Introducing the Fifth Avenue Tote, a piece dreamed up in collaboration by X NIHILO and leather lovers #friendsofxnihilo, WEST 14TH! This tote will quickly become your new go-to bag, crafted from beautifully durable canvas and rolled leather handles.
In light of our new product launch with the Sydney based brand, WEST 14TH, it is without a doubt that we need to introduce the brand’s glorious founder, Violeta and what better to way to do this than a fast 10 questions - read on!
How did you begin your career in fashion? Did you always think you would be in this field?
I’m an expat from New York (via the way of NJ where I grew up) and live in Bondi. I moved here because I wanted to live on the beach……it’s been over 15 years and I’m still here!
It wasn’t until I turned 16, that my creative side sparked with interest to pursue a creative future. One afternoon instead of visiting a friend’s house we both took the train into NYC to explore (which at 16 was a definitely not allowed by our parents). I came across The Fashion Institute of Technology city-campus on 27th Street & 7th Avenue. After seeing all the fashion students rushing off to class, I knew I was meant to study fashion at this school, and so I did!
I completed internships with businesses such as Henri Bendel, Nine West and Ralph Lauren. Post-graduation, I landed a role in Ralph Lauren’s buying offices for womenswear and so my fashion career began. A few years later, I moved to Sydney to live on the beach and joined a contemporary-fashion boutique as the Fashion Director. A few years after that, WEST 14TH was born.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Every collection starts differently. We can be influenced by a new leather technique or a visit to a tannery. A new sustainable material or process. It can be a colour from an interior or art exhibition. Places visited around the world are always an easy reference to draw inspiration from and a missed element when designing these days. What always remains the same is our purpose driven methodology. We deeply think about what is missing in our women’s wardrobe. Is it a shape, a colour, a new category we haven’t offered before? We don’t design for the sake of turning out a new collection. We design with purpose to fulfil a need by our customers and we create our leather essentials to last a lifetime.
Have you found it difficult to stick to any of these? If so, how did you overcome this?
When building a business and a fashion brand there are always challenges especially as you look for that product-market fit. You tweak your ideas until it’s right, you find your customer and then you think you are away. For us, yes it was hard to stick to our values of slow fashion in the beginning. I found our retail partnerships want constant newness to deliver multiple collections a year.
We had to make difficult decisions to focus on channels and relationships that understand our ‘buy once, wear forever ethos’ and forgo those more profitable deals. Running your own business is a rollercoaster and ours at times has been fast and exciting then slow and considered. I’m grateful 9 years later we’re still around connecting with our customers and dressing her in forever essentials.
What has felt like the biggest achievement in your career?
How did you remain driven in your work during and post pandemic?
Driven was the easy part… finding inspiration and a reason to create newness was hard!
Similar to most businesses we were in the dark on how the pandemic would affect our way of life, our health and the need to consume – anything fashion! We banned together with other like-minded brands and with the broader Australian fashion community to keep ourselves informed of how the industry was navigating lockdowns, restrictions, supply chain issues etc.
For us the silver lining, if there could be one during this very terrible, sad and heartbreaking pandemic, is the awakening of the conscious consumer. We found new customers wanting to buy that beautiful leather wardrobe staple that will last a lifetime. They were seeking that very well-made item to wear every day. We also found our work on producing a sustainable leather collection was sought after and our audience was highly engaged and wanting to learn more.
As for finding design inspiration during a pandemic …. I think we need a whole other session on that!
What is your favourite material to work/design with?
Do you prefer dressing for cool or warm weather?
What is your favourite X NIHILO bag?
CAMPAIGN CREDITSPHOTOGRAPHER Tāne CoffinSTYLIST Charlotte StokesMODEL Cassaerea JesusMODEL BriannaHAIR & MAKE UP Aimie Fiebig