*Original post via Causeartist.com
Let’s take you back to 2014, when Milo and Nicki first met. Milo, the adorable pup pictured, quickly became Nicki’s rock during a time of change and self care, and Nicki to him during his time of need. The two have grown together and inspired one another while on a journey to identify their next step. When Nicki realized she “had a passion for fashion”, as she giggles away, Milo was a huge part of the inspiration behind the launch of their ethical clothing line: milo+nicki, a cruelty-free, ethically designed womenswear line that empowers the ever-evolving woman to conquer her fears, take a leap of faith, never give up on herself, and live a life of color.
The Kickstarter campaign for the ethical line is now live, funding milo + nicki’s first collection complete with 6 pieces inspired by Nicki’s wonderful and supportive family members. Each piece is classic and versatile, yet fun and colorful. All pieces are hand loomed in India, made of handwoven certified Ahimsa silk and GOTS certified organic cotton blend, and made to order, helping create less waste. And as if it couldn’t get better, or more adorable, the beautiful human AND animal friendly Paws for Change scarf, one of six collection pieces, donates 5% of sales to Austin Pets Alive.
See below for a Q + A with Nicki, founder and designer of milo + nicki!
1. Tell us about beautiful Milo!
Where to begin… Milo is a crazy, energetic, and very colorful pup (he is actually a little older than a puppy, but definitely a pup at heart.) He loves the outdoors and can never have too many balls to play, especially tennis balls. He is very attached to those closest to him and loves with all his heart.
We adopted Milo on August 3, 2008 from an overly full shelter in Temple that had fostered his whole family just a few miles north of Austin. I will never forget that day because it forever changed my life. It was a new life in our family, specifically mine. His energy, his uncontrollable love, and his adorable personality has left a print like no other; a paw print that is forever imprinted on my heart.
Living in Austin was a whirlwind of outdoor adventures, but the beauty was limited to nature’s escape. As Milo grew so did the world around him. He was attacked and abused by too many to count. His love turned into defense, and his energy into anxiety. The whole sequence of events in just a few years was devastating and there was no path for return as the world he lived in seemed to grow scarier and smaller. We tried training, medications, and even reached out to behavioral specialist all over the country, but this was the new Milo.
As we grew, we grew together. He learned his fears, and I learned mine. I grew ill, and he followed close behind. It was as if our paths were meant to cross and intertwine. I feel responsible for the things that have happened to him. The attacks and abuse he has faced are my own. I wish I could take it away from him, and take him back to 2008, but they are as much a part of his identity as they are mine. While we navigate through life, we hope that our journey inspires others.
2. In a time of need, how were you able to rise up and find inspiration to start a new, ethical project?
There was definitely a combination of things that led me to launching milo+nicki. Milo and I both hit a big lull in health in 2014. The combination of small health problems, Milo having a major injury, and a very stressful burglary that spiraled us both downward, we begin to slowly feel the floor crumble beneath us.
While working full-time, commuting back and forth from New Braunfels to Austin, and the fear and pressure from my employer, I came to a breaking point. I was not happy, and was pursuing a career to maintain a paycheck. I struggled to make a decision on what to do next because I had worked so hard for my education and career, but with support from my parents, a lot of soul searching, and my priority on my health, I knew it was best for me to leave.
I began to realize that my health was something I was going to have to work on rebuilding and no western medicine or doctor was going to be able to help (I literally was told that). I knew the root was the fear, the pain, and the anger I felt with what was going on with Milo multiplied by the stress and anxiety of the burglary. This made me realize what was most important in my life and that was my family and their health, living purposefully, and making a difference in the world.
As I worked towards getting healthier, I maintained small jobs to help me with medical expenses. One of the jobs I took lit a small torch within me, a small light of passion. The fashion company’s mission was to help women feel and look their best self. It felt like I had found a small piece of purpose. And, I began to explore that purpose deeper.
I realized that my passion and purpose was my cure. With my family’s health and happiness at the forefront, fashion somehow always making an appearance in my journey, and a drive to pursue what set my soul of fire while making a difference in the world, I began to see pieces of opportunities. With our love for the outdoors and having a lifelong passion for sustainability (previously in corporate America), the combination of these pieces became the formula for our mission.
And then it hit me. I was going to create a line that would allow me to inspire and empower other women to find what set their soul on fire while combating the rapidly changing world we live in, where societal pressures and life changes merge.
Begin women, we feel a pressure to play multiple roles may be it be a daughter, mother, sister, employee, spouse, colleague, etc. We’re taught to be competitive rather than supportive, and we’re held to higher standards. With this base, we begin lose ourselves, our colorful gorgeous individuality, but we don’t need to. We are strong, beautiful, independent, confident, courageous, loving, caring, and phenomenal. We can do it all. Let’s share it, let’s flaunt it! Why not?!
