Girl Next Door: Tour A Rising Design Star's Rad Mission Digs

Since being a fashion designer in San Francisco can be tough (hello, lack of low-cost production facilities!), the talents in the field who do live amongst us are folks we truly treasure. And one of our brightest emerging designers carrying the S.F. torch is definitely First Rite designer Nikki Garcia. The FIDM grad lives and works in the Mission, and it's there, in her awe-inspiring antiques-strewn studio, that the Montana-born designer opened up about her creative inspiration, must-visit day trip locales, last meals in S.F. (should it ever come to that), and the evolution of her three-season-old line. Click through for her interview, plus some dreamy snaps of her workspace.
Nikki on the steps of her crazy-colored Mission home.
Name: Nikki Garcia
Occupation: Founder and Designer at First Rite
I live in: The Mission in San Francisco
Tell us about how you got into making clothes:
"I had been altering vintage clothing for years and had always known I wanted to be involved in clothing design. I would sketch out all my ideas, but had no idea how to create a garment from scratch, so after studying business in college [in Montana] I moved to S.F. to study fashion design at FIDM and learned everything I needed to know to get me started in pattern making and industry sewing. I began constructing my own designs between quarters at school, so while I was completing the program, I was already selling clothes at a couple of local boutiques."
Samples from First Rite's spring 2012 line hang in Nikki's workspace. See the full lookbook here!
What's your favorite distraction from work?
"Coffee with friends and riding my bike on sunny days. Daytrips to the woods also always win."
Nikki in her studio (left) and a glimpse of the sewing machine that sits inside of her bedroom-slash-second workspace (right).
What are your favorite parts of your job?
"I love the process of creating something by hand from beginning to end. I learn by doing, and I like to challenge myself by working out new ideas that are sometimes complicated. It's rewarding to look at my collections in the end and think, I did all of this. I like that there is something different to work on every day and that I am working toward a goal that I've set for myself."
Antiques and natural elements fill the light-flooded studio.
How does the Bay Area inspire you?
"San Francisco is by far my favorite place that I have lived, as of yet. It is the perfect mix of a big city with a small town feel surrounded by beautiful landscape that is so easy to escape to when you need to just take a walk through the woods to clear your head. I love the sense of a community I feel here, and am really inspired by a lot of the people I have met who are making things happen for themselves."
Nikki sitting pretty on her balcony, which faces the Bernal Heights hills (left); Antlers sit on a drum in Nikki's bedroom (right).
What are your favorite spots in the city?
"I live and work in the Mission, so I spend most of my time in this part of the city. One of my favorite places in the neighborhood is Bernal Hill and I try to take breaks in the middle of my day to walk to the top and appreciate how beautiful of a city I live in. I always start my day at a coffee shop and there are so many great ones all over the city to mix it up. Four Barrel is my go to and Trouble is another favorite if I'm feeling like a ride out through the park and to the beach. There is so much to see in Golden Gate Park, and as you walk or bike through you can forget you are in a city. On nice days off I like to bike to different neighborhoods and check out my favorite bookstores, shops, and restaurants. Judah out by the beach is a great place to spend an afternoon. The Kabuki bath house is where I go to relax. I discover new favorite spots in the city all the time; there is so much to explore."
Rolls of deadstock fabric lean up against an antique photo.
How would you describe the style of First Rite?
"The line is minimal, modern, and a little dark. It has a dressy but wearable feel. I like to create simple silhouettes out of quality fabrics with lots of style details like pleating and paneling. The look has evolved with each season as my aesthetic and ideas are in constant motion. The last collection for spring was the most 'me.' It is a little softer and boyish, with a subtle Western feel, and as I continue to work on future collections I plan to incorporate more of my personal style."
Nikki's lady cat, Bill, gets in the middle of a sewing project (left); Nikki hugs an in-progress dress (right).
What's the decor inspiration behind your workspace and home?
"I like the aesthetic of combining antiques and vintage pieces with things found in the natural world. I have spent a lot of time in New Mexico and Montana and have picked up a lot of inspiration from both places. As I bring home all my finds, the space has just sort of come together. I am very drawn to interiors and look at a lot of old photographs and books and get a lot of ideas from furniture and objects I see at flea markets and spaces around the city that I find beautiful. I am starting a furniture-building class next month and can't wait to work out some of my ideas and add to my workspace!"
More amazing thrift store finds (left).
Where do you find all of these amazing trinkets and pieces?
"I am a thrift-store addict and I'm always stopping off along the way to peek at my favorite spots. I find treasures at flea markets, estate sales, on the sidewalk, all over really. I also collect rocks, shells, feathers, and driftwood from all of my adventures in California and beyond, so I can remember the places I have been."
Nikki's studio looks out over the Bernal Heights hills.
Describe your daily uniform or the pieces you wear to work in most.
"My daily uniform is pretty much skinny jeans and a tucked in, buttoned-up-to-the-neck collared shirt with a jean jacket. I wear a lot of denim, so I wind up in Canadian tuxedos probably too much. I am drawn to anything Western and work a lot of bolos and fringe into the mix. I like to walk a line between boyish and feminine."
Nikki, in one of her own head-to-toe designs, takes a stroll through her back alley.
Last meal in the Bay Area, where would it be and what?
"Sushi Zone. Big Japanese beers, baked bass with mango, and all-I-can-eat spicy hamachi and Hawaiian rolls. With tons of pickled ginger. "
If someone recognizes you on the street, what would you like them to say?
"Hey, I like the clothes you make! Can I buy you a sandwich and a coffee?"

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