January 7, 2010

10 Years of Nikita

10 years ago, on an island far, far away, what is now one of my favorite (and most under-represented in Australia) ladies streetwear and outerwear labels started. Nikita’s home is in Iceland where its founders, Runar Omarsson, Heida Birgisdottir and Valdi Hannesson were snowboard shop owners. The lack of any real streetwear at the time lead Heida to start doing her own designs… 10 years later, Nikita is in over 30 countries with offices all over the world and a range that keeps getting better and better. Co-Founder Runar penned a letter reminiscing on the last decade – I thought it was a pretty awesome story. Check it out below.

(Via Transworld Business)


Written by Runar Omarsson:

“I can‘t really believe its been 10 years since we started Nikita!  It feels more like 5 years but when I look at the facts and figures, it still must be 10 years.  We‘ve done 19 collections of clothing.  That means going on 19 trips with our team to different places to shoot photos, including Morocco, Amsterdam, Miami, Hossegor, Barcelona, New Orleans, Sagres – and a few in Iceland as well.  We‘ve had sales meetings in Whistler, Berlin, Chamonix, Barcelona, Iceland, the Swiss Alps, Sardinia and more interesting places.  Nikita is now available in 30 countries.  We are 37 who work here instead of 3.  We‘ve worked with a bunch of fun loving, hard working people who we all get to share our ideas and energy with.  It is quite an incredible feeling to tell the truth!

“When we started importing snowboards to Iceland in 1991, there were around five snowboarders up here.  When we sold our snowboard shop in 1999 to start Nikita, there were around 1500 snowboarders up here. In our store, you would get a free lesson with every snowboard we sold.  Us and our team guys (some of them among the five guys mentioned before) would teach everyone to snowboard, but we did that also because so many parents were sceptical about this new thing and didn‘t really want their kid to be on their own in the mountains learning how to do something that the parents didn‘t have any idea about. They were also a bit skeptical about entering our store, because it was a dirty little hole with loud music and skateboarders – who as we all know are VERY dangerous people (laughs).

“For almost 10 years we had the pleasure of promoting snowboarding, skating and surfing in Iceland; and make a living out of it. In 1995 Nikita founders Heida and myself plus two friends were the first four Icelanders to start surfing here. But then at one point in time we got this idea; Heida, being the most active snowboard / skateboard / surfer girl in Iceland, had been designing some of her own clothes and jewelery.  She‘d also been working in a fashion store to save money for some artsy university in London but took her money and bought herself a share in this snow / skate / clothing store.  We didn‘t have any girls streetwear in the store, just some t-shirts from Sessions, Burton, Zero skateboards, Toy Machine, Girl / Chocolate. So what is a girl clothing designer turned snowboarder / skateboarder / surfer to do when she can‘t find any cool streetwear despite being the distributor and retailer for all the best brands in the industry at the time?  Launch our own line! After all, I believed that I had some marketing/sales talent, and our third guy Valdi some finance/logistic skills. A true love triangle with the three of us.

“We started small, with mainly fleece and microfleece second layer pieces with street fashion style. Sold a bunch of them in our store. Heida’s designs actually helped the store grow A LOT! We believed this could apply to many other boardsport stores, because we suddenly had an all-new group of excited customers.  And they didn‘t only want to feel warm on the mountain, but look cool!  After selling Heida‘s clothes exclusively in our own store in Reykjavik for two years we were ready to stop importing goods to our tiny little island and go for slight expansion…

“In the meantime, we had to find a name for the collection, build a ‘team’ (it used to matter a lot on this market what brands supported riders, especially if the riders were good), create our first catalog, do an international price strategy, figure out international labeling, find some manufacturers to work with, and a few other things.

“The name, NIKITA we thought sounded cool.  Like a cool girls name, could be from wherever.  And it was easy to remember, because it’s easy to spell, looks good in print and everybody can say it (including Japanese people).  We liked the chick in La Femme Nikita who hung out with all these cool guys and she was still the coolest of them. We still love the name of our brand. Love it!

“Now we offer two collections of Nikita street fashion per year, one collection of Nikita outerwear, a small and more dressy line called Nikita Selekzion which comes out twice a year; spring / summer and fall / winter like the streetwear and then when we need a break from Nikita we create a few guys styles under the name Atikin (the other side of Nikita) but we don‘t really promote it.  It´s out pet and only available in a few cool stores.

“Our motto from the beginning was always to do what we love to do and make a living out of it. Well, we‘ve been riding (in some incredible places) for the whole time since we started Nikita.  We snowboard, skate and surf.  Heida won the national moto-cross championships one year as well and we‘ve competed as a team in enduro racing.  We work with a bunch of amazing people.  We work with board sports activists and fashioners alike.  We get to share our vision with people who add all kinds of influence and qualities to it.  We are very grateful for being able to do this for a living.  We‘re not rich in that sense, we drive simple old cars and work our ass off every day and worry about bills to pay like everyone.  But we have a lot of fun doing excactly that!  You are offered so many choices to screw up when you try to launch a brand selling your own designs around the world that its crazy.  We‘ve managed to go this far without doing that and it feels good!  It means that all the obstacles; finding good manufacturers (all our clothing is Nikita’s own cut / sew so it‘s harder!), good staff (each and every one was hired into a position that had not existed before that person started), dealing with financing a small but exploding international brand on a far away island in the middle of the ocean, setting up offices in different countries, working with distributors all over the world, its been so much work, we could never do it unless it was our true PASSION!  And now we celebrate our 10 year anniversary at Nikita by opening up our own Nikita flagship store in Reykjavik, only a few steps away from were we started the brand.  It feels great to be 10!  Everyone knows how full of energy and excitement you are when you are 10!  You better believe we do too!

“Thanks to the whole boardsports industry for the super nice and warm welcome that we have gotten from all of you in the last years.  Thanks to you media guys for spreading the word.  Thanks to our team riders, thanks to our staff.  Last but not least, THANKS to all the girls out there who have stood by us from the start, always eager to know when the new stuff is coming and finding out where to get it.  We love you right back!”

by Dave