Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Rite

Spring 2011 is First Rite's debut collection of 6 pieces. Consisting of some uh-mazingly structured garments that feel at once guarded and minimal. Using protective details like enlarged hoods, paneling, pleating, and exaggerated shoulders to create clothing that mimics armor while retaining subtlety; These pieces are pretty and feminine, but also dark and elegant.

We recently spent the day shooting and talking with Nikki Garcia First Rite's founder and designer... 

First and foremost, who are you and what are you about?

I have spent my short life between Oregon, Montana, and California, all amazing places in their own ways, and I'm about living where and doing what I love. I ride my bike and take the time to sit and have coffee at my favorite spot every day. I spend time with people I love, and fill my free time with escapes to the woods, enjoying my neighborhood and city, reading, and creating whatever comes to mind. I like that I am always very busy with my work, it keeps the ideas flowing, and I hate wasting time. And I love my cat.
 (I just felt like I was writing an online dating profile) 

What is First Rite (mission statement)?

I create garments that are modern and edgy, but feminine. I focus on line, shape, repetition and structure, and create nothing I wouldn't myself wear. Each piece is hand crafted and sewn within San Francisco in small quantities to maintain exclusivity and quality, and each fabric is sourced from within the US. 

Where did the name come from?

A rite is an event that changes a person from then on, whether it be their title, beliefs, status, anything. From that moment on they move forward with their new knowledge and understanding. On a personal level First Rite stands for the moment I knew having this clothing line is the path I wanted to take. It's about an individual coming to an understanding of who they are, and showing it in what they love. I like that the name sounds a little dark, but also modern and to the point. 

What brought you in to fashion? 

I have spent a significant part of my life trying out different creative arts, throughout college it was photography. I liked the dark room process, all the intricate steps involved, trying to get the perfect print, but as photography went digital I wanted to try something else that was hands on in the same way. I have always had an interest in sewing and garment drawing and construction, so after I graduated I continued my education at FIDM and learned everything I needed to know to create a garment from beginning to end. For me, fashion is about self expression. What every person puts on tells a story about them, how they are feeling, who they are, what they want to show others about who they are, and creating clothes is the same. The process of creating the garments is the most important. It is a ritual for me, something I really enjoy doing. In the end, being in fashion is about creating clothes you find beautiful or interesting and you hope that others agree with you, but there is a lot of time and love for the craft that goes into it.

Your work seems to focus around structure and line... striking a difficult balance between  sharp lines and femininity. where do you draw inspiration from?

I'm inspired by things all around me whether I realize it or not. All the places I have lived and experiences I have had, the different moods and aesthetics of each place, have collected inside of me and made me who I am. I find inspiration by looking around; at flea markets, from people on the street, from talking with others about their ideas, from reading, and by taking it all in consciously and subconsciously. Something will catch my eye and suddenly I have all these ideas surrounding it, and the ideas build until they are cohesive, and I have a direction to go in. I find a lot of inspiration from thrift store racks and collect special details that I rework in my own way.You get to look at decades of trends and garment construction, which I find really interesting, and can see how details have evolved. I am also inspired by people who are doing what they love, and making it work. I love to see a talented person who is humble and modest.

What other designers do you feel a kinship towards.. contemporary or historical?

I like to see designers trying new things and not conforming to a set of rules. Using fashion as their expression, being really out there, and not caring what others are doing. I am very inspired by Scandinavian design. There is a lot of creative energy in that region that seems to fit into it's own category.Henrik Vibskov has been a longtime favorite. Ann Demeulemeester and Stine Goya are both incredible. You can always spot Swedish or Danish lines, they have a perfect balance of being playful, elegant, and modern. Other collections that catch my eye for one reason or another are Givenchy, Rodarte, Comme de Garcons, Chloe, Proenza Schouler...there's a lot. There are a lot of really talented designers out there. It's very inspiring and humbling.

Where do you feel your work fits in contemporary fashion?

Though our economy is staggering and many companies have closed their doors, there is an emergence of independent designers who's mission is to create really well made clothes that are of a unique vision, and ethically produced. These types of businesses are gaining lots of support from the public and the fashion world, as the word of the time seems to be "sustainable". Customers are making more informed decisions and choosing to purchase quality over quantity and to invest in timeless pieces. My work fits into this niche, modern pieces that are well made, unique, and can be worn by all different types of women in different ways.

Have you considered expanding into menswear?

I have thought about it, and even have a name in mind if it ever happens. I would love to eventually do men's and women's, but for now I am busy enough.

Have you considered expanding your color pallette why/why not?

For the past two collections I have designed, black felt the most appropriate. I put a lot of details into the structure and using black kept the emphasis on the shape and didn't overwhelm the design. Black is modern, clean, edgy, and timeless, and suits my style of design. 

I am currently working on a third collection for which I am planning on using a lighter palette for several pieces and possibly some of my own prints. I will probably continue to use black through all my collections, as I can't seem to steer away from intricate detailing, but I am very excited about lightening the mood for next Spring and trying something new.

Fashion tends to be driven by culture and vice versa... what do you listen to? 

Depends on the day, a little bit of everything, lots of folk, old country and bluegrass, 60's experimental and rock and roll, new Indie bands...really, everything.  I listen to music all day when I am working and I think it definitely influences my work as anything that alters your mood will.


I like movies with a lot of dialogue like old Woody Allen and Whit Stillman. Anything by Almodovar, Godard, Wes Anderson. .... I don't watch tv, and every time I do, I remember why I don't own one, but there have definitely been a few good series that have caught my attention. Currently loving Twin Peaks and waiting for Dexter to start again.


Lots of books, I read a lot. Lots of fabric. I don't like shopping but I love digging through thrift stores and flea markets.I can't resist anything made of beautifully aged wood, Old portraits, small cabinets, my house is exploding with my collections. 

Getting back to your impecable sense of line... do you have a favorite architect or industrial designer?

Don't know enough to say I have a favorite, but the Take Your Time exhibit I saw by Olafur Eliasson when I first moved here has always stuck in my mind as one of the better things I have seen. His work is really incredible and interactive for the viewer. I spent all day there.

As impossible as forecasting is, where do you see First Rite in 5 years?

My perfect scenario for 5 years from now would be to see First Rite in stores in every major city, in showrooms in the US and Europe, and have an awesome team of friends to help out. I have a long way to go, but hey, I have 5 years. I always see First Rite operating as a smaller business with myself as the designer, and I want to employ people around me and keep all the production ethical. 

I am hoping to collaborate on projects with other designers and artists, and want to continue to be involved in my local design scene. I have some  plans for expansion in the works, but am trying to take it slow and be realistic so that I never take on more than I can handle. This is what I want to do for a long time, so I want to do it the right way and not get in over my head.

Model: Alexis Hutt
Designer: Niki Garcia
Photographer: Andrew Moran 
Hair/Make-up: Kristine Cruz
Stylist: Kristine Cruz/Niki Garcia 
Writer: Marco Dela Vega

1 comment:

  1. I love you. you are brilliant and it shows in your designs.keep it up lady.