You might say Nikki Garcia is making all the rite moves. Not only has her burgeoning First Rite line made it onto the racks at downtown retail hotspot Shotwell, but the local designer is poised to roll out a six-piece collection for spring 2010. Even better, it will be produced and sewn in San Francisco.
Garcia initially began selling oversized, cropped hoodies to Shotwell and has since expanded her offerings in the shop with a series of turban-style headbands. Now Garcia is hard at work on her offerings for spring, a line of edgy basics ($140-$180) featuring structural details such as pleats and paneling that set them apart. Each piece is done in black, and fabrics range from knits sourced from a Los Angeles mill to 100 percent wool Marc Jacobs overstock suiting material for the blazer.
We caught up with Garcia recently to chat about her latest work, keeping it local and where she’s likely to be when she’s not sewing.
Your spring line doesn’t come out until March, but if we want to snag First Rite gear now, can you tell us what is currently available at Shotwell?
They currently are selling the First Rite Hoodie and a bunch of turban style headbands I made. I’m actually not sure they have anything in stock. They sell pretty quickly, and I haven’t had time to make them more.
Tell us about your spring 2011 collection.
There are 6 pieces total, a blazer, a cardigan, 2 dresses, the hoodie and a cropped tank….I like simplicity combined with exaggerated details like drawn out shoulders, inset panels and oversized and cut out necklines. I like repetition and line, so I used a lot of paneling and pleating to create pieces that have a lot of structure and detail.
You use a lot of black, folds and pleats. Can you elaborate on those two elements of your work?
The use of black is perfect because it allows me to keep the focus on the shape of the garment. I create pieces that are full of detail and lines, so color and pattern seem to overwhelm the designs. As I began to understand the process of pattern making, I became fascinated by using pleating. I love the process of folding the patterns over and over and seeing how they translate in fabric. The effect on my line is pieces that look protective, like feminine armor. Edgy, but pretty. And dark.
What’s your design background? How did you get into fashion?
I did my undergrad at University of Montana in business and photo art and afterward decided to move to San Francisco to study fashion design at FIDM. I knew since high school I wanted to do fashion, but I wanted to go to a university first, get a little bit out of my system and study business. I’m glad I waited a few years, because by the time I moved to San Francisco, I felt really ready and focused on my work. I have been sewing small projects since high school, but didn’t know how to construct a garment from beginning to end up until a couple of years ago. I now spend most of my free time playing around with new ideas, and I have a whole rack of pieces that I have made just for fun. Some I wear, some are a little over the top. My collection is a nice balance of both.
Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?
I have been an assistant manager at Villains on Haight Street for the past year and a half, but I have been with the company since I moved to San Francisco three years ago. I work there four days a week and have three days off to work on my line. I usually take one of those days to think about nothing other than enjoying the city.
Do you do custom orders?
I have done a lot of custom orders for the First Rite hoodie and am more than happy to make those for anyone.
You currently design and sew everything yourself, but you are going to be working with local seamstresses for the spring items. Is it important for you to have garments made locally? If so, why?
This is the first time I am working with industry professionals for all my production, and it has been amazing. I love sewing all the initial test fits, but to be able to hand off the patterns to be cut and sewn saves me a lot of time. I have kept the sewing local so that it is easy for me to manage. I can BART or drive to everyone I am working with. With production being so cheap overseas, many factories in San Francisco have closed in the past few years, and there are really only a few production houses left in San Francisco. It is important to me to support those that are left and to keep all my production within the U.S. It costs me more, and in the end costs the customer more, but I think it is worth it to support other local businesses.
What would be find you doing on your day off, when you’re not working or sewing?
I love riding my bike. I ride it every day. Sometimes just around the city, sometimes over the bridge and into Marin. I try to get outside of the city and have daylong adventures whenever I can. I love being outside and hiking around in the woods, a part of me that remains from all my time spent in Montana, and I love that San Francisco is close to so many amazing places. I hang out in my neighborhood (the Mission), drinking coffee with friends, reading walking around, trying new restaurants.
Photography courtesy of Dylan Ozanich for First Rite