Fashion has always been a part of Nikki Khiran. From an early age, she loved fabrics and the art of making clothes from them. This passion led her to the London College of Fashion where she majored in Fashion Design Technology. The designer, who is one of the pioneers of the many runway clothes from African fabric on the international scene today, also has her hands in home furnishing and interior design. She spoke with Oluwatoyin Aguda about her recent ventures and plan for her brand, the Nikki Khiran brand.
You also make bags and accessories, at what point and why did you delve into this aspect of Fashion?
I didn’t want my brand to just be about clothes. A lot of times, people walk in and want accessories and bags to coordinate with their clothes, so we decided to incorporate accessories into the NK brand. I wouldn’t say I have a niche market, I just want people who appreciate my sense of fashion and want beautiful and well-made clothes to find exactly that when they visit my store.
And interior design? When and why did you decide to delve into that too?
I look at the Nikki Khiran brand as more of a lifestyle brand than just fashion. I am about lifestyle, and I love comfort. I want clients to have beautiful homes as well as beautiful clothes because for me, the two go hand in hand to make a beautiful well rounded life! I am fortunate to have clients that appreciate and buy into my taste. So it has been well received so far.
What do you like most about being a designer?
I like bringing out a woman’s best assets and showing beauty and diversity no matter her shape, size or height. Also, seeing the joy on her face when her expectations are met makes all the hard work worthwhile. Having a client call and tell me how great they look puts so much smile on my face, it just makes my day.
Your Abuja store is as active as the Lagos store. How do you manage to create a balance between them?
Managing stores in Lagos and Abuja has been challenging. One has to tackle the challenge that comes with staffing, dealing with clients, logistics and others. But my sister, Kemi, has been awesome with helping me with my business when I am not around. And because she is a builder/interior designer, she takes over and does the homes when we need to decorate.
What is the Nikki Khiran brand known for?
The Nikki Khiran woman is confident, individualistic, and self-assured. She is feminine yet strong and doesn’t follow trends. She is a real woman, with real curves, dresses to suit her curves, and doesn’t feel the need to be a size 8 to feel good about herself.
The Nikki Khiran brand, on the other hand, is about timeless, elegant and effortless clothes for real women with real curves. As well as exquisite tailoring on gorgeous fabrics, and home-ware decor to add that little extra something to make your space more comfortable!
How would you access the Nigerian fashion industry today and what it was when you started two decades ago?
In the past few years, the Nigerian fashion industry has suddenly boomed. There are new and emerging talents here and there so there is more variety, compared to when we started some 14 years ago. At the time, there was little to choose from in terms of variety. I will say I still feel like we have a long way to go in terms of finishing, infrastructure and raw materials. These areas remain still pose enormous challenge to the industry.
How affordable are you?
I am affordable considering the quality of what I sell and the fabrics from which they are made. You can get stuff for as little as N1, 000 to as much as N10, 000 from my stores.
The Nikki Khiran brand focuses more on the older women, why is this so?
I beg to differ, my focus is not older women, and my target market is women from 25 years to 75 years. Honestly I cover a very wide spectrum of women from all age groups and different walks of life. My clothes are elegant and sophisticated so if you are a classy 20 something year old, then you can wear NK.
So, what will you say about style and age. Should women change the way they dress as they get older?
Yes! There are certain outfits that are less appropriate when one gets older. It is sad when you see a woman at a certain age trying too hard to look young. I believe in aging gracefully with almost anything. We can’t all be Tina Turners who can wear anything. Sometimes, being covered up can be very sexy.
You are passionate about training and mentoring the young minds, what has been your experience?
I believe that all the knowledge and experiences I have should be passed on to the younger generation. I want to invest in the future of young Nigerians and build a skills acquisition center where young people can learn creative skills. I will also want to be involved in mentoring programmes that promote discipline and entrepreneurial skills.
Being a fashion designer and a very stylish woman, how would you define style and elegance?
Style and elegance are interwoven. Style is knowing what to wear, how to wear it and when to wear it. It is being confident enough to try different looks and knowing what works for you. Elegance is the individuality, grace, and confidence that a woman exudes without trying too hard or having to break the bank.
If you have the opportunity to change anything in the fashion industry in Nigeria, what will that be?
I will improve on infrastructure, open a world class art and fashion design college, encourage people to create more and copy less and teach more on finishing of garments, since that is what is holding us back in this country.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered as a brilliant craftsman, a creative force who put a smile on people’s faces because they enjoyed wearing my brand as much as I enjoyed creating the pieces. Also as someone who added value to other people’s lives.
What three key points would you give someone venturing into the fashion industry?
Creative can’t be forced, it’s a gift. It is either you have it or you don’t! the second point is that they work under an experienced designer for a few years, understudy the person, find out what works and what doesn’t because life is too short to make unnecessary mistakes! The third and not the last would be that they be teachable and humble. Also be open so as to experience all because experience is invaluable, you can never know enough! I will also add that you must be able to balance both your creative side with your entrepreneurial sides. However, this can be very difficult because most creative people are geared towards the creative process and unfortunately, they often forget or know even the very little things about the commercial side of what they do. They forget that rent, electricity, staff, and generator, apart from, fabrics and trimming, also have to be factored into the expenses that must be made.
So a lot of creative people rarely break even. It is however a learning process, with time you learn to know how to merge the two.
What is next for Nikki Khiran?
I would like to pass on knowledge to the next generation and know that I have impacted lives. I have several things in the pipeline but wouldn’t want to talk about them until they have matured. For now, my immediate focus is on the Abuja branch. We are creating more awareness for the branch while growing my home ware store in Lagos. Our focus is for Nikki Khiran to be a lifestyle brand, not just fashion and accessories.
Who would you say has been your greatest influence?
My greatest influence in life was my mother. She taught me to be strong, disciplined and to be a goal getter. She taught me to never give up, to always pursue my dreams and to be the best that I can be whatever I do. And of course, God always upholds me and gives me strength!
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