3. What has been some of your biggest challenges in creating Milo + Nicki?
With entrepreneurship in any industry, there are a ton of highs and lows. This is what makes the journey so exciting and honestly, what I love. It keeps you learning, adapting, and growing while exploring places you have never been.
For my journey thus far, the biggest road block has been within product development and it is sourcing the perfect fabric. Not only is the sustainable fabric supply and demand small (super sad, but true) especially domestically, but it is also overly polluted with false pretenses of being eco-friendly, sustainable or ethically made.
With transparency as one of our core values and a love for very rare fibers, it was a huge struggle for our brand. I also had the unfortunate experience of losing my fabric supplier multiple times in this first collection (a process that had taken me 7-8 months initially). I came to the point where a month before I had previously planned to launch, I was without a supplier.
I searched high and low, had a few major mental and physical breakdowns, and spent weeks of back and forth 5 a.m. emails in Mandarin to suppliers in China. I finally found the perfect supplier who shares my same vision for ethical, transparent production of fabrics while ensuring fair wages and safe workplaces for all employees.
Although the journey of finding my perfect fabric supplier was a long and quite stressful one, it made the process so much sweeter and has allowed me to grow and learn in ways I never imagined. It is definitely bitter sweet.
4. Tell us about the inspiration behind your first 6-piece collection?
The inspiration is a combination of my colorful and vibrant cultural roots (Indian/Zambian influence), passion for sustainable and ethical living, and a focus on empowering women to live a life of color and purpose.
Each piece is cruelty-free and ethically-designed, with handwoven certified Ahimsa silk and GOTS certified organic cotton blend from India, hand dyed with plant based indigo in the US, and made in NY.
The first 6-piece collection is also inspired by each of my 5 rocks in my life: my parents, my sisters, and Milo.
paws for change scarf | the gender + pet neutral scarf is inspired by the happiness, love, and passion Milo has brought me as we “paws” for change in the sustainable fashion movement (with 5% of proceeds going to Austin Pets Alive)
dream short | the dream short is for the forever dreamer inspired by my middle sister (pairs with the lr blouse)
lr blouse |the lr blouse is for the true rebel with a cause inspired by my nickname “lr” from my dad (pairs with the dream short)
milano midi | the milano midi is for the adventure seeker and forever wanderer with East and comfort in mind inspired by Milo
amore maxi | the amore maxi is roomy with a kaftan feel: for all women, all ages inspired by mom
smother jumpsuit | the smother jumpsuit is for that 70’s lovin’ girl with a touch of sass and class inspired by my eldest sister
The fit of the pieces are looser, free, and easy-care for all women, and for any occasion. The design and fabric is timeless, classic, and versatile to give you that go-to date night look, or relaxed music festival vibe. It takes you from vacay to everyday, just like we like it!
5. Could you give us more details about what fabrics are used and the reason behind your choice for sustainable silk?
We are actually solely using a single fabric for the entire first collection. The fabric is a blend of certified Ahimsa “peace” silk and GOTS certified organic cotton. It is handwoven, and made-to-order from India. The Ahimsa “peace” silk is cruelty-free meaning that none of the silkworms are harmed or killed in the process of creating the silk. Traditional silk production requires brutal boiling of the silk cocoons to allow the silk to unravel quickly and kills the worms within them. One of our goals is to create a cruelty-free line that extends beyond the fabric and encompasses the entire supply chain.
We love hard and care deeply about the planet and the people, therefore we strongly believe that being cruelty-free is not optional. Through our supply chain, we ensure that all our partners are paid fair wages, ensured a safe workplace, and live a sustainable lifestyle, locally and abroad. By creating made-to-order fabric, we are reducing the amount of waste we create that ends up in landfills. Our fabric is created without harming animals or nature. Lastly, we use 100% plant based indigo for dyeing our entire collection meaning no toxins and chemicals are released to humans, animals or the environment.
6. Where do you see Milo + Nicki a year today?
The opportunities are limitless and I am so excited to go on this journey and see where it takes us. A year from today, I would love to be inspiring and empowering women globally through our story and journey. I want our pieces to be more than just another garment in your wardrobe. I want it to be a part of your story and hold stories that can be shared with generations to come. The collections I create, I hope continue to empower and inspire women to live a life full of color while driving the ethical and sustainable fashion movement. When we do good, we feel good. Let’s continue to live with purpose and inspire change.
Nicki’s full story is one that really stuck with me, and demonstrated how health, wellness, and balance are most definitely a priority before anything else. I thank her for sharing her story, and wish her great success with the launch of milo + nicki.