Is there anything more special than a dress that was literally made for you? Doubtful. It's not something you typically see every day so when I found Nikki Marie and her made-to-order vintage-inspired dresses, I couldn't believe how beautiful her pieces are.
Filled with gorgeous prints and sweet accessories, it's immediately clear how much care Nikki puts into the items she makes. It's brands like these that remind me why it's so important to support small businesses over fast fashion. Shopping at a big retailer would never give you the same feeling of putting on a dress made from good quality materials and constructed specifically for you in mind. And buying from one of those places would never allow you to support someone so passionate about her what. From reading Nikki's answers to my interview questions, what struck me the most was 1. how much passion she's put into turning her work into a career and 2. the community she's cultivated through it. I love how she's utilized loved ones and friends to grow her business and how she's currently connecting with customers on Instagram. Starting a business can be a lonely, thankless job for some, but Nikki is proof that it doesn't have to be. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did, and I know you'll be drooling over her gorgeous retro pieces the same way I did too.
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: I have always had a love of fashion since I can remember as a little girl. I love how fashion can take you to another planet and make your day brighter. I wanted to make clothing for all women to feel confident and happy. I started my business in 2012 right after graduating from West Valley College with my degree in Fashion Design. Lucky for me my boyfriend at the time (now husband) had his business in IT for almost ten years. He helped build my first website and we would do photoshoots in his office inside his parents' house of garments I would create. Also, being the daughter of very self-driven parents really helped shaped me into the hardworking boss lady I am today. Like any business story, I really didn’t start making money until just five years ago. When I moved up to Sonoma County from the Bay Area six years ago, my whole life changed for the better. There is a sense of community here and a lot of women that are very supportive. The first boutique I sold my garments to was through Mad Mod Shop, my friend and fellow boss lady Andrea Hoogendorn. It was the perfect match since her boutique is all vintage inspired and perfectly curated for the 1950s/1960s fashion enthusiast. I’ve met clients and friends for life through San Diego Fashion Week. I am forever grateful for meeting Amy Schaus who did an article about me in Sonoma Magazine for the 2016 article “Two Local Fashion Lines to Add to Your Must-Check-Out List.”
Through there, I met her friend Malia Anderson, Sonoma County’s Stylist for all. Malia took me under her wings as her Tailor for her clients. Then from there I built relationships with these clients. It was like an amazing domino effect. Then these clients started ordering custom dresses from me. I would and still cry with joy! I get to do what I love everyday.
Really amazing because just before I started my business in 2012 I went through what I call a “quarter life crisis.” I didn’t like my retail job, my living situation and how I was being treated at the time, but being the doormat that I was, I didn’t speak up. So like a soda under pressure, I kept it all bottled inside. Then one day I just snapped. Something I wouldn’t recommend, but I quit my horrible retail job on the spot and never looked back. I literally felt like a million bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. I finally realized why my whole life I would get sick at parties or stomach aches. I have anxiety and also needed a backbone!
Thankfully, my husband had experienced it all with his personal story so he knew what to do. We got the help I needed and now I am able to holistically take care of my mind through therapy when I see fits, nature walks and my favorite is weight lifting. I also learned that it’s ok to say no. Repeat after me, IT’S OK TO SAY NO! Also, surround yourself with good vibes. I can’t stress this enough. Toxic people are going to pollute your dreams. Have a group that is rooting for you and if that’s only you, that’s ok too!
I’ve always worked full-time retail jobs anywhere from Nordstrom to a local boutique to pay for my fashion books and supplies. I’ve had my share of many failures, but I never let that keep me knocked out. I always got back up and used those failures as lessons.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: The first products that took off were from my Spring 2015 collection I showed at San Diego Fashion Week. The Sid Top in the orange diamond jacquard knitted crew neck sweater crop top and the Katarina Skirt with the blue and orange version of the diamond jacquard knit. They later went on to sell through Mad Mod Shop and we gained popularity from there.