A rare gem in the sea of fashion brands that today are wavering due to a shaky world economy, is the women’s street fashion brand Nikita Clothing, based out of Reykjavik Iceland. Over the past 8 years that we’ve been tracking Nikita, the fact that it continues to evolve and get better and is still in major demand if not more than ever, says much about the open-mindedness and design concepts of the people behind the brand, namely co-founders Runar Omarsson and designer-owner Heida Birgisdottir, and one of the brightest sales managers in the women’s street fashion biz, Amabile Dyer. With offices in Reykjavik, Iceland, and San Francisco, CA, Nikita not only crosses over the tectonic plates of the European and North American continents literally, but the designs from their collection indicate true cutting-edge inspiration from sources that appear altogether other-worldly in terms of silhouettes, patterns, color schemas (including very interesting new raven hints), yet still familiar in that mysterious sort of d?j? vu way.
When we caught up with Runar and Amabile at Agenda Fashion Trade Show in San Diego earlier in September, it was clear that their booth was the hot ticket on the trade show floor, with all their sales reps on hand managing a line-up of buyers. Ironically, the women’s street fashion category continues to be a strong, growing market, and yet there are still only a handful of brands that tap into this subculture effectively, which is another reason why Nikita, still considered somewhat of an anomaly, is in such demand.
A quick recap Nikita Clothing started out of a snow/skate shop called The Missing Link in Reykjavik in the winter of 2000 by store owners Runar and his girlfriend who was also a top skater, snowboarder, motocross racer, and surfer, Heida Birgisdottir. As a designer, Heida quickly saw the need to create clothing originally for “girls who ride” but also for girls-who-ride-and-then-still-want-to-look-killer for “nights of lipstick and lobster” as they put it, which evolved into an additional aspect to Nikita, an upper urbanwear or street couture (depending on which country you’re in) collection called Selektionz.
With unique photography in their campaigns capturing their team of top international snowboarders to start, then skaters, musicians, and others, Nikita was able to display their leading-edge designs in completely original settings, which have also made their look books and press materials keepsakes among editors in the industry.
For Spring/Summer 2009, the hottest aspect is probably their colored denim collection, with the mint straight-leg jeans being a number one seller according to Amabile. Purple, white, black, and pink, punk low-cut denim pants are another key aspect of their denim collection as well as a dress/top in denim that looks great with leggings. Overall, their denim collection this year includes 20 different styles and indicates the growing new direction for the brand.
Other highlights include their outwear line, which, with all of the people at Nikita being snowboarders to begin with, makes absolute sense, and with many freestyle skiers copping snowboarder styles, makes even more sense, especially for a brand located at 64?08? degrees north latitude. Interestingly however, other pieces that get picked up frequently are their bikinis and rash guards that not only look good but are extremely usable to surf and swim in without fear of any sort of wardrobe malfunction.
Signature pieces of the brand include their hoodies, especially high-collared hoodies like facemasks sporty dresses including hoodie dresses and strappy dresses, shorts, and of course windbreakers and jeans. Nikita is also known for their unique usage of colors and graphic angles including a new mint and raven graphic bolero sweater, classic fabrics, and T-shirts with girl cuts such as V-necks, capped sleeves, and scoop necklines. Now, thanks to a new manufacturer, they’ve also developed a different processes in graphic printing embedded cleanly right into the soft fabrics so that their new collection featuring wings angles and splatter paint seem to melt right into each piece.
New aspects for the brand include the continued development of their men’s collection, Atikan (Nikita backwards) including denim, plaid button-downs, and a beautiful black and white cardigan, as well as their growing segment of upscale street couture in tops and jackets, sexy sporty dresses, and even sleek, satin-like one-piece pantsuits. Seriously, this is red-carpet wearable.
Topped with caps that are so Nikita (shortened bills page-boy-like) including a new collaboration with New Era and coordinating with their paint-splattered designs plus scarves shoppers, and backpacks the Nikita collection strikes a cord across many different kinds of buyers. It’s one of the few brands that we’ve seen where the demand seems higher by its potential marketplace of savvy young women consumers than most retailers even realize.
One explanation could be the differences in the marketplace between America vs. Europe. For example while Nikita is in 30 different countries as Runar explained “in Europe, many people look for the style first rather than the brand or the momentum of the brand. In the U.S., they are not in the position right now to take as much risk and they tend to talk about the brand, what’s the following and what’s the story first, then the styles.” This being said, ironically Nikita simply takes off in Europe, and then catches on in the U.S. -which is usually the other way around for street fashion.
In a follow-up email to Runar after the show, I asked just how things were going because in the 3 weeks since we’d conducted the interview for Label Networks TV, much has changed in the financial industry with devastating ripple effects across fashion and retail. However for Nikita, perhaps because it does a good job of strattling continents (and by the way, it does well in Australia too), it’s got shall we say, “a diversified portfolio” not only in retailers interested, (they will also be opening their own flagships soon) but most importantly in the designs of the Nikita brand itself. It is for these reasons that make Nikita one of the strongest in its category and an enviable, if not inspirational, challenge for others to step-up.
Stay tuned for Label Networks’ TV interview with Runar Omarsson and Amabile Dyer coming soon. To check-out other Label Networks TV interviews, go to www.youtube.com/labelnetworks.