Nikki Duijst: “I always believed that Dutch Fashion Design is hard to define, and I have come to believe that that’s the charm of it.”
Graduated from one of Netherland’s finest academies, she is awarded this year’s Lichting Talent Award. Her collection ‘As we seek our face’ is about the exploration of her personal fear of being in the spotlight versus the portrayal of ourselves. Inspired by today’s age of social media where we are automatically pushed into presenting ourselves as extraordinary personalities, she started to think about the strong desire for anonymity. The silhouettes hint at the influence of an interaction between femininity, seclusion and exposure of oneself. We saw her collection at the graduation runway of The Hague’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, captivated by her barcoded female silhouettes, visibly translating the concept envisioned. We meet in one of Amsterdam’s iconic crowded streets- The Haarlemmerstraat- for a coffee-chat to talk fashion, her collection and her vision as a promising designer. A good conversation is one that elevates your view on a certain idea or perception- talking with Nikki I felt she did that for me.
You’ve had such a few exciting weeks behind you!
I feel very relaxed now- the first two days were a bit unrealistic but then after Lichting it really kicked in. It’s been very exciting and I am happy I can take a little break now. I would like to catch up on friends I haven’t seen in long while. I look forward to that- it’s such a privilege to finally being able to do that.
You won the Lichting 2015 award- this being an independent Dutch fashion award- what goes through your head?
I never thought I would win the award. There was so much potential on the runway, it never crossed my mind I would win. When you start with a course like this, you always dream of winning awards like Lichting. When you hear you are nominated for it you think “Imagine how great it would be if I could win that!” -but then that thought disappears and makes place for focus. You want to focus on your development, your creations and presentation– instead of wanting to win- so when I heard I was nominated with all those other fantastic designers I already felt like a winner! Lichting is such a unique experience. You get the opportunity to meet other fresh designers, their creations and industry influentials and really connect with each other.
I can’t explain- looking back I think I was in a surreal state of shock- only able to smile- unable to process it all. You get such a rush- everything shuts off for a moment, I am so extremely happy about it! The best gift to receive after four years of intensive training: A chance to continue doing what you love!
Have you given thought to what you would like to do with your prize?
I’m still thinking about it- I want to make sure I do the right thing with it. When I started my course at KABK I used to say that I wanted to start my own brand- but now upon completion I’ve adjusted my thoughts on that. During my internship at A.F Vandevorst I realized that there is yet a lot to learn -like on the production & business level. The focus right now is on gaining more experience on the production side and commercializing. I want to build a network and invest in building sustainable relationships in the industry. I am very interested to work for a house – it’s a great way to experience all these facets that is required in the industry. Lots to think about.
How do you come up with a concept like that?
I’m very conceptual- I wanted to make it personal. I was constantly asking myself “How am I feeling right now?” At the same time I am always looking for twist, a surprise element, to make a suggestion and make people wonder about it. I wanted the garments to translate that feeling of being covered and yet exposed at the same time. I developed print dessins for the fabrics that refer to the original barcode. I made it more abstract to diversify it and used it to create a feeling of a second skin. I incorporated my own selfies, these kooky images I made out of collage techniques to give the collection a more mysterious wink. You have to fall in love with your concept, feel it, to be able to create what you want to show.
Over the years at the academy, have you developed a kind of signature in your designs?
I’m not sure if I can call it a signature but I have a thing for textiles, every designer really has, but I allow the textile to lead me. It’s my starting point, the textiles inspires me. I love interacting with the elements, sometimes you touch a piece of fabric and you see a clear picture in your mind- you know exactly how you want to present the fabric. I don’t sketch much- I rather work directly on the mannequin using moulage techniques. I follow my instinct, senses and like to use all kinds of techniques to translate a story in to the garments. In that I’m very drawn to Japanese houses like Comme Des Garçons – but also Rodarte and Margiela, who allow the textiles and materials to lead the way, working from the mannequin.
I used to struggle with the personal sacrifices I had to make at the beginning. I missed my grandmother’s birthday a few times, for example. When you start you don’t realize how much you’re getting yourself in to and how much more you will have to do, if this is your passion. It’s a commitment. You are so focused (and you need to be), the academy becomes a big part of your life. They want to see the best of you and push you to do your best and at the end it really pays off. I’m very happy I chose to study at The Hague’s Royal Academy- and in process your classmates become part of your life, they become family. It’s beautiful on that final night- to see the end result- recognizing your classmates in their graduation collection.
What do you think is the essence of Dutch fashion design? What do you believe is our strength?
I always believed that Dutch fashion design is hard to define, and I have come to believe that that’s the charm of it. There isn’t only one good style, or a certain signature to it. I think the essence must be that we have diversity and are open to new ideas- that makes it so interesting- which creates space for innovation. This I thought was also very visible on the runway of Lichting.
What is in your opinion an important asset to have or to develop pursuing a career in the fashion industry?
As a creative you are always going to be exposed to criticism- It’s important that you don’t take it personal, but to turn in to something positive- and to remain positive. It’s very hard, it can make you insecure, but right there you have to keep calm and stay positive.
Couture or Prêt-à-porter?
I Love couture, but perhaps I prefer Prêt-à-porter because it’s more than just a runway, it’s an experience. You’re defining the streets of the future, enabling people to express their individuality. The concept is about everything that is happening around us and that is interesting to me. I think it’s romantic in a way, from generation to generation- how fashion has always been a mirror of our times- reflected on what people wear to the streets. I want people to have access to fashion, to be able to express their individuality and be aware of their uniqueness.
About the future, how would you describe the future of fashion?
When I think of the future of fashion I think of innovation and renewal, and I’m convinced that you can find this within yourself as a creative, by interacting with the constant changing elements around you. When you keep it close to yourself, you are already developing and renewing –by acknowledging these changes and what they bring about in you. I am keen to contribute to this cycle of innovation and renewal.