Viðtal sem Lucie McLean tók fyrir stelpu-brettasíðuna

Viðtalið er á ensku en ég ætla ekki að leggja í þýðingu á því. Ef einhver er svo óheppin að vera ólesandi á ensku bendi ég á Gulu sæiðurnar, leitarorð: þýðingarstofa.

To mark our fifth birthday, we tracked down a woman who has had a crazy busy few years too. Heida Birgisdottir is the main brains behind Nikita Clothing and has watched her Iceland-based brand boom all over the world. We caught up with her to find out about life at Nikita HQ.

It's nearly five years since we first spoke to you on – how have things changed at Nikita since then?

We've gotten way busier for sure. (Sorry for the late reply!). Just when we were catching our tail at Nikita with our two streetwear collections per year, we decided to launch a line of outerwear, and then a small boutique line called Nikita Selekzion, since we sometimes like to dress up, and then etc etc… it's crazy but fun.

What is your role at Nikita these days?
Same as ever but with even more focus on design. In the beginning I did all the designs, got the prototypes and samples made, then went to tradeshows and then to meet manufacturers and by the time I would be back it was already time to do the next collection. Now that I have more people I can focus much more on design, which is what I always wanted to do.

As the company has grown, did you find it easy handing over elements of the work to other people?
Yes and no. It is not easy but when you do it successfully it is great. That depends a lot on finding the right people to work with, someone who compliments you instead of becoming extra work for you. The tricky part is to find the right people.

How many designers work at the firm?
I design most of the collection. Then there are two girls focusing on our denim collection and accessories, but all in all we are a team of six who are involved in creating the Nikita designs. It's team effort although I'm responsible for all our designs overall.

How does the team work? Do you have final say on the designs?
Creating a collection, I usually draft up the collection, think about the overall feel, colours etc. Then I just start sketching like crazy and fortunately I have tons of ideas on clothing that I want to design and wear. At the same time two girls who work at Nikita are working on our denim and accessories collection.

I then sit down with our graphic designer and we do a bunch together, but we also get some graphic and artwork from artists outside the company, people who find us or we find them through mutual interest in artwork on clothing.

We (the design team) then meet up with product development, go over the whole line, sit down with and talk about all kinds of details, what we want to improve from previous seasons as far as cuts, applications or whatever.

It's a lot of work, not only the design but also making sure you get the designs like you want them but also that all zippers, buttons and details are as you want them too. As ‘Head Designer’, yes I for sure have final say on everything that comes from Nikita.

Which items from the winter 07/8 range did you design? Which are your favourites?
I designed most of it. Picking out favourites is hard because when you create a clothing line you actually start by designing a whole lot of clothing, but only your favourites make it into the collection. So the 07/08 collection is the favourites and I wear all of it! I'm absolutely crazy about clothing and love dressing up every day.

One day I might put on loose fit denims, a hooded sweater and sneakers that I've spray painted the night before but next day I'm wearing all over printed leggings and a dress.

I live in Reykjavik and it's not the warmest place in the world so that also effects what I wear on daily basis, and my designs.

What's a typical day for you?
I wake up around 8am, since now we have a two-year-old son (called Frosti) and he needs his routine in place. I then have either breakfast at home or at Nikita, we have a kitchen and good coffee there. I usually start by getting my emails done, to get that out of the way.

Then I design clothing most of the day, sometimes I'm drawing ideas, sometimes doing graphics or looking at graphics and artwork from other designers we work with, sometimes sorting out details with product development, trying on samples, planning photoshoots, talking to team riders. All kinds of different things. Then sometimes I answer a few questions from magazines or websites about what I do and that is fun too!

What's the working culture like at Nikita? Is it a pretty chilled place to work?
It's a very chilled place but also quite busy. Like any other fairly young company we could easily be more people since we are doing tons of work, but everybody is cool about it. The atmosphere has never been better than now, the team of people we have are super qualified but also very mellow.

We party together, do trips together, make fun of each other, respect each others work, and we get a lot of things done at the same time.

We just did a weekend trip to the northern part of Iceland, since we were nominated for “The Icelandic Visual Arts Awards” which takes place in Akureyri, the biggest town up north. We rented two summerhouses, went to all the parties, rented a boat and went fishing, BBQ'd the fish, visited a microbrewery (beer!) in a tiny village with predictable results, ate hangover food together. Good times.

Do you get much time to go snowboarding or skateboarding?
I could always take more time for that. One of the reasons why I thought it would be great to have my own clothing brand is because I wanted to make a living in the snow/skate industry. I'd be able to travel and snowboard and still call it “work”.

The last two years I did less actionsports since I had my little Frosti, but the year before I had him I did a lot, (also grabbed the national women's motocross title) and now I'm getting more active again. I can't wait to get the first snow, we usually start hiking the resort well before they open the lifts…we can't wait to get the first tracks.

