18 Sep Nicó SS2021 presents: Natalia, a Love Letter to Women, Culture and Hispanic Heritage
With Fashion Month going virtual and designers somewhere in between creating their next collections and taking the time to regroup, the fashion industry definitely has been surprising us. Texas-based designer Nick Perez of Nicó is no exception and took this time of isolation to work on his SS2021 Collection, surprising us all with the launch of “Natalia”. The launch also came at a perfect moment, with Hispanic Heritage month, Perez explores his Mexican roots and his love for family, culture, and his heritage.
Nicò SS2021. Lavender gown, styled by Kaia Dublin. Photography by Saige Thomas
SLTV: Nick, these gowns are all stunning! What was the inspiration behind the collection?
NP: This collection was titled Natalia, after my great grandmother. There has always been a great legacy of women in my family. Not to say that we come from grandness and luxury, because we don’t. My family tree comes from cotton pickers, seamstresses, field workers, and the like. With Natalia, she used every resource she had at her hands to make sure the family was taken care of. She had about 14 children! It’s a lot for a woman to handle, especially in Mexico with minimum resources. Natalia was a seamstress and she would use what she had available to create clothing. Very resourceful, using potato sacks to create dresses and patchwork and even appliques to make dresses for my grandmother, Maria. I never got to meet Natalia, but the stories and the love my mother and grandmother had for her, she’s still a very present force in our family. So, the collection is inspired by the women that I’ve surrounded myself with, growing up. My mother and my sister are to me, the epitome of femininity. Being non-binary myself, I feel a very strong feminine presence within me. I think people often confuse femininity with prettiness and softness, but to me, it comes from strength.
SLTV: That’s beautiful! I can definitely see that in the details of this collection. I love how you’ve incorporated those rustic elements with a sort of Old Hollywood glamour.
NP: Yes! I envision old Hollywood stars like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Liz Taylor, and imagine how I would dress the women in my life in the same way would dress those starlets. It really was an homage to my family and the women in my life, to South Texas and my Mexican roots which are engrained in my esthetic and design. At the same time, I think this collection came from a place of being homesick. I just moved to San Antonio, and I guess I’m still not used to it or being away from my family for this long. Especially during the Pandemic, it’s been difficult because I was used to seeing them once a week and now it’s once every other month. It’s a very difficult time but it’s also very beautiful because I cherish those moments so much more. Creating this collection gave me a sense of home and I felt very connected to my family as I worked on it, so this became a love letter to the women in my family.
Nicò SS2021. Red gown, styled by Kaia Dublin. Photography by Saige Thomas
SLTV: How did you select the colors and textures for your designs?
NP: I did use a lot of color palettes that resonate with me. For instance, my mom is a very vibrant and fierce woman and she’s very in tune with her looks. She’s also very funny, yet somewhat conservative, so I made this hot pink, fuchsia mermaid gown with these back ruffles that sway as it walks and I based it on my mom has a sway, sass, and a swagger to her. Then there’s my sister, who to me breathes red. She has the protective spirit of a wolf, so I made this red confection that’s made of a tulle swirl that has a smoke essence to it. So, I could go one by one and tell you which dress represents which woman in my life, but in the end, this collection encompasses all their spirits. There’s something else that inspires me that not a lot of people know about, and that’s Horror Films. I can be making hand made flowers and have Suspiria playing in the background. In fact, the concept of the floral gown was inspired by Midsommar. Somehow, I can take the darkness and the beauty that comes with it.
SLTV: Wow! I would have never guessed that something so ethereal and dreamy was inspired by horror! How was the experience of creating during the lockdowns?
NP: It was different and challenging for sure, but it was also very therapeutic. I also had the time to experiment with new techniques and fabrics I had never worked with before. Trying out different methods of sewing and it turned out to be a great learning process. I worked with a different construction method but mostly for what’s underneath the garment. I really wanted to perfect the corset while still making the dresses as practical as possible for the person who’s wearing it. Realistically, and now more than ever, no one wants to wear a dress that takes 7 people to put on you. The goal became to create pieces that were one of a kind, couture, and beautiful while being practical and polished. Embroidery was also pretty time consuming, but worth it. Every single flower from the infamous Flower Dress is hand made. Nothing is the collection is a fancy fabric persè, it is all constructed by hand. The red layered tulle dress that looks like a rosette is about 175 yards of stripped of tulle, yet it flows and is light on the body. It took about 3 weeks full time to make. Any time I would think about relaxing, I would get bored so to work I went!
