One of our favorite lines in the shop is San Francisco-based First Rite. Created in 2015 by girl boss Nikki Garcia (a former Portland resident, no less), the collection is a minimal and modern masterpiece, with easy separates in enviable color palettes. We were so thrilled to have the chance to chat with Nikki, who not only is quickly establishing her line as a wardrobe staple (Whitney has every pair of the Crop Culottes), but is also just a lovely person. Be sure to shop First Rite in the shop!
+ Your collection features shapes that are interchangeable throughout individual collections as well as different seasons. How did you develop this concept and why do you think it’s important?
The concept sort of developed naturally as I continued to build new collections. I like to carryover my favorite styles and fabrics into new seasons, and am all about monochromatic dressing and sets. Each season I noticed the colors and pieces just kept working together, and when it all sits on a rack together it looks like one large collection. I love that concept and so decided to think about each season picking up where the last left off and becoming an ongoing story. To me it is important that the pieces I create be the easy staples in a woman's closet that she can reach for again and again, and each season I can introduce something new that is going to work and build on those pieces.
+ What are your favorite neighborhood haunts in San Francisco?
I live and work in the Mission so I spend most of my time in this part of the city, which is filled with so many good spots. My current rotation is Samovar
for a chai and lunch, St Francis for breakfast, La Taqueria
for tacos, Voyager
for shopping, and Holy Mountain
for a drink.
+ Where did First Rite begin for you? Did you always want to be a designer? What were the first steps you took to create your line?
I have had an interest in clothing design since high school and was doing sketches and altering vintage clothes all through college, where I studied business. I moved to SF after I graduated to start design school and began making & selling clothes between semesters. When I graduated started my business almost immediately. The line didn't take off right away, it took a lot of work and evolution of the line before it became my full-time job. I was working full-time in design for some larger companies for a few years, and would head straight to my studio after work and on weekends to work on First Rite. All I did was work, it was crazy. One season things just clicked and the momentum started to pick up, and so for Spring 2015 I was able to leave my job and focus full time on the line.
+ Life of a business owner is undoubtedly busy. How do you treat yourself on a day off?
I love to get outside of the city for a hike or a day on a river or lake depending on the time of year. The bay area is surrounded by beautiful nature, and it clears my head and gives me a reboot to get outside for a day or weekend.
+ We love that your pieces are a combination of both masculinity and classic femininity. Where do you draw your style inspiration? Is your collection a reflection of your own style?
I would say the collection is a direct reflection of my own style. I tend to sway more toward the more masculine pieces in my day to day, but I appreciate feminine dressing and like to work those touches into my personal wardrobe and the collections. The Spring collections always end up more feminine because in warm weather its all about easy dresses and skirts, and for Fall the feminine details are more subtle as I tend to design more into sets centered around trousers and jackets. I pay attention to the way the women that surround me are dressing, what they and my customers respond to in my collections, and think about what pieces I want to wear over and over in my own closet.
+ What was your inspiration for the SS17 collection?
In the early stages of developing a collection I think a lot about past shapes I have created, which ones were successful and why, and how I can build on and evolve the original ideas to create something new for the next season. I love looking at a rack with all my past seasons together and seeing how interchangeable it all is, and I like to think about each new collection working with all those behind it. I think about the story the collection will tell early on, and knew I wanted to shoot the collection at Noguchi Gardens California Scenario. I was drawn to the simplicity, the concept, and the neutral pink and tan shades and how they changed with the light throughout the day. I chose a palette that would compliment the space and thought about how the pieces could feel true to California lifestyle to work with Noguchi's concept of representing the geographical regions of California.
+ We’re obsessed with your Tie Tank & Crop Culottes here in the shop. What piece(s) from your SS17 line are going to be on heavy rotation for you?
The crop culotte is one of my new favorites as well. The pieces I wear the most from every collection are the pants & long linen jackets, so this season the belted overcoat is a favorite as well!
+ What is the most important thing you have learned about balancing your business in your life?
When you own your own business you kind of live and breathe the work, so for me trying to keep my schedule Monday-Friday in the studio and stepping away completely on weekends is so important for my mental well being. I still often think about my work when we are out on a hike or camping, but it feels more reflective and gives me a different energy to re-approach something the next week. Of course there are highs and lows in my calendar and months when I work nonstop and through the weekends, but starting my day by walking or running up to the beautiful park just behind my house keeps me balanced. It's all about allowing yourself to take a break and making it part of your regular schedule!
+ What’s something about you we may not know?
I have an identical twin sister in Portland! She's a Montessori teacher, is so creatively talented, and is my best friend!
+ Tell us a bit more about where your textiles & materials are sourced?
I source textiles from all over- Japan, France, Spain- and am very excited to have found a knit manufacturer right in LA to produce my rib knits for this season! It is important to me to use fabrics derived from natural fibers, so I stick to linens, cottons, with blends of rayon and tencel. For Fall I have partnered with a female owned Peruvian sweater manufacturer that sources alpaca from the surrounding villages and communities, and I am so excited about this expansion to the collection. Alpacas are such beautiful animals, and it feels good to support communities that have been farming their fleece for many generations.
+ What’s next for you? What’s next for First Rite?
I'm headed to Mexico City and Oaxaca for a couple weeks at the end of this month and am super excited for the break and chance to explore and hopefully be inspired for my next season! As soon as I am back I am immersing myself in developing the Spring 18 collection and overseeing Fall 17 production, which includes the new Peruvian alpaca sweaters!