11.06.12 Style

An Interview With Designer Wendy Nichol

An Interview With Designer Wendy Nichol

BY Soraya Dayani

Wendy Nichol delivers the need for something different and unique. It’s not mass produced, not trying too hard and it’s all made in America. She speaks of witchy spells with power and intelligence. I was certainly entranced. The amazing “Power Dressing” takes us to a whole new area of discussion.

When you enter her store on Sullivan Street in New York City, you can see firsthand how the bags are crafted and then displayed. “Handle me with love and care for eternity” is the feeling clearly expressed by her bags and accessories. It’s a gallery that takes you to another world. When you leave, you long to return to the magical space to be enchanted by Wendy’s warmth.

From Toronto, Wendy and her husband Babak headed for New York with only a futon and some other basic essentials for survival. A year later her daughter Sofia was born followed by her second child: her evolving business.

What were your aspirations as a young girl?
To find a way out of the small town I grew up in and experience living in a large city. I never dreamed I would make it to New York.

Why accessories first?
I’m not a studied artist, I didn’t go to school for art, but I came to realize that I’m interested in making things. So, I started with small objects and accessories and then I challenged myself. With a commercial product like a bag, how do you make a bag without machinery? How do you make a bag without a factory and have it be luxurious? That’s the game I play with myself, always challenging myself.

How does New York inspire you as a designer? 
There’s freedom and the ability for an entrepreneur to be successful. We still have problems with capitalism, but out of capitalism comes ideas and great newness. New York is amazing for this, it has it’s arms wide open. It allows ambitious people to make interesting things happen. I’m humbled by this.

Who are you influenced by?
I’m influenced by people who are obsessed with their craft. I’m obsessed with The Beatles, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The Beatles were a magical thing that happened. For example, they pushed each other to get to higher levels, pushing things to the level of discomfort. I find this to be very positive. Yoko Ono’s message is “YES” the only choice you have is to be positive. John Lennon showed his support for women’s equality. People that don’t care what mainstream wants, that influences me! The level to which people go, to make things beautiful and right, I find that inspiring.

Is your family involved with your work and creativity?
Yes my husband is my partner and best friend who is nurturing and has giving me the opportunity to be a mother and a business woman at the same. My daughter Sofia is very supportive. It’s give and take and if you give, you get back. We are all equal and allow each other to pursue our dreams.

How do you keep a balanced life of dividing and giving attention to two amazing aspects that are growing around you?
I gave up my social life and personal time to be at home for my family. Once Sofia was nurtured, fed, cleaned and read to, I would then go back to work. You give up certain things and what i got out of it was a business and a healthy family. It’s a trade off. We have realized in order to keep a balanced life you have to have break away from the business and stop by putting the phone down to keep each other in check.

What scent do you wear?
I love the smell of citrus, ground coffee, cannabis, leather: Nature’s scents.

Who do you dress for?
Firstly for me, sometimes to an extreme to look like nobody else and then for my husband; he is my best critique! If i have a meeting where i feel the need to be serious, I wear a button up collar to even the playing field.  It takes the sexuality of out anything. I don’t feel compromised by my sexuality. It’s a comfort level for me. I don’t experience sexism on a regular basis but it’s something that I have learned to do to give myself confidence whilst playing the field.

Do you think women are taking advantage of being adventurous and experimental in dressing today?
I can only speak for myself but I think it’s liberating to be different. However, I do think women in North America are lucky today, we have plenty of options. There are so many countries where women are repressed and have to cover their bodies and faces, that’s a hard idea for me to accept.

Define your style of work.
“I’m the witch that takes you across the darkened crazy lake.” I believe strongly in intuition and try to follow it. I love a powerful woman who is not interested in trends. She’s intelligent and a sophisticated woman who follows her instincts. When wearing a bag or piece of my collection, I hope you would feel the power, the spell and love that went into making the item, appreciate it like a piece of art hanging on the wall.

What is your personal motto/mantra?
“YES” is the answer! When life throws something at you, you can’t just curl up in a ball and say no! You can do it for a minute but then you’ve got to say YES this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to take it and make it good!

How hard was it to start up your own business?
It was very hard. With no trust fund we built everything ourselves. At first I worked from home then I found a small space on Crosby and Spring. I had to find a team to make the accessories with me, who believed in my work and craft and who had those skill sets as well, so i went to colleges and found fine artists who understood the process of making these bags. I had to design the process of making the bags before actually making them. It’s challenging, if you really want something then there are a lot of sacrifices to be made in life both personal and business.

What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt in building a business?
Hire the most talented people; people that are smart and get things done.

What women do you admire outside of work?
Yoko Ono for her peace movement. Patti Smith for being herself and for writing about it. Bjork because she is always new. My fantastic mother-in-law for always reminding us the value of family.

Thoughts for 2013?
I want to add a music component to my art.

You can follow Wendy Nichol on Twitter @WendyNicholNYC.

A Londoner through and through, Soraya Dayani studied Printed & Fashion Textile design, an education she immediately parlayed into building a career as a Fashion Stylist. She got her start as a Fashion Editor at London's style bible, i-D magazine. After a stint in Paris, she now calls New York home. Since her start she's consistently worked alongside internationally renowned Photographers and Directors on various advertising campaigns, editorial shoots and music videos. Soraya has built a reputation as not only a coveted stylist but a style expert, which has led to countless collaborations with international clients to help find and define trends. You can follow Soraya on Instagram @SorayaDayani.

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