This week's Nails of New York features Nicole Heim, designer and co-founder of New York womenswear line, CienneNY. What began as a class project for like-minded, best friends Nicole and Chelsea Healy, C + N, evolved into CienneNY for their June 2015 launch, which actually means a traditional Ethiopian coffee cup. During a sabbatical to East Africa, Nicole garnered her largest bout of inspiration and fell in love with the unique colors and remarkable craftsmanship of local textile weavers. This coupled with a huge interest in global affairs spurred Nicole's heartfelt desire to create a brand that could positively contribute to those less fortunate, and thus CienneNY was born.
We couldn't help but identify with a lot of the ideals behind the brand–the importance of precise designs that translate well season to season, paying close attention to the lifestyles of everyday women, particularly here in New York, and the connection and relationships built with clients. Read more to learn about Nicole's design process, the challenges of growing a socially-conscious fashion label, and the necessity she feels to sometimes shut everything off and treat herself to a manicure.
Why do you paint your nails?
I'm constantly running around, working long hours, and am generally very rough on my hands. Getting my nails done allows me to instantly feel put together, and I also enjoy the opportunity to shut off and treat myself.
Do you have go-to nail color palettes? How do your nails influence your outfit or accessories?
I'm not very adventurous when it comes to my nails! I usually go for a dark wine, a poppy red, or a classic nude. I like my nails to complement my outfit, so I usually work backwards from what I'm wearing. This was actually the first time for me to get a design and to get gel and I must admit, it's life-changing.
Can you tell us a little bit about your job?
I founded womenswear brand CienneNY in June 2015. Since we're a small team, I'm usually bouncing between the creative aspects of the brand like designing the collection or creating content, but then am involved in the more tangible areas of the business like sales and marketing.
What inspired you to start your own personal fashion line?
My background is in art and design, and I was working in corporate fashion as an apparel designer for seven years. I became discouraged with it all and had frustrations both as a designer and a consumer. In 2013, I decided to leave my New York City career in search of a meaningful way to use business and design.
I have a huge passion for travel and culturally immersive experiences, which led me on an independent journey through East Africa. I started in the mountains of Ethiopia working as a field correspondent for the non-profit charity: water. During a visit to a remote village, I witnessed a couple prep and weave textiles in this age-old technique. After years of mass production, I was enamored by the skill and uniqueness of the hand-woven process, and by the beautiful quality of the fabrics.
That's where it all started–with the simple idea of sourcing materials from artisans around the world, and that ethics and aesthetics could coexist within fashion.
What is your favorite product within your line?
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love that I'm constantly learning, and that the job allows me to straddle both business and creative. I'm also so grateful for the opportunity to connect with such a dynamic community of customers, fellow entrepreneurs, and artists in both New York City and beyond.
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel and nature are huge for me, as is creative writing. I also get completely immersed in art, books, photography, and music. Antique textiles, vintage fashion, and a general nostalgia for past decades are the driving inspiration behind CienneNY.