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Nikki Khiran on drapery fashion

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Nikki Khiran on drapery fashion



The intricate techniques used in her collections over the years have been exquisite. In this interview, designer, NIKKI KHIRAN tells FUNKE OSAE-BROWN how she twists, folds and wraps different fabrics to form unexpected, elegant silhouettes for today’s women.


She is full of life as she welcomes me warmly into her Norman Williams Street, Ikoyi, Lagos, showroom. The well-designed apartment functions as her showroom and work studio where she works tirelessly with her team. She has been working on her latest collection she calls ‘The Resort collection, Spring/summer 2015.

“I could not do much last year,” she tells me, “because of my father’s death. I didn’t really get myself hence I couldn’t get myself to do anything. I spent the last two years taking care of my sick father, who eventually passed away of cancer. The time for me was that of sober reflection, and everything else seemed irrelevant. The last collection I did was in 2013.”

The business of fashion has now taken a different turn for Khiran. She started her eponymous label more than 20 years ago as one of the pioneer designers in the Nigerian fashion industry. Her signature style is ethereal opulence. Embellishments, floral prints, animal prints, drapes and layers complete her iconic pieces.

Khiran is largely known for exquisite workmanship and pieces that fit perfectly. And so, her 2015 collection is not different as works with different fabrics like jersey, silk chiffon, beaded tulle, and distressed knits. She codes fabrics that are comfortable, sexy, multifunctional and easy to pack.

“When I put this collection together,” she says, “my thoughts were to create unique designs for a woman who is a global traveller, exotic, free spirited, sexy, yet ladylike, individualistic and confident. She could walk on the beach in her tube dress, do lunch in her draped caftan, sundowners in her cat suit, and a one shoulder toga, or gladiator fringed dress for her gala night or dinner. Her whole holiday wardrobe is in this collection and more.”

She says the pieces of the ‘The Resort collection, Spring/summer 2015′ were painstakingly put together. It took a few months to complete. “It is always a work in progress,” she says. “My 2013 collection had a lot of ethnic fabrics and had a slightly more casual feel.”

A graduate from the London College of Fashion, Khiran came back to Nigeria more than 10 years ago to launch her design studio. Little wonder her aesthetic sense is rooted in her African background, but a global Western influence is prevalent in her work. Ethnic and abstract prints in spicy tones, sumptuous fabrics, silk crepes, tulle, silk dupions, taffeta, beaded georgette, always come together as dramatic but wearable.

Having lived in three continents over the past almost 50 years, she says she tries to marry her African heritage with her Western upbringing and hopefully not lose sight of her aesthetic.


“I have never relied on what is in fashion,” she says of her designs, “or wanted to dress skinny women exclusively. I have always leaned towards dressing women with real curves, real bodies, anyone can dress a slim girl, but my goal has always been to show that there’s beauty and diversity in every size and show of a woman’s best assets no matter her size.”

She has taken her craftsmanship to a new level with the interior decor arm of her business which she started in 2014. Under one roof, a client can be treated to the best of art works, fashion and the very best of home decor. For Khiran, it is all about lifestyle.

“People want to dress up and look good,” she tells me. “They want to go into their houses and feel comfortable. I want the Nikki Khiran brand to be about lifestyle, not just about clothes. I want it to be about comfort, specification and glamour. That is why I went into interiors and accessories. I don’t want people to think I am all about clothes. What I mean is that I want the Nikki Khiran brand to be about clothes and interiors. I am about lifestyle. I love comfort. I want clients to have comfortable homes as well as beautiful clothes.”

Her quest to make her clients look beautiful has led to the opening of a new showroom at Shop B8, First Floor, Oti Carpets Plaza, on Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent Wuse II, Abuja. “I realised I had quite a market in Abuja, over the past few years. I used to do trunk shows there every couple of months, which did quite well. My friends in Abuja encouraged me to open a store there and they have been very supportive. The store has been doing quite well. We are working on creating more awareness, but word of mouth has been great. I have a few ideas and plans in the pipeline for 2015, but my immediate focus is creating awareness for my new store in Abuja. I want to take the label to our customers in Abuja.”

Before, the Nikki Khiran label evolved into a lifestyle outfit, couture had been the focus. Today, Nikki does a lot of off the rack prêt de porte wears. “I do variety of things from casual wear to evening wear. I do a lot of dresses, skirts, kaftans, jersey, silk. I do quite a variety of things. My collection is quite vast. We are trying to go into lifestyle label. What we have done is we have extended our range to a home wear line, which is what we do on our ground floor. We also do fashion and accessories. Now, we have a new handbag line that just came out. We have accessories. We are doing quite a lot of stuff. I don’t want Nikki Khiran to be too much of what you have seen for the past two decades or so. I want it to be a lifestyle brand where we do all sorts of things that clients can basically get all they need under one roof, whether it is fashion or lifestyle.”

For the last Valentine’s celebration, clients saw ‘The Resort collection’ as a renewal of love. “Valentine is about the appreciation of our loved ones, etc, my ‘Resort collection’ embodies beauty, elegance, appreciation of womanhood and sensuality, although it’s not a valentine collection.”

Khiran says all the pieces in her collection are unique in their own right as she does two or three collections a year. “I can’t single out one item, they all come together to tell a story, but my favourites are my fringed gladiator dress and my feathered one shoulder toga, they both represent a woman who is strong, confident, and individualistic.”

For future collections, Khiran says she has not thought that far ahead yet. She just lets her heart lead her.

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