This Stripe-Obsessed Designer is On a Mission
Nikki Kule wants to make you the perfect t-shirt.
“Stripes just make me happy….” Truthfully, it was all we could do to not overtly nod in bobble-head fashion at everything designer and founder Nikki Kule said during our recent interview. She was posted up in her quirky studio space in Soho, clad in perfect Americana fashion: a striped shirt (but of course), blue blazer, denim, and red, white, and blue Gucci mules. We kid you not, she’s a walking, talking poster for American sportswear-cool.
Nikki’s eponymous womenswear line, Kule, first caught our attention when we saw the line’s totally on-brand lookbooks. They’re purposefully refreshing and non-nautical, featuring models without a stitch of makeup in mundane everyday situations like air-drying their hair with a towel on their head, playing basketball, eating Special K cereal, and picking up their dry-cleaning. It’s a persuasive case for all the things you can do in stripes—besides sailing a damn boat. And that’s how we ended up mid–photo shoot throwing cashmere mittens (a recent debut for the line that’s set on making stripes a 365-day-a-year thing) in the air, and discussing the virtues of a travel uniform, good outwear, and her eternal quest to create the perfect striped tee. That said, we’ve been wearing one of her t-shirts constantly, and it’s pretty darn close to perfection.
How the former Brooks Brothers designer started her line:
“I was in the children’s business for twelve years, then Brooks Brothers for five. I have always been a lover of stripes, I collect them and have about 150 t-shirts from all over. There are different things I love about each: quality, length, sleeves... With Kule I wanted to create the perfect shirt, a never-ending search for me!”
Why she still hasn’t found “the one”:
“I call the Kule shirts ‘the perfect striped shirts,’ but I am continually trying to perfect them, whether it’s fabric, cut, or fit. Now we’ve added cashmere and oversized shirts. I love to wear stripes in the summer, and now we can wear them in the winter too. These are items I wear every day; it’s my uniform. Branding was important for us—there are striped shirts everywhere and a lot of people make them. Ours are produced at an all-female factory in Portugal—they are lovely women and they’ve never made anything for the United States before.”
Yes, you can wear stripes every season:
“Stripes tell a story. They can be worn in any way by anyone, at any age. Creating our lookbooks was about putting the stripes in a different scenario. To me, it’s a staple like denim and I wanted to show people they can be worn in many different ways. Our shoots have a quirky, fun aspect to them—stripes are fun, not serious. During photo shoots, we’re really spur-of-the-moment, like, ‘Let’s put towels on their heads!’ There is something really cool and relaxed about it all. Stripes just make me happy.”
A fail-proof airport uniform:
“Before I started this business, I wore a striped shirt every time I traveled—it was my plane uniform. I feel comfortable, but put-together, and I’m wearing something that I can use at my destination. Some associate stripes with nautical, and we do nothing of the sort. We don’t show any pictures of our stripes near water or boats!”
Her top five (bet you can guess one):
“I can’t live without coffee, stripes, jeans, family, coats (I moved to California and it was sad for me because I couldn’t wear coats), and traveling.”