Interviews, Mode, Portraits
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Nicole Van Dyke, an american in Paris

The Nicole Van Dyke collection is equal parts cool and caring : creating fabulous fashion from existing fabrics & leathers, and from handwovens exclusively designed and woven for the collection. The limited edition accessories & clothing are crafted entirely in France by skillful artisans : helping to pretty the planet, not pollute it. Nicole Van Dyke collects vintage fabrics during her travels around the world, and vintage leathers in Paris. A creative collaboration with a talented textile designer and weaver (who happens to be her mum), features wools and mohairs for Fall, cottons and linens for Spring. Nicole Van Dyke’s adventure, started in New York and continued in Paris, mixes treasure hunting for great materials with a passion for great design.

An eclectic upbringing between the urban streets of Berlin, where her mom grew up, and the gorgeous landscapes of Michigan and the American Midwest, where her dad is from, combined for an indelible mark on her aesthetic. Chic, modern & urban mixed with relaxed, unpretentious & comfortable – a Nicole Van Dyke design can go anywhere, with anything.  Graduated from art history at the University of Michigan, she then studied fashion design at FIT in New York, where she received the ready-to-wear design award of her graduating class. Nicole Van Dyke now designs and produces her eponymous collection in Paris. 

While designing lingerie for mega-brand Victoria’s Secret on Seventh Avenue, Nicole Van Dyke’s own label also took flight, and the limited edition series began selling at a handfull of favorite retailers worldwide. At the same time, love entered in the form of a dashing Frenchman. Unable to resist a new chapter, Nicole Van Dyke married her Frenchman in the vineyards of Saint Emilion, and settled in Paris. They currently live with their 2 daughters in what the designer affectionately calls ‘the Brooklyn of Paris’, Boulogne.

Each Nicole Van Dyke design tells a unique story, it sparkles in a girl’s everyday wardrobe. 

© Sylvain Bardin

1. Do you consider yourself as a figure of fashion ?

Nicole Van Dyke : Based on the happy praise of girls around the world who wear my collection each season, I do – happily dressed clients are true validation and joy !

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© Tetsu Takiura

2. How would you describe your style ?

Nicole Van Dyke : 50’s and 60’s chic meets a modern, touch-of-rock-n-roll easiness. If it’s a little chic, it has to be a little sexy, too. There is also an element of fun, whether it’s in the color, the shape, or a detail.

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© Tetsu Takiura

3. Designing, a vocation ?

Nicole Van Dyke : Yes. Although it was a passion while growing up, I realised it even more during my Art History studies at both the University of Michigan and at the University of Tuebingen in Germany. I was busy building a visual vocabulary with which to write my fashion story. Moving to New York to study fashion and then work there as a designer became the obvious path for me.

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© Sylvain Bardin

4. Tell us more about your cursus…

Nicole Van Dyke : Growing up surrounded by sewing machines, mannequins ready for draping fabrics,and my mom’s beautiful Swedish looms for weaving, I have been designing and creating since I was little – at least since 8 or 9 years old, when on a trip in L.A., I discovered Vogue magazine. The owner had stacks and stacks of them, I spent the rest of the trip pouring over them. Oddly enough, my second huge turning point happened on a trip to California as well. I toured the original Getty Museum with my family as a teenager, and in the gift shop I found the most beautiful big monograph on Cristobal Balenciaga. His cuts and volumes just wowed me completely. There is a sense of costume that I really love about fashion, even the simplest outfit or handbag can be a great « shield » with which a girl protects herself in her daily life.

After earning my degree in Art History, I studied fashion design at NY’s Fashion Institute of Technology. I appreciated the hands-on philosophy, since I have always worked from materials more than drawings. I cut my design teeth at Ann Taylor and Victoria’s Secret, before meeting a Frenchman in a Tribeca bar, moving to Paris, marrying said Frenchman and starting my brand in 2004.

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© Sylvain Bardin

5. Could you present your brand ?

Nicole Van Dyke : « American designed, French made ». My unique vision of mixing both, from my New York training and beginnings, to my living and working in Paris now.  Nicole Van Dyke is a collection of limited edition pieces, accessories and ready-to-wear, made from vintage fabrics, Italian leathers, and handwoven textiles, a collaboration with my mom.

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© Tetsu Takiura

6. What are the artistic universes that influence your work ?

Nicole Van Dyke : Art, architecture, music, cinema. .. I love how artistic domaines overlap : Alex Katz paintings, colorful Eames designs, the clear lines of Mies van der Rohe, just to name a few. I feel that fashion channels a lot of the concepts in these bold artistic universes, and makes them accessible to anyone.

I love working with vintage fabrics, laces and trims that I collect in my travels, the idea of giving new life to a material with a history. The colors, the textures, I am drawn to materials with a previous story.  Broderie anglaise, or eyelet, and cottons & linens for spring/summer, and menswear woolens and silks for fall winter.

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© Sylvain Bardin

7. What are the values you wish to share with your brand ?

Nicole Van Dyke : I am absolutely passionate about designing limited edition pieces from gorgeous materials, primarily vintage finds or handwovens exclusively created for the collection. Then making them in a responsible way, locally in Paris. Fabrics, trims and leathers that have a history, that I reinterpret in a fresh, modern way, all to express a girl’s individuality. That extra special detail makes all the difference. NVD values beautiful materials, and a ‘locavore’ craftmanship that I can oversee closely, before the bag, top or dress arrives in Tokyo or Tribeca.

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© Sylvain Bardin

8. What mission do you give to fashion ?

Nicole Van Dyke : To let a girl experiment with her look, to follow her own rules, to trust her instinct as to what is just cool/pretty/functional/fun, not what is simply in.  Fashion is constantly evolving, that’s what makes it such an enjoyable journey.

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© Sylvain Bardin

9. What did you take from your experience as a designer at Victoria’s Secret ?

Nicole Van Dyke : It was a wonderful, big-time, sparkly NY fashion experience !  Seventh Avenue office up in the sky – I bought a pre-war studio apartment in Chelsea and walked to work ! Fabulous international design studio : we designers came from the U.S., Britain, Roumania, France, Canada… I learned so much about designing there for a huge concept, and to believe in your concept and really go for it.  I was also there for the ‘birth’ of the VS fashion show – Stephanie Seymour and the supermodels sashayed around the design studio with us !

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© Sylvain Bardin

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© Sylvain Bardin

10. You love the glamour of 50’s and 60’s Hollywood…the cinema inspires you ?

Nicole Van Dyke : Absolutely.  My parents showed me Natalie Wood movies really young (my dad’s favorite) and a whole aesthetic world opened up to me. Especially when you grow up a kid in the U.S. and you’re watching movies with your friends like Ghostbusters and Vacation !

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© Sylvain Bardin

11. What cultural differences are strongest between the French client and the American client ?

Nicole Van Dyke : I really love observing those differences : polished and finished American, slightly disheveled and tousled French… Sporty American, lean and slim French… They are only clichés but there is a spot of truth to them !

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12. Upcoming projects ?

Nicole Van Dyke : I just launched the renovated website, which is an ongoing, exciting project.  So many aspects : responsive for the mobile-phone client, pretty and fun e-shop, and my blog called NVD World, all rolled into one website.  A fashion website should be a great place to stop by, just like a favorite brick-and-mortar shop. Interesting articles and photos covering my inspirations, the design and creation process, and the montly article « what’s in her bag ? » featuring a cool woman and her NVD bag…  and much more to come.

More about Nicole Van Dyke www.nicolevandyke.com

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