A conversation with fashion designer Nikki Hendricks about sustainability

Nikki Hendricks is a Washington D.C. based garment designer who incorporates bold patterns and eclectic materials in her designs. With a background in fine arts, she works conceptually when creating themes for her lines.

Nikki draws inspiration from the futurism genre and emphasizes underlying content about race, religion, gender and sexuality. Different cultures and identities are consistent within her collections, in order to create a universal awareness about important customs. Her brand, Nikki Hendricks Designs, includes looks that are gender neutral, masculine and feminine. She recently participated in New York, Paris, and Milan Fashion Week shows, and is currently developing her brand through the Macy’s Incubator under the DC Fashion Foundation.

After graduating from MICA in 2017, Nikki founded her company Nikki Hendricks Designs LLC and presented her “Blends” collection  in New York, Paris, and Milan Fashion Week. She started her residency with the DC Fashion Foundation Incubator at Macy’s located in D.C. where her studio is currently located. She recently debuted her fourth collection, “Half & Half”, in July 2018 at Feeric Fashion Week in Sibiu, Romania.

A CONVERSATION WITH FASHION DESIGNER NIKKI HENDRICKS

When did you first realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?  

I first realized I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was a 8 years old. I used to draw my own editorial magazines with different kinds of looks from sporty to formal. I would draw my friends dream wedding dresses and would always doodle in my sketchbook. I was told by my high school art teacher that my sketches were terrible and that I should consider a different field. It wasn’t until my second year in college that I transferred to an art school to pursue the arts. I made my first clothing collection my junior year of college and decided officially that it was the career for me.

 

 

 

When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience? 

I landed my first fashion internship at Katwalk Boutique/Angel Park located in Baltimore, Maryland. I learned so much about the industry from Toni James and Justin James. The most valuable thing I learned from them is how to run a successful retail business. They are pioneering fashion individuals in the Baltimore area. They were incredibly connected to the fashion industry in that area and really helped me understand the business so much more.

 What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position? 

My first job out of college was starting my own business. I did not take a formal full-time position because the following September that I graduated, I was asked to show in Milan and Paris fashion Weeks and knew that I would not have the flexibility of participating had I started a full time job. This was very difficult for me because I did not have the start-up capital for a business but I believed in myself and had a dream, and with the support of my family and friends, I’m making it!

 Define sustainable concept nowadays in fashion industry in five words . 

Surviving the industry you have to be strategic, inventive, open-minded, flexible, and always researching no matter what field in fashion you are in. 

 

 

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be? 

If I could tell my self one thing before beginning my career it would have been to plan long term! Starting out, I wasn’t really sure where my career was going to go. I wasn’t sure if it was a phase but now that I’m going full throttle into the business, I wish I had planned as if I was ready manufacture or sell products and clothing form my first collection. I think a lot of upcoming designers make the mistake of making pieces they can never replicate or don’t have a plan to get revenue or capital in some way, they often fail. Having a plan on how to make the money back you spend from paying for fashion week expenses or photoshoots and marketing. 

 What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out? 

I made a lot of mistakes starting out, the most substantial mistake was not having contracts or formal arrangements with collaboratiors. There were so many times I invested in a photoshoot or collaboration with someone I did not previously know, and there was no formal arrangement made on paper the terms of what each person would contribute. Some photographers never sent me pictures of my work or gave me credit for my clothing, some models want money after the shoot after they agreed to do it for free, and even some agencies tried to take advantage and extort more money because there was no formal agreement. If there was anything I could my younger self is to always have contracts!!!!! 

 

 

What is one thing you look at the models for your campaigns?

I love to have models that have their own character or personality. I really hate how the industry clones women to have long straight hair, high cheekbones, bushy eyebrows, and size 2 bodies. I like my models to be diverse and inclusive as far as body type, gender and race or ethnicity. I want the audience to feel like they can relate to my brand and not like its some unobtainable or impossible thing. Fashion is for the masses not just for the rich and privileged. 

 What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?

I think social media plays the biggest role in fashion marketing. From influencers posting looks, to brands announcing collections or events, to people being able to directly buy on social platforms. Most people won’t consider you to be relevant if you don’t have social media for your brand. I can honestly say, social media is the source of my success. I was discovered on Instagram oversees before people in my hometown knew what I was doing. The reach of social media is incredible!!!

 What is your favorite and NON-favorite part about being part of the fashion industry? 

My non-favorite part about being in the fashion industry is FAST-Fashion. Brands like Fashion-ova are killing independent designers. They have successfully taken over social media and collaborated with big entertainers for publicity. The actual quality of their clothes is low and they are made in sweat shops to fit the demand. I hate how wasteful the world is becoming with clothing. I wish the population cared more about the life of their clothing instead of getting an outfit for the weekend and never wearing it again.

 How do you want people to feel when wearing your clothes?

I want people to feel like a king, queen, goddess, conquerer, or anything powerful when they are wearing my clothes. One thing I preach with my brand is confidence. It takes heart to wear bold colors, or eccentric materials. I want them to feel like they are untouchable by others opinions or feelings and that they know they look incredible. My whole life I was teased for my body type or skin color and I have learned to embrace myself through my creativity and I hope I can create that for others.

 

 

Can you tell us how your brand makes a difference in fashion industry?

