Nikki Blaine is one of the city’s best known and most successful designers. Add to that her responsibilities as a mom, a business woman, and an educator and you have to wonder how she does it. Zoe Renee, a local stylist who often collaborates with Nikki, asks that question and many others in this candid interview.
ZR: Hey Nikki!
NB: What’s happening?
ZR: So what inspires you to create some of your designs? What’s your main inspiration?
NB: Well, I always have to have a muse…The question is, is it for a client or for a collection?
ZR: For a collection.
NB: Well for a collection I definitely have to have a muse, I start my process with my fabrics, that’s how I really gain my inspiration, then out of my fabrics I come up with a theme and a concept that will coincide with muses at that particular time and I pretty much just move forward in building a collection… but with my design aesthetic I at least try to have three different textures so it’s apparent that it’s a unique look.
ZR: Okay, what about for a client?
NB: For a client I always ask her, because typically it is a female, I want her to describe her personality to me, because then that will let me know how I can push the envelope in designing. You know if she says, “ Well I am kind of conservative, I am in corporate America” I know I really have to refrain from being out of the box. So I really try to make sure I compliment their personality yet also have that Nikki Blaine Couture and the Nikki Blaine twist into it. So that’s what I always make sure, I make sure the client is satisfied; it fits their character and personality and not dress them into something they are not, because at the end of the day they are not going to wear it if they do not feel comfortable in it. So it is all about making a woman look extraordinary. Yep, that’s me.
ZR: So you once told me you pick the fabrics you work with based on your mood, what fabrics are you drawn to at the moment? Anything specific for the season, or…?
ZR: You seem to be doing a lot lately with lace…
NB: I am definitely drawn to lace this current season, lace and leather and sequins, sequins are always going to be me because I am into the evening wear, but yeah, this season primarily it is a lot of lace. In terms of color, lavender, so yeah… leather, lace, lavender.
ZR: That could be a song right there!
NB: There you go!
NB: And then you know my infamous black, I never go wrong with that.
ZR: What draws you to those specific fabrics?
NB: Initially it’s the color, then it’s the texture and then it is just how it will flow. That’s the order! I am drawn to the color of it, then I begin to feel it and then I just kind of wave it in the wind or air and begin to envision how I see this constructed.
ZR: if you could name three things that have contributed to your success, what would they be?
NB: three things that I would say that contributed to my success, would be perseverance…
ZR: Because you have been doing this for a very long time…
NB: Yes… and I continue to press on and I do not give up even though from time to time I get discouraged because it is a competitive industry and there is always someone who is going to try to be one up, or will be one up on you. So the first thing is maintaining my focus and persevering. At the end of the day my philosophy is time will tell all, you know anybody can be a one hit wonder, or a one year wonder, but it’s the longevity that represents who you really are, so I just work on my perseverance. Then the second thing is, I am that one who is almost willing to do what the next person will not, meaning I will help someone or I will donate my time and the only thing I get out of it is a thanks. You know the average person is not really interested in helping everybody, not saying I am interested in helping EVERY single body, but I know I will extend a hand when the next person probably would not.
ZR: Right! I would definitely say you helped me with my career. And we have worked together on a lot of different projects. It isn’t always about the money, it’s about other things and helping people is a big part of it, so I think you have to help other people definitely to get where you want to be in the end. Do you agree with that?
NB: Absolutely! I guess the third thing is it’s not really about the money, it’s about passion. I know that money will eventually come, but it’s really primarily the passion that I have, the burning desire from when I was a young child. I always find it interesting when a friend of mine that I went to either grade school or high school with will say “God, Nikki you are doing what you actually said you were going to do back then!” It was my destiny, this is me. At times I almost want to give up and just be like I am tired of this, then there is this voice in my ear “Nikki, you CANNOT give up, look how far you have gotten”… so yeah… the passion.
ZR: You have two beautiful girls, Sydney and London, what is it like being a mother and an entrepreneur and juggling the two? What are some of the obstacles you face being a mom and an entrepreneur?
NB: Oh lord honey! [laughs] Zoe Rene with her 20/20!
