Nicky Zimmermann: “I don’t really find it that difficult to keep things fresh"
Zimmermann is a quintessentially Australian style story. With dynamic, fashion-rooted swimwear at the label’s crux, the Sydney-born sibling-spawned brand has expanded into a resort and luxe ready-to-wear powerhouse since its 1991 inception. Using quality fabrics, pastel infused palettes and a longstanding tendency towards drapes and layers, Zimmermann’s iconic aesthetic has crafted a name for itself well beyond its Paddington Market birthplace.
Thanks to flagship stores across the US, a decade-long presence at Harvey Nichols and a spot in the wardrobe of every millennial bridesmaid, the oft-lacey, occasionally slitted and always virtuously tailored gear is coveted far and wide.
Perhaps what makes the Zimmermann story an unwaveringly successful one is sisters Nicky (who heads up the business’ creative side) and Simone’s (the brand’s business brains) commitment to their original vision – Zimmermann is consistently feminine yet fresh and soft yet sophisticated, as each collection marries subtlety with spunk to craft their relaxed/ formal signature.
Aside from expanding their presence offshore, the sisters remain acutely aware of their roots in the local market. Having previously mentored Romance Was Born, Dion Lee and Michael Lo Sordo through the Qantas SOYA program, the pair are passionate about supporting young designers in the thriving Australian fashion space. We caught up with Nicky about multi-tasking, keeping a brand relevant and why she thinks you should enter the SOYA youth awards to win a twelve month mentorship with her and Simone.
What are your tips for young people looking to break in to the fashion industry?
I guess it depends on what area of the industry you’re looking at, but for a designer, I think the most important thing is to have your own vision. Something that is distinctive to you.
What do you think gives a brand longevity?
There are so many things that go into building a brand over time and to keeping it relevant. Firstly you have to really want to evolve and to embrace change. And again I think you need to create your own pathway that’s true to who you are. Keep working on your point of view as a designer.
What is the most difficult thing about keeping Zimmermann fresh?
I don’t really find it that difficult to keep things fresh because when you finish a collection you have an almost innate desire to move on and do something different. I think most designers are the same. And I really love being in the studio and doing the work with our team. It’s not the finished collection that I enjoy so much as the process.
How do you think the Australian fashion industry has changed since Zimmermann started out?
Loads! There are so many things – when we started there wasn’t a huge amount of interest in fashion – people weren’t so designer aware. There wasn’t the whole “fashion as entertainment” outlook. Now so many people are interested in the industry, models, in designers and they have so much information at their disposal. And it’s so fast. Back in the early days we started out at the markets and had time to learn about what we were doing and what our point of view was. Now designers come out of college and people expect them to be the finished article, to know how to run a business, to know what they want to create and to know how to create it. In some ways it’s easier for designers now to get known, but in other ways it’s incredibly hard.
As one of the country’s premier design houses, what changes have you had to make with the growth of fashion blogging, social media and print decline?
We’ve evolved like everyone else has had to but most importantly we have embraced it with excitement. With social media we’ve been handed this incredible free kick to reach out and communicate with more like-minded people than we ever dreamed of in the past. What’s developed online in fashion – be it as a designer, or in magazines or with bloggers - is the single most exciting evolution to happen to everyone, no matter what your particular interests are. So naturally that’s what you focus on as brand.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. It’s hard to pinpoint a thing or place but as a designer who works a lot with colour and print then mostly we start with artwork and develop a vision from there.
On that note, do you follow trends and look at what’s happening internationally when putting together a collection?
We like to do our own thing but I’m always curious about what else is happening because I love fashion. I think the challenge is to stay away from trends though and be true to your own aesthetic.
Who are your favourite Australian designers?
I have lots of favourites for different reasons and some that I really respect what they achieved. I enjoy what Anna and Luke do, I think that Dion is very talented, Susien at Lover. There’s guys that have been around for a while like us – people like Collette and Akira – that I admire. And there are brands you have like Scanlan and Theodore who have been consistently good for years and Sass and Bide who have their own handwriting and built a huge business. I could name many more...
Who are your favourite international designers?
It changes. Consistently Dries Van Noten as someone who works with print. Always Marni. I like Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, there’s so many. Of the younger designers I really like Christopher Kane.
What are your top five wardrobe essentials?
I’m not a wardrobe essentials type of person. Too practical for me. I dress depending on how I feel and don’t really have go to items.
What’s the worst fashion faux pas a woman can make?
Being disinterested. But actually trying too hard can be a problem too. I guess it’s about being comfortable in yourself really.
What are your favourite Zimmermann piece/s of all time?
Years ago when we first started doing swim I did a black one piece that had a cobweb-like detail. I think it’s one of the first times we really ventured into the space of what fashion swimwear could be.
Win a 12 month mentorship with Nicky and Simone Zimmermann, $5000 worth of Wantas air travel, and $5000 cash by uploading your design to the SOYA 365 Hub. Entries close next Tuesday, so get on board fast!