Nikki Garcia
Owner at First Rite, Apartment & Studio, San Francisco

Please give us an introduction on who you are and where do you come from?
I grew up in Portland, OR, lived in Montana for 5 years where I studied business and art at the University, and then moved to SF to study fashion design at FIDM. I love all the places I have lived, they all still feel like home. 

Which path brought you to create your fabulous women's line? 
I  knew in high school that I wanted to pursue clothing design, but I wasn't quite ready or remotely serious at the age of 18 and knew I needed to just explore what it meant to move somewhere new, have fun, and go to college without worrying about where exactly it would lead. I graduated, took a year off, and then felt really ready to focus on becoming a designer. When I moved to SF I hardly knew how to sew and knew very little about clothing design and construction, so in school I put most of my energy into pattern making and sewing classes, and played around a lot on my own with ideas outside of class. I knew from the beginning I wanted to start my own business to have total creative freedom, so I worked really hard and began selling dresses while I was still in school and a little over a year after I graduated I began designing for First Rite.

Could you explain quickly the steps and the process to create and launch a line of clothes like yours?
The process is very different for every person and business, and I have learned so much along the way that I would have loved to know from the get go, but I initially started with a couple styles, made the patterns, found the fabrics I liked, sewed them up, photographed them, and approached stores about selling them. Sound easy enough, but there's a lot of between the lines. Starting this line has been an equally challenging and amazing learning process as I just figured it all out as I moved along. In the beginning I did the production myself which was crazy, but as I have moved from season to season I have made some great contacts and now work with a team of sewers. Making lots of contacts and connections is one of the greatest things you can do in starting a business. The other is to stay inspired and focused even when shit hits the fan, which it will. 
And what's your favorite part? 
My favorite part of what I do is that my work is a very hands on creative outlet and that I have complete creative control. I still get very excited when I am starting a new collection and discovering fabrics and new shapes and ideas, and my work never feels like a chore. 

How would you describe the style of your clothes?
Someone recently told me I don't make pretty clothes, but that they are sophisticated and elegant and modern. I liked that compliment. I use all natural fibers, a lot of silk, and keep the color palette pretty neutral continuously using black as the dominant color. 

What object, tool or anything else you absolutely can't work without?
I have so many tools that I absolutely can't work without since I do all my own patterns and test fits, but really nice scissors and a grid ruler are essential. 

You work in a studio surrounded by other artists, do you need to be surrounded by arts and good designs in order to be inspired? 

I think being surrounded by other creative people is inspiring to anyone, and we have a great group out there. When it's beautiful outside and I want to be outside cruising around on my bike it helps to know there are other people out there dedicated to working on their craft. 

How did you find your studio and please, tell us a bit of story about this place.

I was introduced to Hunt Projects by a friend who also had a studio there, and was the second person to sign a lease. The space has 6 large studios, and a big open woodshop/metal shop with 10 lockers for rent, so we have a pretty diverse group. I have been there over a year, and have watched the space completely transform into an amazing space and community. I love that my ceilings are super high, even with the addition of the loft it makes the space feel very open. We have a great outdoor patio with a wood fired pizza oven, and every so often have gatherings back there. I love being out in Bayview as well, there are some cool things happening out there, and some great food like an outdoor pizza garden, All Good, that is right across from Flora Grubb on 3rd St.

You're listening to music while at work. What kind of music do you love and could listen to for hours?
I listen to music all day out there, so a lot passes through those speakers, lots of 60's psychedelic, old country and folk, and of course plenty of Grateful Dead.

What would you like to work on one day?
I would love to design sweaters, knits are something I have very little experience in that I would love to learn more about. I have also done some research on millinery and am planning on playing around with a couple hat styles. One day I would love to design the interior of my own dream home, I keep lots of photos for inspiration for when I get there.

Tell us about your perfect Saturday.
My perfect Saturday involves waking up early feeling super well rested, having coffee and brunch with friends, and then piling everyone in the car to head out of the city for an all day adventure, river day, hike in the woods, or to our favorite secret camping spot. Then ending the day with one of those rare warm night bike rides, drinks, and dinner.

Describe SF in 3 words
Colorful, classic, explorative.

You live in the Mission District of SF. What do you like in this neighborhood and do you have some favorite local places?
I love living in the Mission, there is so much to do, and you can just bike around everywhere. I live a few blocks from Bernal Hill and love to start my day walking up the hill to take in the view. Dolores Park is always a classic and on a sunny weekday is a great place to bring a book and a coffee. There are so many bars, restaurants, and coffee shops popping up all over the place it's hard to keep track. My go to's for the morning are Arizmendi, Stable, St Francis, and Four Barrel for coffee. For drinks Latin American, El Rio, J&B, and for an easy dinner Rosamunde, Tacolicious, Little Star, or KenKen ramen. For a more involved dinner and cocktails I like Locanda or Beretta. I pop into Painted Bird almost every week to see what's new and always find something. There's lots of great bookstores which are all slowly finding their way to 24th St like Alley Cat, adobe, and Press. Voyager, Gravel and Gold, and Little Paper Planes are some great stores along Valencia. This list could go on forever... 

What's your favorite weekend escape?
My favorite weekend escape hands down is the Yuba River. I am totally enchanted by it, and daydream about owning land in Nevada City someday. 

What is your favorite place to eat in San Francisco?

My favorite restaurant right now in the bay area is Boot and Shoe in Oakland. I live for pizza, and they do it right. Great cocktails and brunch too.. My favorite San Francisco restaurant is Sushi Zone

Please take 3 instant pictures of whatever you like!

Thank you Nikki for your time, I spent a wonderful morning with you! Take few minutes to look at her collection and her beautiful video on her website:
More fun pictures of Nikki here!

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