NB: OK, real talk. I would have to say it is a challenge. You know I love my girls and they really give me my second wind because sometimes when I feel like giving up they will come by and pick up something and be like “ well how do you design this, let’s do this, can I use this fabric, I want to drape it on a mannequin,” you know, I will sit there and watch them do it and next thing you know, I’m ready to keep going. When it comes to school work and extra curricular activities, you know, I sometimes wish I had more time with them. But I think every working mother or parent is probably feeling like if they can’t give 100% to their child, that you know, something is missing, or lacking in that area, so I get a little down on myself in regards to not giving them 100% because I am so consumed in building my brand. But you know, I sit back and watch them play with their friends and they are like “ my mommy is a fashion designer, my mommy is famous”. [Smiles] And I think that’s nice that they feel proud of their mommy…
ZR: Right! But you do live such a crazy life: jet setting and being a designer, a mom and a daughter, helping your mom out a lot. Plus you’re in the media a lot. So if you could escape for a day and go anywhere and do anything with no restraints, where would you go?
NB: Oh my goodness, I am glad you dropped the jet setter concept because you definitely know I am going to get on a plane and go somewhere!
ZR: Well you just went to New York, then to LA and you were at the Oscars, definitely a jet setter!
NB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Jet-setting, then combine that with this fabric fetish I have , and…
ZR: You think? [laughing] We went to New York for fashion week and you spent more time at the fabric stores than at the fashion shows! You knew the people there by name, which is hilarious!!
NB: Well, you have to kill multiple birds with one stone, that’s how I see it.
NB: But I would say, I would like to hit New York, hit LA and then I would want to go overseas, London and….
ZR: Girl, this is one day!
NB: Oh, one day, I am sorry! [laughing] You see? That’s just how I think, so you know we are going to squeeze it all in, I am not just going to do THAT, I am going to do THIS too. I am all over the place!
ZR: So what would you do?
NB: Well, I just said I have that fetish for fabric, so I would definitely hit the fabric stores and the garment district. Then I would definitely go somewhere I could meditate and relax , somewhere to enjoy life you know? I am not really a big shopper, I just want to relax and let my hair really flow in the wind, and not just stand up on my head. [laughing]
ZR: Back to serious stuff. What attracts you to a project and what keeps you interested in a project? I know as an artist, you are constantly coming up with ideas, so, what keeps your interest in a project and what keeps you drawn to a project?
NB: What draws me is the creative freedom to do whatever I want to do in a project. Projects that tend to suffer or that I lose interest in are the ones where it is not really my vision involved, it’s more or less someone has a vision and they want to turn me into their seamstress, which I do not appreciate. If I person has “designer” by their name, that’s exactly what that means. I have to remind clients sometimes, you know you came to me because you wanted to wear a Nikki Blaine couture piece, and a Nikki Blaine couture piece is not you telling me how you want every single intricate detail to be because then that is no longer a Nikki Blaine piece.
ZR: How would you describe your design style?
NB: Well, I consider my style “glam chic” that’s what I coined it as.
ZR: Okay, and what is glam chic to you?
NB: It’s “Glam” because I prefer to use glamorous or high end fabrics. And it’s “Chic” because it’s fashionable, trendy, yet effortless. So therefore – glam chic! Even if it’s an “after five” or a wedding gown you really don’t want to look fussy and overdone, but if it is going to be an extraordinary look, a lot of work will have to go into it.
ZR: I have been behind the scenes and I have seen you make your pieces and it is amazing what you put into them and how long it takes. There is a lot of energy and time and heart that goes into every piece you make; I’ve seen it myself. As far as your personal style, which we have discussed, numerous times, we have had a few disagreements about this situation, but no matter what you wear people are always complementing you, telling your how fabulous you look. So apparently, I don’t really know what I am talking about. [laughing]
NB: Yeah. [laughing] Here is the thing, me, my personal style, my favorite color is black. As you can see I have on black right now, it is just a comfortable color for me, I enjoy it.
ZR: What do you like about black? What makes you enjoy black?
NB: You know, it’s the absence of color, plus I resent white.
ZR: Oh no you didn’t! [raucous laughter]
NB: Put it like this, I am just comfortable in black, black is slenderizing, it’s very chic. You can’t go wrong with black, you know? And if you’re a little shapely like I am it’s forgiving, so I really appreciate black, in terms of that.
ZR: Fair enough! Ok, let’s wrap this up with what’s up next for Nikki Blaine couture?
NB: Well I am opening two Nikki Blaine Couture locations. Downtown Zionsville is one location – that is going to be Nikki Blaine Couture and signature shoes, so we are working on that and I am also going to be at the Circle City Industrial complex downtown and I have already starting moving things over there. So I am excited about that. There are some incredible people over there that I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know and I’m looking forward to having such creative neighbors.
ZR: Sounds like a lot of exciting things ahead for Nikki Blaine Couture! Thanks for the chat Nikki!
NB: You’re welcome, Zoe! Wanna help me pack some boxes?…[laughter]