[UPDATE: This story was originally published on January 14.]
If there's one thing we love about exploring Oakland, it's discovering heaps of emerging local artisans worth writing home about. The area has become a hotbed for creatives and we're always eager to peek into their inspired worlds. So, naturally, when we caught wind of what Kaila Niles, of up-and-coming label Heaven, was whipping up, our interest was immediately piqued.
The budding designer hasn't just mastered the art of one skill, but is unbelievably multi-talented — with daring tie-dye techniques, gorgeous jewelry, and lavish lamps all umbrella-ed under her line. Want to get the 411 on Niles' top East Bay spots and whimsical personal style? Let her be your guide!
Photographed by Maria del Rio
Tell us a bit more about what you do.
"I wear many hats! Professionally, I work as a fashion and interior stylist, but I'm also a textile artist and designer. I work with natural dyes and use resist techniques in my clothing and lighting designs. I have a small jewelry collection and am always collaborating with friends in design, styling, and art direction."
Kaila poses outside the Oakland Rose Garden in a Heaven dress and bracelet, vintage boots, Laura Schoorl clutch, and Nikki Mirsaeid necklace.
Describe a day in your life.
"I'm an early riser. Whether I'm going to work styling or I'm off for the day, I start my morning with
breakfast and coffee or tea, taking my time and lounging in between getting ready. I
hate rushing. If I'm not working, I usually walk around my neighborhood, go to the
gym or the farmers' market, visit my friend Leah at No Shop on Valencia, or go for a hike. I’ll work on creative projects, make dinner, and spend the evening at home reading, knitting, or watching movies. And, I end my days in bed with
many layers of blankets."
How does the aesthetic of your brand match your own personal style?
"I think that everything I make has a certain romance and subtlety. Elin Noble, a textile
artist I studied with at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, deemed me the
Queen of Subtle. I always like to have that fluidity, delicacy, and movement in my own
Describe the Heaven shopper.
"I can’t! It ranges completely, which is so flattering. Even though the pieces are usually
one-of-a-kind and definitely make a statement, I also think they are very versatile. A
Heaven customer appreciates those qualities of texture and line that run throughout the
Describe your personal style in a word.
What's next for Heaven?
"I'm working on several light designs that incorporate many of my favorite materials: wood, resin, glass, and silk."
All smiles in Chinatown in a hat from the hood, vintage jacket, boots, and sweater, Heaven bracelet, Kathleen Whitaker earrings, Clare Vivier clutch, and Bonanza pants.
Who are some of your style muses?
"Martha Plimpton as Lorna Phillips in Running on Empty, and my neighbors."
What item in your closet gets the most mileage?
"My favorite boots — they're a daily wear."
We love your Oakland neighborhood. What are some of your favorite spots in the
"My block is ideal. It’s perfectly sandwiched between Chinatown and Lake Merritt, and walking distance to everywhere else. I love the Main Branch Library
, the public tennis court that looks onto the lake, the markets in Chinatown, and the Salvation Army."
What's your go-to order at Boot And Shoe Service?
"The menu changes frequently, but I love sharing any pizza and salad with my mother.
During the day, I like to get coffee and read. I’ve never had anything to eat or drink there
that I didn't love!"
Posing outside one of her fave haunts, Boot and Shoe Service, in vintage dress, A.P.C. boots, handmade chocker, Heaven bracelet, antique rings, Kathleen Whitaker earrings, and a Clare Vivier clutch.
What's the most inspiring part of living in the East Bay?
"I love the diversity of architecture and environment. I'm equally inspired by the urban
Wild West of old factory buildings and the incredible hikes I take in Redwood Regional
Park, completely isolated in nature."
Where can we find you when you're not working?
"I'm always walking, biking, or hiking. If I’m not running around in the Bay Area, I’m
visiting my mom in Petaluma, finding treasures to wear and decorate my home with. This
winter I have spent a lot of time wearing two sweaters and knitting on the couch, curled
up with my friend Netflix."
What do you love about Oakland right now?
"So many small businesses have really been thriving. I love to be able to enjoy and
support them daily. I continue to meet fellow artists and crafts people excited and open to
sharing skills and ideas."
You seem to be a master of many skills — how did you get into them all?
"From a very young age, I learned to create the things I wanted. When I have an object
in mind, I either alter something I find or make it from scratch. I love things that are
handmade and one-of-a-kind. Coming from a family of Wyoming natives, the 'cowboy
up' mentality is my major motive."
Kaila kicks it in her adorable apartment in vintage overalls, top, and necklace, vintage Prada heels, and Heaven bracelet.
What is the most challenging part of being an independent designer?
"Allowing yourself to participate in the process, open to setbacks, without being
intimidated by inspiration and expectation."
And what is the most rewarding?
"The process! Learning new skills and holding something you imagined, then made, in your hands."
Do you have any style resolutions for 2013?
"I'm attempting to acquire more clothing in my actual size. I have a bad habit of buying
things that are much too big, then cutting them up. I’ve been doing this since I was very little,
probably inspired by Anne of Green Gables on PBS. In 2013, I'll buy a few pieces that fit
from the start!"