What’s your background? How and why did you start Nicholas Raefski?
I co-created and ran a streetwear brand called Strictly Original prior to creating my namesake label. I designed a couple of collections under the label but knew I had inspirations in and wanted to move towards more contemporary work.
I left to create my namesake label because I think I have something important to say, and clothing is the medium I convey that story through. I left the first company in 2020 and founded my namesake label a week later.
What is the main inspiration for this collection and why?
The collection is heavily inspired by David Fincher’s 1999 version of Fight Club. Specifically, the scene in which Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, pulls a gun on a man working in a bodega. Tyler Durden takes his wallet and discovers that the bodega worker wanted to be a veterinarian but was deterred because of “too much school”. Tyler then points the gun at the man’s head and ask what he would rather be, dead or pursuing his dreams. The man says he would rather be alive trying to reach his dreams than dead. Tyler than lets the man run off, and we (the audience) come to find that the gun was never even loaded.
The whole collection plays on the concept of guns and smoking, and that no matter what we are all going to die; either quickly with a bullet or slowly over a long period of time (i.e. from smoking). We shouldn’t be scared by death, rather it should motivate us to achieve our goals. On a personal note, I was really scared to leave my streetwear label, and start over again. I was nervous about the work, and about everything that creating a new company involved. This collection serves as a reminder, a motivator of for the future.
Give us two words to describe your collection?
What is your favorite piece from the collection, and why?
Either the shoe or the knit sweater. The knit sweater is probably what I will wear more often because it really fits my personal style. The process for making the shoe was so challenging and even frustrating at times, and I spent so much time working on it, that I feel like it’s my baby. It is my first shoe, and I just learned so much from making it.
How has the pandemic affected the way you have worked on this collection?
In the past, I would always throw a huge party to release the collection, but with the current Covid situation, I really couldn’t throw a party. However, in many ways, the pandemic opened a lot of doors for me in terms of getting this collection out. It hasn’t completely had a negative impact, it was more of a readjustment to learn how to do things in the current world we are living in.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made in your daily life to adjust to the situation we’re currently facing?
I balance a lot of different things between being in grad school, athletics (I’m an NCAA Division I runner), and operating my growing clothing label. All of these aspects of my life have been impacted; I don’t have in-person classes, I’m not competing right now because of Covid, and I can’t throw pop-up release parties. My life has certainly been altered, but at the same time I just think that part of life is dealing with the challenges presented to you. This is something we are all dealing with in our own ways, and I’m trying to control what I can and keep moving.
Do you feel that your creative expression has been influenced or altered during this time, and if so, how?
I don’t think I have changed how I express myself creatively, nor have my influences changed. The way I operate my business has certainly changed though. For instance, with this collection’s release, things are very different from what I have done in the past. I’m learning how to operate as I go with a constantly changing situation regarding Covid.
You showcased your new collection via the CFDA Runway. What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced with having to produce and release the collection during the pandemic?
Honestly, this was such an awesome experience to be able to show my collection through the CFDA Runway 360 Program. The CFDA is working on giving young, emerging designers like myself a platform. This was my first presentation, and I felt like it being virtual allowed for me to present my collection in a unique, potentially more creative way than I would have if I had been presenting in a traditional way, like a runway show. I don’t view this so much as a challenge, I’ve viewed it as a blessing.
What does the future hold for the brand Nicholas Raefski? Where do you see the brand going next?
I’m already eyeing a full men’s line for New York Fashion Week in September. All eyes are on presenting on Men’s Day and being on the New American Collections Calendar!
I am also really passionate about mental health, so I have a lot of new programs and initiatives I would love to work on within the next few months. Lots coming within the next year!