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Fashion talks

In Conversation with Karin Westas, Brand Manager of Gina Tricot x Nicki Studios

Oslo Runway Fashion Talks, by Anna Skavlan

Swedish fast-fashion retailer Gina Tricot has made a surprising step into hype fashion this season; they've partnered up with the emerging Norwegian brand Nicki Studios, founded and run by sisters Ardiana Nicki Mehmeti, Alberita Nicki Gallegos, and Nora Nicki Cimili. I spoke to the brand manager of Gina Tricot, Karin Westas, about the benefits of working with new talent, the challenges of sustainability as a commercial retailer and selling instagramable clothing.

Tell me about Gina Tricot x Nicki Studios

Nicki Studios x Gina Tricot offers a modern yet classic design with a focus on details and premium quality. The design collaboration reflects Nicki Studios' brand and design, with an emphasis on knits – one of Gina Tricot's greatest strengths. The collection has a minimalist theme and is inspired by earthy tones of the colour spectrum. We believe that this collection will give our customers precisely what they want in fashion right now. We're incredibly proud of this collaboration.

What I find striking about your collection, is how un-Scandinavian it is. Many of the brands presenting collections at Oslo Runway have a very particular Norwegian or Scandinavian DNA, yet Gina Tricot x Nicki Studios strikes me as something I could buy at a very hip store in Los Angeles, London or Berlin. Are these international influences deliberate?

We have put our trust into Nicki Studios ideas, and we have incorporated their perspective, concept and culture. Their vision is to change the streetwear scene on a global scale and their brand is known for combining Scandinavian, urban design and trends which we can see in this design collaboration. Nicki Studios have been involved and influenced every aspect of the design while Gina Tricots DNA has been incorporated as well. This collection is very special to us.

Why did Gina Tricot want to collaborate with Nicki Studios, a rather young and new brand? How did the collaboration happen?

This collaboration is a match made in heaven for us. Both of our brands represent independence and a high degree of fashion. Sisters Ardiana Nicki Mehmeti, Alberita Nicki Gallegos, and Nora Nicki Cimili have each been trendsetters in their own right in the fashion industry via their social media platforms. They have been customers at Gina Tricot for a long time and we have also had a long-standing collaboration with them as influencers and have watched their fashion brand grow, so this was a natural step for us to further our connection. This cooperation felt so natural and exciting.

You mention the sisters behind Nicki Studios as important trendsetters, especially through their social media. They have a very good fundamental understanding of how to market a brand and what kind of brands get traction on social media. This must be why the collection looks like something a Hadid, Kardashian or Jenner would wear. It's very now. How important is social media and social media influences to Gina Tricot?

Very important. As a fast fashion company its a priority to bridge the gap between mainstream fashion and high-end trends and to give our customers what they want and we definitely use social media for that. Every business today needs to leverage social media in the best possible way and Gina Tricot has always strived to the forefront of social media and influencer marketing. Not because it's the "in thing", but because our target audience is hanging around the popular social networks. We invite our customers to engage with us and show us which influencers and personalities and trends they like. We have social media polls where our followers get to vote for our next collaborations and we invite our customers to be part of our decisions which has proven to be a huge success.

As a fast-fashion commercial retailer, it is a bigger challenge to be sustainable as you are catering to a much larger market and higher demand. What measures are you taking to promote sustainability? Is it challenging to adapt to these new standards?

We know that our industry is one of the industries with the most climate impact, therefore it is extra important for us to work extra hard in these areas to be a positive force where we operate. We strive to always use more sustainable materials and production processes with a smaller climate impact. It is also important for us to raise the quality level of the garments so that they last as long as possible.

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It’s also important to talk about diversity. How are you handling this issue at Gina Tricot?

We as a brand stand for kindness, justice and equality for all. We have a diversity and inclusion policy which means that we strive to create a diverse and inclusive culture in which difference is recognized and valued and everyone can be at their best. We absolutely believe that having a diverse and talented workforce will reflect our customers and in that way, we can ensure top business growth and performance.

As a primarily Swedish brand, you come from a fashion industry that is arguably more international and developed than the one we have here in Norway. But is there anything you take away from the industry in Oslo that you believe our neighbouring country should take note of?

We are inspired by the fact that we can see that Norwegians value quality, premium qualities and natural materials such as wool linen and cotton. From the patterns we can see Norwegians would rather buy design and quality over synthetic materials at a lower price. This is the direction we are going for as a brand and we have brought this mindset into our business and developed it for Gina Tricots markets.

What does it mean to you to be a part of Oslo Runway this season?

At Gina Tricot, we always strive to find intriguing collaborations in all of our markets, and it's even more gratifying to launch Nicki Studios x Gina Tricot in connection with Oslo Runway which to us represents a high degree of fashion. In the past year, we have been working with our customer journey and brand, we have found that our customers crave a high level of fashion and unique designs in all ways. With those insights in mind, we have started a journey with moving our brand in that direction. To be a part of Oslo Runway is one more step towards that and it means a lot to us as a brand.

Where do you see the Scandinavian fashion industry in 10 years? Do you think our local industry has the tools and ability to gain even wider international recognition?

Scandinavian creativity has strong international recognition. Not only within fashion but also in music, architecture and interior design. The Scandinavian fashion scene has for long been characterized by simplicity, minimalism and functionality. I think it's the unique creativity combined with the fact that the Scandinavian fashion is at the forefront of the sustainability movement that will help our local industry gain an even stronger recognition internationally in the future.

I am sure numerous young hopeful designers are reading this, dreaming of getting the commercial stamp of approval for their vision from someone like Gina Tricot. What did you see in Nicki Studios that set them apart from the masses?

The 3 sisters and founders of Nicki Studios have shown enormous potential and built a strong brand in only two years, on top of that gaining a huge fan base. They have also managed to create a brand DNA within streetwear that is recognized from afar, which makes them stand out from the masses. We love the contrast between Nicki Studio's "style" and Gina Tricot's brand and believe that it will be well received among our customers.

What is your best advice for those hoping to achieve the same success?

My best advice is to aim high but start low - also, keep in mind that every iconic fashion brand has an origin story. A clothing brand that may dominate today’s fashion industry may have started as a small business run out of a fashion designer’s living room. While launching your own clothing line is challenging, thanks to e-commerce, online marketing and influencer marketing, it just might be possible to turn a brand that began in a small online store into a clothing brand that’s loved all over the country. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time - never give up!