How my feelings, not trends, made me one of Nigeria’s top fashion designers – Nikki Khiran

Nikki Khiran
Nikki Khiran

Nikki Khiran is one of Nigeria’s foremost fashion designers and the Chief Executive Officer of Nikki Khiran Couture, a fashion and lifestyle brand.

In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Jayne Augoye, she speaks about running her brand for over two decades and her passion for fashion.

PT: What has kept you going on strong for over two decades years in the competitive Nigerian fashion scene?

NIKKI: I would say perseverance, talent, adaptability, foresight and maturity has kept me going and fulfilled.

PT: Kindly take us through your journey to becoming one of Nigeria’s foremost fashion designers?

NIKKI: Nikki Khiran couture is a brand that’s over 20 years old. I started out in England and got a lot of interest from Nigerians who would visit and decided to come to Nigeria to open a Nikki Khiran store in Lagos. I also got a lot of interest from clients in Abuja and would come to Abuja to do private viewings, and thought it a good idea to open a store in Abuja, which I did two years ago, and I must say it’s been very well received.

Nikki Khiran with one of her models
Nikki Khiran with one of her models

PT: Have you always wanted to become a fashion designer?

NIKKI: Since I was a little girl I had always been very creative and when I told my parents that I wanted to go to college to study fashion design they discouraged me. This was because they were both professors so they felt I should get a proper degree first as my father put it and then go and do fashion as a hobby. When they realised how serious I was, they allowed me to go to England to study. At that time fashion designing wasn’t a popular choice.

PT: Not many are actually aware of the fact that you are from Kogi State. Is Nikki Khiran your real name?

NIKKI: Yes I am from Kogi State and my full name is Nikki Odu-Khiran.

PT: To what do you owe your love for fashion?

NIKKI: My love for fashion originated from my mother, who was a very fashion-forward woman in her time. She was extremely creative.

PT: How have you handled competitions through the years?

NIKKI: I’ve always focused on what I feel right creating at any point in time and have never compared my self to anyone, everybody has there own niche. If you are true to yourself you won’t go wrong!

PT: What major mistakes do most Nigerian fashion designers make?

NIKKI: A lot of fashion designers just copy! Because Ankara is in, everyone does Ankara! They are one directional and don’t focus on improving and upgrading their skills to take them to the next level!

PT: Tell us about your childhood and influences?

NIKKI: My biggest influence would be my mother, as far back as 1977 she already had a PhD, she combined being an entrepreneur, a college professor homemaker and great wife and mother all in one! She’s really the definition of the virtuous woman in proverbs 31.

PT: What inspires your designs?

NIKKI: Having grown up on three continents, I would say my African heritage with my western upbringing is what has most influenced my work.

PT: How do you remain abreast of developments and trends in the fashion scene?

NIKKI: I’ve never relied on what’s in fashion. I always go with my gut feeling and inspiration at any point in time and I have been fortunate to have loyal clients who love my work, trust my judgment and always come back for more!

Nikki Khiran with some of her models
Nikki Khiran with some of her models

PT: Does the fact that you are a graduate of London College of Fashion set you apart from some of your contemporaries?

NIKKI: I think having a background in fashion design has always given me the edge because not only do you need to be creative but also having knowledge of construction, knowing about fabrics and pattern cutting will give you an edge.

PT: Your designs have hints of Embellishments, floral prints, animal prints, drapes, layers and a bit of bohemian style. Are all these a reflection of your personal fashion preference?

NIKKI: My signature style is ethereal opulence! I love fabrics that are fluid; I love prints, silks, jerseys and bold colours and prints.

PT: Fashion designing is almost an all-comers affair in Nigeria. What are your thoughts?

NIKKI:  You’re right, people see what others are doing and believe that they can do the same, everybody in Nigeria is a designer, interior decorator, event planner etc, which is why we have so many mediocre people in our country! We have a lot of up and coming designers in Nigeria now that a quite talented. I can’t point one out, but I see some really nice work that they are creating!

PT: Why did you float an interior decor arm of your business?

Nikki: I’ve always had a keen interest in decorating. As a creative person, I’m very fluid and wanted a brand that’s a lifestyle brand. I want people to be able to get something to wear as well as something for the home, beautiful homes and beautiful clothes from the same space!

A model wearing one of Nikki Khiran's designs
A model wearing Nikki Khiran’s designs

PT: Tell us about your recent projects?

Nikki: My goal is to dress women with real curves, real bodies, because beauty is not about size. It’s about diversity and I hope as a designer I can portray that.

PT: How has the fact that you have lived three continents over the past almost 50 years impacted on your designs?

Nikki: Having lived in different parts of the world has given me the advantage of different types of exposure, knowledge and skill, which I hope, has impacted my work positively!

PT: What common faux pas do Nigerian women make?

NIKKI: I always admire women who age gracefully. But a lot of women try too hard to dress younger than their age. They wear tight dresses with bulges showing. They wear too much make-up and excessive bleaching. All these are my pet peeves. Sometimes more covered up can be sexier than everything out there. When I see a lot of young women at functions with excessive cleavage, extra short minis and too tight dresses I shudder because elegance and class is key!

PT: You don’t look a day older than 50 years, what is the secret?

Nikki: Honestly I can’t take credit for my looks or size, we inherited it from our parents, but I’m very active, work hard, drink plenty of water, no alcohol or smoking, and I’m always positive!

PT: What qualities do you admire in a man and is marriage on the cards for you?

NIKKI: My ideal partner would be my best friend, lover who is kind, generous, supportive, God-fearing, successful, highly motivated with a sense of fun. Having been married before and not wanting to make mistakes, I study the people I meet and follow my gut instinct. They say marry in a haste ,repent at leisure!


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