“Life is like a rollercoaster. It has its ups and downs, but it’s up to you to enjoy the ride.” This is exactly Nicki Patel’s philosophy. After enduring health complications and working herself to exhaustion, the budding designer took a much-needed change of direction back toward familial roots and finding purpose. This ultimately inspired her and gave her the confidence to establish herself as a designer. With the love of her loyal pup, Milo, and out of a desire to empower women and inspire change in her pursuit to make a difference in the world, a cruelty-free, ethically-designed womenswear line arose: milo+nicki.
Designer Nicki Patel
In 2014 the pressure of corporate America, health complications, and fear sprouted by a burglary brought Nicki to a breaking point. Ultimately realizing that health was her top priority she quit her corporate job and maintained small side gigs, one of them being a fashion company that inspired her to refocus her passion. This passion was for fashion, and she realized she wanted to create a line that would inspire and empower other women to pursue their passion while combating the rapid changes in their lives and societal pressures.
Thus, with the ongoing mission to inspire women and leading vibrant lives, Nicki created milo+nicki which she describes as, “a cruelty-free, ethically-designed womenswear line that empowers the ever-evolving woman to conquer her fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on herself, and live a life of color.” She believes “what we wear is something more than a piece of cloth. It has history, meaning, roots, sweat, and tears. The sacrifices in each piece of cloth is an untold story, but with milo+nicki, [she] hopes to bring these hidden truths to the surface and build an awareness that drives the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.”
We caught up with the entrepreneurial maven to get down to the nitty-gritty on what it’s really like to start a business made in the U.S. from the ground up.
What inspired your designs?
My designs are all originals and created by myself. The inspiration is a combination of my colorful and vibrant cultural roots (Indian/Zambian influence), passion for sustainable and ethical living, and a focus on empowering women to live a life of color and purpose. Each piece is cruelty-free and ethically designed, with handwoven certified Ahimsa silk and GOTS certified organic cotton blend from India, hand dyed with plant-based indigo in the U.S., and made in NY. The first collection has six pieces inspired by design and by the 5 rocks in my life: my parents, my sisters, and Milo (my pup).
How is milo+nicki influencing the realm of fashion?
The fashion industry is the second largest pollutant in the world, just behind the oil and gas industry. It is saturated by corruption and pollution with stories that never hit the newsstands.
Sharing how something it’s made, where it is made, who it is made by, and why we made it that way is crucial for us to live a sustainable life not as just people, but as a civilization. The longevity of what we wear goes beyond a piece of clothing, it is a strong determinant for how our ecosystem works as well.
In North America, consumers are buying and getting rid of 5x as much clothing as we did 25 years ago (Elizabeth Cline, Overdress: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion), with a staggering 85% of our apparel ending up in landfills (over 10.5 million tons of clothing).
The reason this number is so terrifying is the vast majority of these quick trend pieces that end up in landfills are created from synthetic fibers that don’t biodegrade, but instead release toxins and chemicals as they sit in huge piles that seep into the ground and waterways.
These synthetic fibers are used due to the demand for trendy and quick production because natural fibers require a little more effort due to cyclical patterns for farming. On top of the non-biodegradable fibers is the added pollutant of synthetic dyes and chemicals used to create the color and prints of the pieces. These not only pollute the earth during production, they seep into our skin with wear, seep into our waterways with washing, and live out their lives in landfills once we are over wearing them. The clothing not only affects the planet, but it affects the people as well.
Our goal is to educate, empower, and inspire change. We as consumers hold the power for change, we just have to decide with our dollar what we value.
What tips do you have for people who want to start a clothing brand?
I recommend meditation, running, and lots of coffee, haha! It is a lot of work, especially as a solo-preneur, and you have to be very patient because things won’t always turn out perfectly or exactly how you envisioned. Ultimately that is okay, as long as you get to share your story, your purpose, and your vision with the world. It is important to stay focused on the bigger picture, remain very patient, and be open and flexible to change.
For entrepreneurs wishing to start their own “made in the USA,” sustainable fashion line, I highly recommend Factory45. It is an accelerator program that takes an entrepreneur from idea to launch with the community and support you need to accomplish your dreams. Shannon is an amazing mentor and I would definitely not be where I am today without guidance from her and Factory45.
Milo+nicki launched their first collection via Kickstarter. To get a taste of the brand, pre-sales are live until May 19th. As for the future of milo+nicki, Patel’s hopes are, “…to be inspiring and empowering women globally through [their] story and journey, and expanding [their] reach across the world. [She] wants [their] pieces to be more than just another garment in your wardrobe. [She] wants it to be a part of your story and hold stories that can be shared with generations to come. The collections [she] creates, [she] hopes continue to empower and inspire women to live a life full of color while driving the ethical and sustainable fashion movement.” She believes, “When we do good, we feel good. Let’s continue to live with purpose and inspire change.”
To support milo+nicki and help bring the brand to life, check out the Kickstarter campaign at bit.ly/weareunstoppable.