Niki Srinivasa is a 20 years old Fashion Designer. Growing up, she didn’t always have the best sense of style, and she always convinced herself that it could be because fashion wasn’t her “thing.” But as she got older, she began to realize that in truth, the problem was the message the media was portraying about beauty and what it should be. She was never the same size as her peers and for so long she viewed that as a problem with herself, but she came to realize that she was not the problem, but the messages being portrayed were.
”That’s why female empowerment and body positivity are so important to me, and are truly at the cornerstone of who I am. My brand is centered in the mission that all women should be able to wear beautiful clothing that makes them feel good; In other words, I believe that style should have no number attached to it. I feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunities to share my story on amazing platforms like Fashinnovation, and to showcase my collection at not only New York Fashion Week, but also Paris Fashion Week as well (after NYFW last September I was named as one of five in the world as a one to watch talent and invited to show in Paris too!). I hope to contribute to blazing a trail in this industry- and helping to move it towards being more inclusive and embracing diversity, which I also hope to do through all my endeavors, clothing lines, Fashion Weeks, and projects I pursue moving forward!”
AN INTERVIEW WITH YOUNG FASHION DESIGNER NIKI SRINIVASA
When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
Growing up as a young woman who happened to be larger than my peers was not easy. I didn’t always have the best sense of style, and I always convinced myself that it could be because fashion wasn’t my “thing.” But as I got older, I began to realize that in truth, the issues lied in the message the media was sending about beauty and what it should be, and I internalized those messages as signs that my body type could never be classically beautiful. Not being the same size as my peers or being able to shop in some of the stores they did made me feel as if there was a problem with body for so many years of my life. But once I finally came to realize that I was not the problem, but the messages were, I began to see not only myself but fashion and style in a new light.
I began to fall in love with fashion, once I decided that I needed to believe in my own beauty, and in the beauty of all women and all sizes. I created my first line in my junior year of high school, and it was a line that told my mom’s life journey of growing up in India, through clothing. That was also the moment I knew that fashion was my calling. I knew I was meant to be a game changer and be a new voice in the industry. That’s why female empowerment and body positivity are so important to me, and are truly at the cornerstone of who I am!
When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I landed my first internship right out of high school, and at the time I was the only intern who was there, so I did everything! I learned so much, but the most exciting and valuable things I learned were how to network, how to merchandise and how to create custom line sheets/place orders with stores.
What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
I am not actually out of school yet! I launched my brand while I was still in High School, but I hope that when the time does come for me to look for any potential positions should that be something I would be interested in pursuing at the time- it would be amazing if I could land the position!
Define sustainable concept nowadays in fashion industry in five words .
Sustainable materials, Longevity, eco-friendly
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
I would say to: ” believe wholeheartedly in yourself, and don’t let the self-doubt keep you from pursuing your dreams. Go big and dream big. You have great ideas and a unique voice- the world needs you!”
What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
I think I tried to pursue potential collaborations and opportunities that were not fully aligned with where I was at- it’s understandable to be excited, but important to recognize where you stand while strategically planning out how you want to continue to grow!
What is one thing you look at the models for your campaigns?
I’m so big on inclusivity, so I don’t really pay too much mind to physical appearance- I think everyone is unique and beautiful and should be celebrated! I do, however, look for people who are positive, kind, and that emulate a sense of self-love and self-worth.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
Social media plays a huge role! Now-a-days, every day individuals have the power to influence audiences and help shape the conversations that take place in the industry. And in addition, the advent of Instagram influencers has definitely shaped the way brands approach marketing tactics too!
What is your favorite and NON-favorite part about being part of the fashion industry?
My favorite thing about the industry is definitely how dynamic, exciting and often times glamorous it can be- the pace of the industry is so fast and there is always something new going on, which I love! My least favorite would definitely be how exclusive and often times closed off the industry can be- especially towards women of diverse sizes and new/upcoming talent.
How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?
I want people to feel loved, empowered to put their best foot forward and confident in themselves and their bodies!
Can you tell us how your brand makes a difference in fashion industry?
The core of my brand is truly creating classic, feminine and unique clothes that are made to fit every woman. To me, style should have no number, and that is the very center of my motivation and design vision. I was never an “average” size growing up, and not finding clothes like my peers got to wear was devastating for me; no one should ever feel ostracized for their body shape and my brand is trying to that! reality!