My brand makes a difference because it is truly inclusive. I feel like a lot of brands are becoming inclusive of other races and sexual orientations because its trendy. My brand is gender fluid meaning its not catered exclusively to one gender. I do not differentiate mens or women clothing and have often used masculine looks on women and vice versa. I don’t want to keep humans in boxes. We are complex creatures and it is time that a brand recognizes that and encourages the rest of the world to do so. 

 News on the way regarding your next collection? 

Im so excited to start my collection. My brand will be moving more into the accessory route along with he use of sustainably sourced fabrics and practices. I’ve been feeling really inspired by music/sounds, lights, and futurism, so those themes will defiantly be present. I will be creating another clothing collection this summer! 

 What do you think is the biggest challenge for a fashion designer? 

The biggest challenge as a fashion designer for me has been keeping up revenue. It is really hard to create, run your own business, be your own PR representative, graphic designer, and make all the clothes to make money. I see a lot of brands fail because of going into debt and not having a plan to make money back. It is really easy to spend money but making it back is hard as a designer especially since we are the ones who pay for the shows, models, production, documentation, and press at least twice a year for fashion weeks. 

 There is one important person, in your life, who pushes and motivates you to believe in yourself? 

My mom is my NUMBER ONE supporter. Without her, I would literally be NO WHERE!!! My mom has been to most of my shows, paid for my schooling, helped with my business, and continues to push and motivate me to keep going. I am lucky because I know a lot of people whose parents don’t support their career choices like mine. I owe my mother my life for all she has sacrificed and done just to see me do well. 

 How do you think a big brand should motivate their collaborators and team members?

A brand should motivate their collaborators and team members by reinforcing the sense of community. When people feel secure, they work their best. Making everyone feel like they play an important role, and that everyone is equally winning or getting something out of an experience. I think that competition breeds negative pressure and people only looking out for themselves instead of the bigger picture.

 How do you think sustainable can play an important role in fashion industry?

Sustainability is the future of fashion or at least I hope so. All designers and brands should make responsible decisions when manufacturing their clothing or accessories. Everyone needs to consider the life of each piece their company makes. From the fabric being cut to someone donating to a thrift shop or charity.  The fashion industry is one of the highest contributors of Global Warming and pollution. In order for us to be alive to keep looking fabulous we must make sure the health of or planet is fabulous first. 

 Describe us you as a designer and how your feelings influence the creativity process?  

As a designer, my hardships have allowed me to create my greatest works. Three years ago, I lost my house in a fire. I lost a lot of my artwork, property, and my home temporarily. That year was the year I decided to become a fashion designer. I had to learn to start over and through that I created my first clothing collection “La Marine de L’Oshun” which means navy of the Oshun, who is a deity from Yoruba religion that brings love, confidence, and happiness to the people she was said to possess with her spirit. I really connected with that idea because I felt incredibly powerless when I lost everything. Making that collection changed my life in so many ways. The fire of my house allowed a rebirth of my creativity and artistry. Anyone that knows me knows that I put my heart and soul into everything I do so I would definitely say my feelings are the driving force behind my art.

 

 

 

Would you like to involve other accessories designers in your future projects? 

I would love to do a collaboration using my purses with Christian Sirano gowns. I would love to make accessories based on his designs for celebrities of different backgrounds. He is truly a diverse designer and dresses a lot of celebrities on the red carpet. That is a dream collaboration. I would be a dream to collaborate with Moschino and Jeremy Scott, Phillip Plein, LeQuan Smith, and Virgil Abloh. I love their eccentric style and feel like I would fit in with their brand. 

What do you think is the main mission of the CO-BRANDING concept ? 

I think the main mission of co-branding is reaching a broader audience. Well formed co-brands typically cover styles or themes the other brand may not be specific to. They may also bring their following along create a bigger audience. 

How fashion PR agencies can help more the brands and what skills a good fashion PR should have in your opinion?  Fashion PR agencies should be more about the brand growing monetarily. A key skill for a PR agency would be to identify the best market or audiences for brands. I think why a lot of brands fail is that they invest their PR budget in the wrong areas or on things that may be to advanced or hard for the brand to fulfill. I think PR agencies should understand how established their brands are and encourage them to invest money towards things that will help them grow.

 What designers inspire you and why?

Designers I am inspired by are Luna Morgaciova, LeQuan Smith, Thierry Muglier, Laurel Dewitt, Loza Maleombho, Kate Spade, David Tlale, and Virgil Abloh. I love these designers because they are all bold and stand out in their very own way. They are not afraid to make a statement or take major risks which later turn into trends.

 There is anyone special who would like to meet in person?

I would be a dream to meet Aurora James, LeQuan Smith, Kollin Carter, Ty Hunter, Jeremy Scott, Phillipa Plein, Solonge Knowles, Rihanna, Cardi b and Virgil Abloh. I feel that all of these designers, artists, and icons are moving the American Pop-Urban culture around the world, or have contributed in major ways to industry, or are trailblazing the latest fashion trends. It would be amazing to shadow or work with any of these people. 

 What do you think about the opportunity of selling your collections online nowadays? 

I have a website where I am currently selling products! It is a great way to connect with people all over the world and allowing them to be able to purchase your products. I think it is important for the survival of independent designers to sell products online.The way the industry and market is moving, the public expects to be able to easily access your content in order to keep in an interest in you and your brand. 

 

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