designs.”