I also try to incorporate my own perspective of the world and tell stories of my life and what I see around me into my work. That makes it real. And it makes it personal. Every single piece is handmade by myself and so every piece is unique and special, just like the person who wears the them.
My brand and my mission work towards shaping a new reality for the fashion industry- one where size isn’t viewed so negatively and where there is equal opportunity to excel and shine for everyone. I want to help make fashion not only more diverse, but more inclusive and accepting too.
News on the way regarding your next collection?
There are a lot of really exciting things coming up for me this year! It’s really going to be a year of growth and working on increasing exposure through some really exciting projects. I can’t speak about too many of them just yet, but I am really looking forward to continue to work hard on building my brand! But yes- I am working on a few collections at the moment actually!
What do you think is the biggest challenge for a fashion designer?
There are definitely some intrinsic barriers-to-entry when trying to burst onto the scene as a new designer- finances, finding opportunities to connect with people in the industry, and opportunities to showcase your work are all definitely in the mix. Finances are definitely something that is challenging; it is by no means an inexpensive endeavor to build a brand or to create a collection/put on a show. I think this is definitely something that sadly does hinder so many wonderful and talented people from being able to show their ideas and design aesthetics. Even so, I firmly believe that consistent hard work begets success and growth- you just have to continue to persevere and work within your means while striving to improve. If you believe in yourself, the challenges and obstacles you face no longer seem like barriers preventing you from achieving success, but more so like temporary roadblocks that you might just have to work a bit harder on to move around- but it is completely possible to do!
There is one important person, in your life, who pushes and motivates you to believe in yourself?
My mom is my biggest inspiration- she raised me and my sister as a single mom, and is exemplary of what a strong woman is to me! She has always believed in me, and she always motivates me to keep going for my dreams.
How do you think a big brand should motivate their collaborators and team members?
I think by making the experience of working collaborative, and by providing every person the equal opportunity to share their ideas is a great way to start. Providing incentives and opportunities for growth as well as tangible and attainable goals are also great ways to motivate a team to work towards making those goals a reality.
How do you think sustainable can play an important role in fashion industry?
Sustainability is by far the future of the industry. Fast Fashion is one of the biggest contributors to our global warming and environmental concerns. Many of the players in the industry are transitioning into using sustainable resources and materials- which is great- but to see the transition through, I believe that it’ll come down to whether or not the biggest brands and power houses in the industry choose to make the transition too! If we start to see these brands make the changes, then we could definitely see sustainability in the future of the fashion industry.
Describe us you as a designer and how your feelings influence the creativity process?
I pull inspiration from so many different parts of my life. My family definitely inspires me, and I have created a lot of my pieces by manifesting the emotions and memories I have with different members of my family in creative ways like in the creation of a garment! I also pull from different things I come across- a single color, detail, emotion, or idea for a silhouette can inspire a whole collection for me! I am always sketching and brainstorming. My emotions usually play into the colors I choose and the story I’m aiming to tell through that specific garment/look/collection.
Would you like to involve other accessories designers in your future projects?
Of course! Collaboration is a cornerstone of the industry.
What do you think is the main mission of the CO-BRANDING concept ?
The key to this marketing strategy is to choose a brand that will best compliment or enhance your brand. This mission is rooted in the idea of collaboration and that through strategic partnerships and brand collaborations, mutual marketing/business/brand benefits will come to both parties.
How fashion PR agencies can help more the brands and what skills a good fashion PR should have in your opinion?
PR is always valuable; PR and marketing are often the difference between a successful brand and one that just fades to obscurity. PR agencies can help by providing strategic resources, Branding advice, social media management and strategy and of course important contacts and exposure. Good PR people should have great persuasion skills, networking skills, be enthusiastic and hard-working and also great at devising campaign and content ideas.
What designers inspire you and why?
I have a lot of favorite designers, but in terms of the designers/brands that inspire me, Christian Siriano, Prabal Gurung and the brand Chromat inspire me so much because they share my mission of striving to make fashion more inclusive.
There is anyone special who would like to meet in person?
Non-fashion related, I would love to meet The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), but in the fashion industry, I would love to meet Gigi Hadid, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and pretty much any and every industry person I could!
What do you think about the opportunity of selling your collections online nowadays?
I think e-commerce is so important and such a crucial means by which people today make their purchases. So selling online is a great strategy to attract new customers from all over the world, and retain them too.