News & Runway

Designer to Watch: Wendy Nichol

At the risk of sounding jaded, most department stores end up having very similar designer merchandise, so it's always exciting when I come across a new designer find, and that's exactly what happened the day after Black Friday when I was roaming around Barneys Co-op. There, on the seventh floor in a glass case, I spotted a shearling cuff designed by New York-based designer Wendy Nichol. After some research once home, I found out she has a boutique in Manhattan, a full-fledged handbag line, and apparel in addition to her beautiful jewelry designs. I was immediately intrigued by the designer's beautiful work and contacted her to ask if I could interview her; luckily she agreed.

The Fashion Spot: Was starting a namesake line always part of your plan?

Wendy Nichol: When I started my business, I was looking for a name that was timeless and would not become dated after a few years. I felt choosing my own name would make sense for the long term.

tFS: What are some of the biggest struggles you face as a New York City-based designer?

WN: I am an independent designer and I handle all of the line's production in house. Space is always an issue; it's expensive and hard to come by in Manhattan. Finding a workspace in your budget with great lighting and enough room in a neighborhood that makes sense for your needs is a huge challenge. We make due by being creative with space, but I'm always thinking about a bigger studio, hiring more people and growing as a company!

tFS: Most memorable fashion moment since starting your line?

WN: One of my most exciting moments was having my showroom call me to tell me that Colette Paris and Barney's placed orders for my handbag and jewelry collections!

tFS: Do you remember the first designer item you bought? 

WN: In grade 9 I bought a Polo Ralph Lauren banker stripe button down shirt. I wore it with men's tapered work pants and penny loafers, it was a thing.

tFS: Can you tell us about some of the most treasured handbags and jewelry pieces in your closet?

WN: I have an antique handmade silver Navajo Indian necklace with turquoise, coral, and real bear claws. I love to wear it with jeans and an old t shirt. It's strangely powerful. I also recently acquired an ancient Roman ring from 300 AD that is one of the coolest things I've ever owned. 

tFS: Do you ever find yourself struggling to come up with new design ideas? Do you have any go-to spots or things you do to get inspired?

WN: I think that most designers struggle with the current pace of fashion. Just as you finish showing a collection, you need to start a new one. After several years of designing, I realize that design integrity and creativity come before all else. I know I am finished with a collection when I fully believe in it and know that it's ready to put into the world. In terms of inspiration, I rely mostly on my environment in New York, there is endless inspiration here.

tFS: Was apparel always part of the plan?

WN: No, I started sewing black silk aprons for the artists at my studio to cover their clothing while they worked; I loved the look of them so much it spiraled into a full clothing line for Spring 2012.

tFS: Do you exclusively wear your own designs or are there other designers you like?

WN: No, I have started to collect designer vinatge from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and current. I love wearing other designers, but am specifically obsessed with designer vintage. I love things that are one of a kind and hand crafted. I’m super selective about accessories; I will usually only wear my own handbags.

tFS: How closely do you follow trends?

WN: I don't really pay too much attention to trends, I follow my instincts when it comes to what I wear. When it comes to design I prefer to make things that are timeless in style and construction.

tFS: Do you remember the first piece you sold?

WN: I made my first 3 pyramid gold cuff in January 2007, I put it into a boutique on consignment, they called me the same day because it sold right away!

tFS: What are some of your favorite pieces from your current apparel and accessories collections?

WN: I love all of our earrings and have been wearing the small tall hoops religiously, the rest of my ears are filled with black diamonds studs. Also, I’m obsessed with the new Canteen Bag and Folio Backpack, the leather and shapes are super cool and so pretty.

tFS: What's on your holiday wish list?

WN: More time to rest and be healthy, I love to run and think a gym membership for the winter would be so great. I also want to go to Tulum, Mexico to read, snorkel, and visit the ancient Mayan ruins.