Ritualized beauty with SF's very own Nikki Garcia & First Rite

2012 design First Rite local Made in the USA Nikki Garcia San Francisco

We ladies here at Revolver and Voyager are stoked to be carrying a new line for women, San Francisco-based First Rite. Picture impeccably structured garments for women with an independent streak. This would be the go to label for Amelia Earharts and Katherine Hepburns. First Rite's owner and designer, Nikki Garcia, offered us some insight into her creative process, what makes First Rite work, and why she makes San Francisco home and HQ for her label. Read on, readers.

It's not super often that I get to interview a designer based in San Francisco! How long have you lived in SF? If you're a non native San Franciscan, what drew you here? What keeps you here? What is your favorite thing about SF?

I have been in SF almost 5 years now; I planned on moving here to study fashion design and then move elsewhere, but I fell in love with the Bay Area and California in general. I love the laid back vibe, that I can bike everywhere, and that so many outdoor adventures are so accessible.

When and how did you become interested in fashion?

I have had an interest in fashion my whole life, but decided to seriously pursue design after I finished my Bachelors in Business. I wanted to do something more creative and hands on, and had been altering thrift store treasures for a long time. I moved to SF to attend FIDM and learned everything I needed to know to create a garment from beginning to end.

How did First Rite come into existence? Please tell us about the inception of your line.

While I was still in school I knew my end goal was to start my own business, so I began making and selling clothes in my free time.The line happened very naturally. The garments were getting a good response, I loved doing it, so I set it all up as a proper business and launched First Rite in Spring 2010.

What considerations come into play when you are designing for First Rite?

I think a lot about what I like to wear, what my friends like to wear, what fabrics are comfortable, and what will feel timeless and easy to wear. When there are pieces that I find myself wanting to throw on every day, I feel like I've accomplished my goal.

Some of the items in your range are highly technical garments (I am thinking of the beautiful blazer with almost origami-like fold detailing in the front. It's also so beautifully lined.) Are these garments difficult to produce?

They are time consuming to produce; that jacket alone is comprised of something like 30 pieces, but it's not difficult. I really enjoy making the patterns and sewing the initial samples, and my sewers are professionals that blow me away with how fast they can catch on and finish a project. It can be challenging when I try something completely new, but in the end I learn a lot to move forward with. I put a lot of time and work into each garment to be sure they come out exactly as I pictured.

The aesthetic of First Rite is definitely overall femme, but so many of the designs are beautifully androgynous/subtly masculine. The garments look like clothes meant for adventurous women. Why is this ambiguity important? How do you achieve the balance?

I'm not a girly person, I prefer trousers and a blouse to a dress for dressing up any day. This aesthetic naturally carries into the line. The balance comes in the cut of the styles and drape of the fabric. I love to combine structured, tailored pieces, with softer and loose fitting styles.

What is currently inspiring you?

I am currently experimenting with different dye procceses and fabric painting techniques for my next collection. It has been a good experience for me because I'm not as focused on a controlled outcome like I am with the process of patternmaking. It's been fun developing ideas with the dyes as I go. I'm also loving mix and match prints in dark and neutral pallettes, loose silky layering, and the idea of quilting in clothing.

(All photographs here within provided by Nikki Garcia/First Rite- all images copyright ©2012 Nikki Garcia / All Rights Reserved)

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