A few weeks back, designer Nicci Hou made a dress for Bey’s number one birthday babe, Blue Ivy, turning her (and the dress) into an internet obsession. But long before we were all fawning over the baby threads, Nicci Hou’s career was a steadily rising star. Creating her infamous high-lo skirts, a plethora of style-con stunners, like Tamar Braxton and Zendaya, began to flock to her for private designs. We had the privilege of sitting down with Nicci to get an up-close look at what guides her creative process, building a brand, and why she’s passionate about a new generation of fashionistas that are ready to “strut their stuff” like true queens.
The Lady Loves Couture: Tell us about your start as a designer? Are there any mentors that helped you along the way?
Nicci Hou: I was born into a family of master seamstresses. Maturing in a family of creative minds, it was only natural for me to gravitate towards fashion. From the age of seven, I was already sketching designs and creating doll clothes. As I grew older, I began studying patterns and was able to refine my style techniques by creating original designs for local dance teams. With my love of all things fashion, I went on to graduate from Alabama A&M University with a degree in Apparel Merchandising and Design. Two years prior to graduating, I had launched my own line, Nicci Hou Collection. I haven’t had any fashion mentors to help with the technical or business side, but I am blessed to have spiritual sisters; really important women that offer words of encouragement and prayer.
TLLC: What would you say is your design philosophy?
Nicci Hou: Creativity with a mixture of structure, feminism, romanticism, and modernity.
TLLC: Your high-lo skirt is one of the signature pieces of your brand. Why do you think it’s been so popular amongst fashionistas?
Nicci Hou: I think it was one of those pieces that instantly makes a woman feel glamorous and girly, yet sexy at the same time. There’s something about a train that brings out our inner Queen! You want to strut your stuff. I like to believe that’s how all my garments make my clients feel–like they can own the room!
TLLC: You’ve created some iconic looks worn by notable celebrities. What was the key in making those critical connections and of those looks, which ones are your favorites?
Building a strong social media presence has been the main source of all the amazing press opportunities and connections for my brand. My favorite look so far has been the two-piece crop top and skirt worn by Zendaya Coleman for the 2015 Oscar after-party. She was later invited to host Fashion Police; she chose that look as her favorite red carpet moment.
TLLC: Who would you like to dress next that you haven’t worked with yet, and why do you want to work with them?
Nicci Hou: Over the last three years, Beyoncé has been gracious enough to commission me to make dresses for Blue Ivy–Halloween costumes, play dresses, and all her birthday dresses. Where Beyoncé is creatively at the moment, seems to perfectly align with where I feel I am creatively with my own runway line. I would love to design specifically for this new direction of hers.
TLLC: Tell us about the inspiration behind the custom dress you created for Blue Ivy Carter…
Nicci Hou: Beyoncé had a vision for a fairy-themed birthday party for Blue, and as soon as I found this butterfly brocade fabric I knew it would be perfect. Blue Ivy is very girly and enjoys volume; it is always a pleasure to design for her.
TLLC: You’ve designed other pieces worn by the young hip hop heiresses. How is designing apparel for children different than adults?
Nicci Hou: My start in fashion was based in costume design. I have a flair for theatrics. When designing ready-to-wear apparel for women, I try to create garments that are wearable, yet with dramatic detailing. Designing for Blue Ivy gives me the freedom to be creative and fun. Eventually, I would love to launch a Little Miss Hou line of formal dresses for little girls.
TLLC: You are clearly a creative talent. Share with us a few valuable lessons you’ve learned handling the business aspect of designing.
Nicci Hou: Still learning, but I believe one valuable lesson I have learned is to take pride in everything you create and be mindful of the people you connect yourself with. The reputation of the brand should always be in the forefront of everything you do.
TLLC: Who or what is creatively inspiring your work right now?
Nicci Hou: Right now I am extremely inspired by the new feminist movements that are arising. I believe as women we are becoming more aware of our true beauty, strength, and purpose. My latest collection, Queendom, was heavily inspired by strong female role models. This collection is my version of a Queen—dark, mysterious beauty. Women who embody the type of confidence that demands you take notice and respect. Queendom celebrates women who are brilliant, powerful, assertive, damaged, and defiantly feminine.
TLLC: What’s next for Nicci Hou?
Nicci Hou: Right now I am creatively producing a fashion film to launch the look book from my Fall 2016 collection. I am also preparing to offer my collection pre-ordered online from my website (www.niccihou.com).