Queen of Stripes: Meet Designer Nikki Kule
- Written By:Allie Rose
If you like stripes, you need to know Nikki Kule. The designer launched her stripe-focused collection, KULE, in 2015 and it has quickly become a favorite of the fashion set. It’s a brand built on classic pieces “made happy.” Sold through kule.com and some of the world's best retailers, the line has expanded to include so much more than just stripes: luxe cashmere sweaters, Italian cotton shirting, sporty accessories, outerwear, and more for women, men, and kids. We caught up with Kule to learn more about how she got her start, her beauty obsessions and what’s next for the brand.
How did you get started in the fashion industry?
My father had a very popular pants company in the ’70s and my mom was the designer. I grew up spending a lot of time in their office and watched the pattern makers and sewers create garments from a sketch. I never had any desire to do anything else but work in the fashion industry. I worked for my family business for about 7 years and then I started off on my own making children’s wear and then switched gears to women’s wear.
Talk to us about the inspiration behind KULE. Why stripes?
Stripes have always made me happy. For as long as I can remember, a striped shirt has always been my “go-to” for an effortless and chic outfit. That’s partly because it's so easy to throw together and I have never been one to waste time labor over getting dressed. They can bring life to any outfit.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
I always knew it for as long as I can remember. I think it’s in my genes.
What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
I never realized how personal it is when you start your own line. In a weird way, it’s like creating a painting with a story or vision that is so personal to you and what you hope people will fall in love with and like. And I guess if it didn’t sell well, it would feel like a personal rejection of your art. The great thing about this industry is that it’s always evolving and each season is like a new canvas and I always have a new “story”.
Describe the KULE woman:
She is me of course. On the inside, I am an introvert and on the outside, I am an extrovert. I like to be bold sometimes with my fashion choices, but I am always comfortable and always myself.
How do you want women to feel when wearing your clothes?
I want them to feel comfortable, themselves, and special. I believe that our demeanors change and we are happier when we feel good about what we are wearing.
Your style philosophy:
I have been working on this all my life. While I have always preferred an effortless look I have gone through many phases of style. I had a preppy Ralph Lauren phase, an early 80’s Madonna phase, and then a Michael Kors American sportswear phase. Today I have come into my own signature look. It's all about easy, versatile pieces that make me happy and combining things that you wouldn't automatically pair together. So I like to wear a KULE tee with an easy cardigan, great denim, and an oversized coat or trench with sneakers. When I'm on the go I can't be too dressed...and I'm always on the go. I heard Larry David call it "half-dressed" and that sort of describes my current style.
What role do you think social media plays in fashion today?
That’s a loaded question for me. I think it has been the most wonderful thing and the most challenging thing. Being able to connect directly with people who you admire and have never met makes the world feel a bit smaller and more intimate. And, I absolutely love the discovery that it enables. I love finding artists, designers and stylists from all over the world on Instagram that I would never have the opportunity to learn about or interact with. The drawback of Instagram is that it’s almost become more important than the clothes, and your success and talent is measured by how many followers you have. I also think that Instagram has stripped us of some of the excitement for fashion. There is no mystery to anything or anyone anymore.
When it comes to wellness, how do you reset?
For me, it’s always been running. It clears my headspace. I listen to music and dream and drift as I run. Of course, I love traveling too. Both are escapes to replenish the brain, soul, and body.
Your beauty obsessions:
I am such a creature of habit and an absolute minimalist when it comes to beauty. I have been using the same face wash for the last 30 years (not joking) and they have recently discontinued it so I have been buying it in bulk on eBay. It is Shiseido’s Gentle Cleansing Face Wash. I also use the Shiseido Moisturizer with SPF 18 and this has been discontinued as well. The world is changing so fast, I have now learned not to get hooked on any beauty product because it might not be around next year.
Glossier mascara is truly the best one out there. Lately, I have tried to use some anti-aging serums. I think they may be working since some friends told me my skin looked better. One is called Royal Fern which I kind of love the texture and smell and the other is Hyaluronic Serum by Dr. Barbara Sturm.
If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
I had so much fear when I was younger. I was always intimidated by fashion people like editors, buyers, even other designers. As I met them in person and became friends with them, I learned that they had the same fears as me. It would have been great to be free of this when I was just starting out.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
If you have to make a decision and you’re not sure, pick the one that'll make you the happiest. I spend less time laboring on decisions and I am definitely making decisions that make me happier.
What advice would you offer someone looking to turn their passion into a business?
I think flexibility is the keyword in the next phase of business. The most creative business people are changing and disrupting the world around us. Question every conventional approach. See if there is a way to change it and flip it around to your advantage. It's easier to stand out when your approach is different. For an entrepreneur looking to start a business, standing out is so important.
What’s next for Kule, what can our readers expect from the brand in 2020?
We are working on a really exciting project. We aren’t announcing it yet but I’ll give you a clue: There is a lot more in store for KULE in 2020.
Not kidding, but I literally live by the words of Nike and Tim Gunn: “Just do it” and “Make it Work.” These are my fashion mantras and I think I use them almost every day.