Nicò SS2021. Floral gown, styled by Kaia Dublin. Photography by Saige Thomas
SLTV: So, is it safe to say that the Pandemic has given you more creativity?
NP: In a sense, yes, because I’ve gotten more in touch with who I am as an artist without distractions, but there’s no denying that I thrived on working with a team, and my models and a routine that I don’t have access to during this time. I miss my business partner to bounce off my ideas, seeing the model walking in the dress so I could make the necessary adjustments as it flows. The people element has been crucial in my design process. I’m a very visual learner and I have to see it, how it flows, how it lives, and now I’m just looking at fabric on a mannequin and it’s very challenging for me. And though I understand that my imagination takes place in the creative process, these dresses have life, they’re practically their own character. So, it’s been weird to just see it there hanging, so it’s bittersweet.
SLTV: I can definitely see that. I have to say, these gowns are so spectacular and I would wear these to a Gala or a Red Carpet event, but so many have been canceled or gone virtual with no audience. This is kind of daunting for me, who used to attend all of these events and have hosted and presented at the Fashion Awards, now I can’t think of a way that I can wear beautiful gowns right now. How has this time affected your business?
NP: I think about this every day and I have no F*** clue! (laughs). Jokes aside, surprisingly, I’m still getting orders! I’ve been actually very blessed to still work and have steady clients. I think that people are taking their expenses and investing a lot smarter. Of course, I lost a lot of work, months of clients, but it’s starting to pick up again. In a very safe environment, taking all the precautions, I’ve been able to work in the “new normal”. I’ve been getting a lot of custom orders, like suits and dresses for small events like elopements. I’m finding this side hustle with handbags and merch that can fund the brand and it’s been interesting finding my niche. Ballgowns have been my signature, but let’s be honest, who’s wearing them these days? So, it’s kind of a sad time because we can’t be celebrating the way we used to, but let’s be real. We have a global pandemic, racial injustice, protests for different reasons and it feels like such a scary time, but this is when I use my voice and my creativity to make beautiful things because that’s all I can do. THIS is my platform, and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability.
Nicò SS2021. White gown, styled by Kaia Dublin. Photography by Saige Thomas
SLTV: I know this may be a hard question, but what will you do with all of your creations?
NP: I honestly don’t make the collections to make money. Although I obviously need it to fund the brand and continue my work, I create as an outlet. So, if I have to box them up and store them until I can bring them out again for the time when will have events again, and I know the time will come, no matter how much time has passed, I feel like they are timeless enough to wear whenever that time does come. You know, even if they end up being displayed at an exhibit as archived pieces, I know there will be a time when these gowns see the light of day.
SLTV: There is definitely a change in the air and the world is pivoting to make events accessible to the public even if there is no physical audience. I can absolutely see your gowns gracing a stage of a virtual event. Now, what about Ready to Wear? Is that something you would venture with?
NP: It would have to be my version of Ready to Wear, where a suit would be designed with embroidery, or intricate lace details. There would still be elements of couture and one of a kind. I would make a practical piece with a very complicated process, because why not? Now, next season is already in the works so Ready to Wear isn’t even on my radar, to be honest, but who knows what the future holds? It’ll be worth the wait, though.
Nicò SS2021. Black gown with Bolero, styled by Kaia Dublin. Photography by Saige Thomas
SLTV: So, for my last question. Seeing how the organizers of New York Fashion Week and Global fashion weeks are now pivoting towards making their events virtual with all access to the general public, what are your thoughts on this concept?
NP: I love it! I mean, I still love the idea of having a show with an audience. It’s probably my favorite thing in the world to see people’s faces light up when they see the pieces down the runway. However, being a kid from a small town in South Texas, with no access to anything fashion whatsoever, all I had was YouTube fashion shows. I couldn’t see anything as it happened. Now, there are lives on social media and that’s great, but you miss the excitement and there’s always something lacking in those. You want to feel like you’re part of it, so making it accessible to someone who never could have seen these shows is amazing. You have kids who need inspiration but don’t have the means to be there in person, so I think this is very exciting. That’s what fashion is to me, we’re all admiring from afar until we have the way to partake in it. I also think this allows for new creatives to get more innovative with how they present their brand or art. This is a big opportunity to be more resourceful which leads to innovation. I think this should have been done a long time ago because this provides for a bigger reach, globally.
For more on Nicó and the SS21 Natalia Collection follow his social media at on Instagram @tejanico