Thursday, June 22, 2017

Always enigmatic, wild, yet restrained | An interview with fashion designer Anastasia Ikonnikova of NUIT

 First of all who is Anastasia Ikonnikova? 

I am a musician and a designer. I love to travel and get a lot of inspiration from it. There is something about being trapped in the air for x amount of hours that makes my imagination run wild. 

How did you first get involved in the fashion industry? 

I’m not sure I feel involved in the fashion industry even now, after five years (this September) of designing for NUIT. I’m in my own little world and I love it. I do not feel the pressure to go in any traditional direction. My goal is to push my own boundaries in terms of design, concept and craftsmanship. 

What lead to the creation and eventual birth of NUIT?

I often have vivid visions of shapes, silhouettes and details, when it comes to garments. I am also stubborn and do not settle for anything short of fulfilling my vision. I formed NUIT out of the necessity to manifest what was in my mind’s eye. I have always sewn and modified my own clothes to align with my vision, even before the beginning of NUIT. There is something incredibly fulfilling about the pursuit of manifesting your own idea of beauty in the physical world.

For those who don't know about NUIT how would you describe it?

If it is permissible to respond in a slightly different way: I describe NUIT as the woman perpetually clothed in the nigh sky. Always enigmatic, wild, yet restrained. Mysterious and magnetic. A dreamer and a doer all at once. Time and space bends around her.

What is the ethos behind NUIT? 

NUIT exists in a world somewhere between dreaming and waking. I am inspired by history and the raw beauty of the human form. By the impressionistic glimpse of a woman or a man, of a gaze or a shape. I am inspired by seeking to define what is timeless beauty throughout history. I am inspired by what is uniquely beautiful in specific timeliness and cultures. I am inspired by storytelling and self-actualizing. I am inspired by the way our words shape ourselves and the outside world. I am inspired by consistency and inconsistency in how we depict ourselves.

How do you culminate the ideas and pick the final pieces for each NUIT Collection? Can you explain that process?

I start with a theme for every collection. It may be stated or kept secret. I love hearing about the way my audience interprets each collection, so I am hesitant to reveal themes overtly. I relish the feeling of hearing other’s interpretation of my work. I design the pieces in a carefree way, with some regard for season, but mostly working with what I’m craving or gravitating towards. I feel a certain pull towards shapes and ideas and I try to divine the way in which I can substantiate these cravings. I over-create and then cull pieces which I do not see as contributing to the overall driving force behind the collection.

NUIT has a very minimalist and unique look and feel about it. Where do you find your inspiration? And how important is the use of materials in the NUIT design?

Materials and the design process are both equally important. The more I learn, the more I realize that material and design have to be taken up simultaneously. One does not work without the other. Things do become more intuitive in the creation process, but I do have moments where I realize that a certain fabric really does not behave the way I thought it would, or a specific technique does not have the intended impact. There are so many variables and that’s all part of the thrill of creating. It can be discouraging, as I am spoilt by the euphoria of designing something the way I imagined it on the first try, but in actuality this happens infrequently. Manifesting something internalized into the physical world is such a rush, your mind hangs onto moments like that. 

I love to design with natural fibres in simple colours. I’m lucky I have such an incredible audience to create for, people who crave the beauty of natural fibres as much as I do. It can be frustrating when the fabric you imagine cannot be found! I have sometimes retained designs in my head for several years, while looking for the perfect textile. In fact, it never ends.

Music and performance formed a lot of your initial inspiration for NUIT. Are there any Musicians you have had the pleasure of dressing or that you would love to work with?

I recently worked with Marissa Nadler, who is a beautiful singer and instrumentalist. I love her work and was so happy to dress her. I dream of dressing Hope Sandoval and PJ Harvey, women who’s work and energy I admire immensely. 

I love designing for friends, also! Especially those people whose vision I understand intimately. It’s so important. I do a lot of secret design projects for friends.

Where do you draw a lot of your own personal style from? Do you have any of your own style icons?

I have too many design icons to count. A lot of these images flicker over my eyelids at night, and always have, since I was a young kid. I am constantly falling in love with new style icons, both men and women. Recently, I went to see Nick Cave and became so obsessed with his style, especially his suits. I admire consistency so much. I think it is evincing of the stability and depth of someone’s character. The biggest compliment and the biggest goal in life is knowing yourself.

Since its inception in 2012 NUIT has proven itself as a stayer in an independent Fashion market. What challenges and experiences have you encountered and what’s different today than back in 2012?

I would say the biggest challenge to date was making NUIT my full time job. After I finished an MA in Medieval Studies, NUIT was still far from my sole focus and source of income. I took a desk job and gritted my teeth for two years while keeping my eye on my ultimate goal: independence. I was terrified about not meeting demand with NUIT or keeping my clients waiting too long. It got to the point where I was doing 8 hours in the office and 7 hours in the studio after work, with no days off to speak of. I was very much racked with guilt. I knew there was an end in sight, but taking the leap was scary. After I quit my office job, I had a permanent smile on my face for a full year, no exaggeration. I am so grateful for the stability it had provided, but I haven’t looked back for a moment.

 What keeps you going and maintains your passion to keep NUIT thriving in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid “fast fashion”? 

My incredible clients keep me going. I am so grateful to have the audience that I do and feel deeply linked with them.

I think there are so many ways to build a wardrobe, and as I get older, I learn that the trendy, mass-market pieces are never the keepers. I actually swing maybe too far in the other direction myself, collecting pieces in a museum-like fashion, some never worn, but captured and adored. I get obsessed with different eras. Right now it’s the Edwardian age and simultaneously the 1940s. I try to design from that very spirit, to create pieces which will be treasured. Even with the basic layers I create every season, I want them to be the most wearable, comfortable but striking pieces in my client’s wardrobe. That go-to piece which makes you feel like you’re absolutely magnetic when you’re wearing it.

Are there any projects you are working on currently you can tell us about?

I am currently designing our FW17-18 collection. If you look at my notebook, the garment list is entitled FW17 Dream Wardrobe, and that’s what I intend to create. As usual, I will focus on layering essentials, dresses and outerwear. I’m obsessed with jackets of all types, weights and lengths so I design quite a few every season. I dream of wearing these pieces when I visit Northern Spain, forests and mountains in Norway, read books in the backyard on those sunny, crisp fall afternoons or drink red wine in the living room with my small group of friends.