I FIRST FOUND OUT ABOUT Nikki Garcia's designs on Instagram, and I immediately fell in love. When I discovered she was based out of San Francisco-- one of my favorite cities-- I knew I wanted to do a little maker interview and find out more about her and her design process. She creates streamlined, timeless clothing that is a combination of casual and dressy, working with high-quality fabrics and well-thought-out construction, with the help of her friends who double as sewers. I love that she makes her garments locally, helping to build and support the community in which she works. Nikki was sweet enough to answer my questions and send me some of her clothing to review. You can see the other piece, the indigo roll tunic, in a previous post here. This black knit dress, photographed by my amazing fashion photographer friend Sisilia while spending a day exploring the Claremont colleges, is soon to be released on her website for First Rite. My favorite detail is the deep-cut armholes. This dress is made of a lightweight jersey knit, so it's so comfortable and easy to wear. I rarely ever wear black-- sticking to (lots and lots of) whites, and cremes, and tans, and greys and indigos-- so this was a bit of a departure for me, and I liked it, actually!
How did you get started in design?
I did my undergrad in business at The University of Montana, but knew all along that after graduation I wanted to pursue fashion design. I have always been drawn to very hands-on creative processes, and building ideas into functional designs appealed to me. I had been altering and rebuilding vintage pieces for awhile, but knew nothing about making a garment from start to finish. I moved to San Francisco to study fashion design and learned everything I needed to know about pattern making and garment construction, and when I graduated I began to immediately start making and selling clothes.
What, if any, are you design inspirations in terms of other designers?
There are so many talented designers out there in the world, where to start, and of course all the big names are pretty inspiring, but lately I have been really drawn to following what is happening with smaller companies and independent designers. Maybe it is because I find it more relevant to my work, but I also think more than ever independent designers are really stepping forward, producing beautiful collections, and getting the well deserved recognition for what they do. It's interesting to see these small companies setting their own rules in terms of business models; not sticking to the usual calendars, living in cities outside of the main fashion hubs, keeping production local, and doing really well. Social media is connecting everyone and making it possible for creatives all over to start putting their work out there and build their own community in unlikely places.
I love San Francisco. How does the city you live/work in influence your clothing aesthetic?
I love San Francisco. I think the West coast in general has a pretty laid back aesthetic. Were about all around lifestyle and divide our time between the city and the outdoors. Overall I think people in San Francisco like pieces that are really wearable and build their wardrobes around great basics. We want to look good, but don't feel like we have to go overboard or try too hard. When I first started making clothes I focused a lot on lots of detailing and everything felt pretty dressed up and specific. As I have lived here longer I think more about how my fabrics can transform the collection and how I can simplify each piece to make it feel easy to wear. There is still a dressed up element in my collections which will always remain, but I think about how every piece can be dressed down and worn over and over.
What other creative outlets do you have?
I have so many other interests and project ideas, but lately have found so little time for anything else besides my work as I am a one woman business. Luckily I love what I do and it feels really rewarding. When I find the time I have a huge pile of cut scraps for quilting, and lots of half finished drawings! I do like to read a lot which can be an amazing way for me to get out of my own head for awhile.
Describe a typical day at work and also a day off.
Work day: I like to get up early and take a walk up Bernal Hill which is a beautiful park just right up the street from my house. Theres an amazing view and it's easy to forget you are in the middle of a city when you are up there. After, I head to the studio for a mix of cutting and sewing orders, drafting patterns, sewing test fits, managing fabric orders, emails, etc. It depends where I'm at in my business cycle, every day is different!
Day off: I get up usually earlier, jump in the car, and head to the river to relax, or to the woods for a hike. I love adventuring and take every opportunity I can get to be outside exploring a new place. Luckily California is full of them!
What's next for First Rite?
I am working on starting my fall production, and the collection is set to deliver the first week of October! I am also finishing up my new Spring 15 collection which I will be shooting the first week of August to be ready for market week in September. Really excited about how the new collection is looking, lots of white and neutrals, really different from what I have done in the past! In between I will continue to release web exclusive pieces to my site, so lots to come!