If you were to ask Nikki Hendricks what her typical Sunday consists of, she’d shoot you an infectious smile, giggle, and tell you “Sunday is my day for naps.” Well, when you’re as passionate and hardworking as Nikki, naps are much needed (and well deserved.) This superstar of a human, and 2017 Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) graduate, just landed shows at both 2017 New York and Paris Fashion Weeks – a huge step toward Nikki’s career aspirations to have her own design label.
I reached out to Nikki after hearing word of her recent successes in hopes that we could sit down and chat about her journey, experiences, and inspirations. She graciously agreed to grab coffee with me in her hometown of D.C. I wanted to chat with Nikki regarding her homegrown success because this Baltimore-bred talent is a testament to the success stories that work, learn, and thrive in Charm City (and y’all known I’m a sucker for local everything, including talented humans!)
“As a little girl, I used to carry around multiple notebooks for sketching designs and outfits,” Hendricks told me. Fashion has always been a passion of Nikki’s. Growing up, her classmates would make comments about her designs, telling Nikki they would wear the things she sketched. Despite her enthusiasm, Hendricks’ passion fell victim to logistics and criticism, halting her (temporarily) from pursuing fashion as a career.
“One of my art teachers looked at my sketches and told me that they were terrible and that I should stop drawing,” she explained. And that’s exactly what Nikki did. Combined with an increased emphasis on career practicality, Hendricks decided that a more traditional major was a safer approach
But traditional isn’t always better. After realizing that Mass Communications just wasn’t for her, Nikki ultimately ended up transferring to the MICA from the University of Bridgeport.
“I was on an Amtrak from Connecticut back home to D.C. and we stopped at Baltimore’s Penn Station. I saw MICA from the train but just thought it was an art academy.” After some research, and an accepted transfer application, Nikki started a new journey at the Baltimore-based school as a General Fine Arts major.
But how does a General Fine Arts major, having only taken one sewing class during her time at MICA, end up getting a fashion show at NYFW?
2015 was a challenging year for Baltimore. Social turmoil raised tensions while inequality seemed to be the highlight in every local news story. MICA wanted to help Baltimore write another story. Their 2016 Annual Benefit Fashion Show DONROSE aimed to respond to the divide by urging designers to create collections that “considered societal labels such as gay or straight, male or female, black or white, and rich or poor—labels that are often imposed from birth.”
DONROSE not only challenged Baltimore’s new image, it demonstrated that beautiful things can be created from less-than-glamorous situations. It also served as reminder to Nikki that limitations only exist if you allow them to. Driven by that which unifies, she leaped back into fashion cold-turkey and created a line for the DONROSE show.
And so it began. After DONROSE, Nikki received shows at other notable events, such as DC Fashion Week. And it’s easy to see why she was identified as a next-generation talent.
I was introduced to Nikki’s work at HUEMAN, MICA’s 2017 Annual Benefit Fashion Show. In line with the theme of the show, Nikki’s line The Blends was heavily inspired by unity. My first impression of The Blends was an immediate attraction to the bold colors used in the line.
But as we chatted over coffee, I discovered there was so much more to The Blends than color and structure. What I love most about Nikki’s work is that it’s deliberate. During our chat, I asked Nikki what inspired her line for HUEMAN. She then went on to explain that during her model call, she asked each of her 16 models (identities ranging in gender, sexual identity, race, religion) for a symbol or image to which they related. Each symbol, independently unique, was then incorporated into the line.
“From their interviews, she took symbols and imagery that they all heavily related to or felt represented them and created a pattern. Each garment has a piece of this pattern in order to symbolically unify, but not dilute, the character of each person.” – Excerpt from her bio on mica.edu
The pattern used in The Blends is not the only thing that holds meaning. Hendricks also asked each of her models what silhouettes and styles made them feel the most confident. “Confidence is key,” she explained.
She continued to emphasize the symbiotic relationship surrounding this statement. She told those who came to her model call, “I need you to walk like Naomi Campbell.” Regardless of size, color, or gender, the designer made sure her models would rock the hell out of that stage because “ultimately, I’m trying to sell my brand.” She understands that confidence radiates – a smart business woman and a selfless human, Hendricks ensured her models were wearing the pieces that made them feel good about themselves.
Nikki’s appreciation for the cohesive individuality of mankind is inspiring. “I like to think about what brings us together, instead of what divides us,” the designer explained. Talking with Nikki reminded me that we are all unique, but sometimes we forget to appreciate our commonalities.
She asked all of her models for HUEMAN one more question: “What do you do on a typical Sunday?” She relayed to me that unsurprisingly, most of us do the same things. We enjoy spending our time in similar ways – going to church, shopping, cooking dinner, spending time with family. Isn’t it time we celebrate that?
I’m a firm believer that good things happen to good people — and after speaking with Nikki, she deserves every ounce of success. While her talent was discovered through the 1-dimensional lens of social media, both NY and Paris Fashion Week are lucky to have gained not only a phenomenal designer, but an amazing multi-dimensional human, at their events. Turns out those two years of classes in Mass Communications came in handy for social media branding!
For now, you can find Nikki in the DMV area – when she’s not working part-time at Angel Park Boutique, she is channeling her time & energy promoting and creating her designs. Except on Sundays, those are her days for naps.
Additionally, I’d just like to say that Nikki is self-funding her trips and expenses. This girl has got work ethic and is the definition of boss babe.
Until next time, keep supporting!