I've snowboarded in many different countries and been fortunate to ride with several pro riders in amazing conditions, but nothing beats going out to the local mountain with your friends on a good day (or night).

How far in advance do you work on your collections?
One and a half years before the clothing goes into the stores I have to make the designs!

You involve lots of artists with your prints and graphics these days. How do you choose artists to work with?

I don't have a lot of time to browse the world or Google up “graphic designer” so quite often it's artists who get in touch with me. Then for sure I look them up when I see something cool.

How do you decide on the materials used in the products?
Mostly based on how well the material helps make the cut of the design, but for sure it also depends on whether it's a summer or winter collection that I'm doing. So it's a combo of style and function. Then the price of the fabric also makes a difference to me, like it does to anyone who might be thinking about buying the clothes.

Why did you decide to launch an outerwear range?
I'm a snowboarder and a clothing designer. These are two of my favourite things. I have very particular ideas about the style and functions I want in the clothes I snowboard in. It would almost have been strange if I would NOT have launched an outerwear range!

Do the Nikita team riders get involved at all in the development of new products?
Yes they do, they send in their ideas, comment on the clothing they are riding in and some of them also have ideas about colours and details.

How do you go about developing your designs? Do you design things based on what you'd like or do you have an image of a Nikita customer in your head?
I would say I mainly design clothing that I want to wear. The clothes that I'd want to buy in my favourite store. Of course I then keep in mind if something in my last collection was a hit, I might make something similar to that like a new version of it and keep it since my customers like it.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
That is very hard to tell. Sometimes you can really tell that you are inspired by something, but most of the time I have no idea where the ideas come from. (Concious and sub-concious?!). I'm inspired by some things old and many things new. Old movies or books can inspire, new art and music can inspire. Mountains and nature can inspire (especially colours) and then how you feel overall makes a lot of difference.

What are your favourite brands (apart from Nikita of course!)?
I'm a shoe freak. I love all my skate shoes but also my Nike's, my Pumas, my Adidas, Creative Rec, I like Nixon watches as a brand, Electric sunglasses, I like Lib Tech, Bataleon, Nitro and Burton, I like Ikea furniture mixed with old stuff, I like Powderoom, Missbehave magazine, Forynja (small icelandic brand) and I like Land Rover for still having their old “Defender”.

Why did you decide to launch the boutique Nikita Selekzion line?
It was a very natural thing. Sometimes when me and the girls at Nikita are dressing up for something specially fancy but can't find anything to buy or just want to make something special for ourselves we just get a fabric and cut and sew something for the night.

Maybe those designs didn't really fit our collection of streetwear, so after we had been particularly dressy for a few occasions we thought to ourselves “hey why not launch a tiny selection of fancy stuff for a girls night out?” That's where the name “Nikita Selekzion” comes from.

It's just selected designs that we've made before going out for “nights of lipstick and lobster” as we call it. But we don't really do anything to promote that line, it is more like a fun pet project. Nikita Selekzion is only available in a few boutiques in the world.

Is the men's line Atikin here to stay?
Well the guys who work at Nikita always felt a little left out when us girls were getting all our clothing and there was no way that they could keep up with that so we made Atikin for them. It's another pet project, something that we are having fun with.

It's a tiny collection of guys stuff, meant to help them dress up their denims. So they can wear their denim pants, their skate shoes if they want to, but with Atikin they can get a shirt, a sweater or a jacket that upgrades their style from the “old” skate/snow look that they were bored of themselves.

It was just like Nikita, they felt as if they couldn't get what they wanted from anyone else, and said it was unfair we didn't make them anything nice. So we fixed that and now they feel much better.

What plans do you have for Nikita in the future that you can tell us about?
Just continue to do what we like doing and then we definitely want to involve more heli snowboarding in deep powder to the whole thing. Yeah!

What advice would you have for anyone keen on getting into streetwear or sportswear design?
Make sure you get an internship / practicum in a company to learn about all the ‘other things’ that you need to get done besides drawing nice clothing and sewing a prototype. Learn how to use Illustrator, InDesign,Photoshop, be active in sports to learn about the functional side of fabric and cuts.

Learn about how important it is to be able to work with people who are not designers, but are able to help you get from the manufacturer what you design, someone who can tell the world about your designs, someone who can go to the bank and tell them what you make is liked by enough people that they should lend you money to start your own company.

What skills/personality traits do you think are necessary to be a good designer?
You for sure have to be creative and that is something that you either are or not. If not, forget about it. If yes, then you also have to be organised, since this a constant race against time and tons of information about your designs have to go at the right people at the right time in order for things to happen. Personal wise, just don't be a drama queen!

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