Featured Designer: The Encouragement Award

FK chats to Nikki about her Melbourne based fashion & accessories label, The Encouragement Award

Tell us about your lovely fashion/accessories label.
I started The Encouragement Award about four years ago and have been slowly growing it ever since. The idea started with a small range of crazy brooches which I made using pretty much anything and everything I could find from ribbons and buttons to small plastic toys and vintage fabrics. They ended up looking like funny awards you would win in school for  the ‘most improved’ so I decided to call the label The Encouragement Award. I really loved the creative process and decided to keep experimenting with new designs. When I first started my label I used to make lots of different types of accessories like obi belts, bags, purses and little toy key rings but I soon became fixated on making caps and discovered a whole new world of vintage, tartans, pinstripes and check fabrics that I sourced from retired tailors of Melbourne.  I have been making the caps ever since and because the fabric I use is limited they are always changing and evolving.  I have slowly started to introduce clothing into my label and have found it to be the most enjoyable part of sewing. I have been making ‘Hoodie Scarfs’ and Little Red Riding Hood’ capes and love seeing how cute they look on people. The fabrics are always changing and each one takes on a whole personality of its very own. I try to seek out materials and trims that are biodegradable or recyclable and always take on a ‘No Sweat’ approach to manufacturing.  I love working on my label and especially enjoy meeting all of the lovely customers who wear my products.

What is your background and how did you get started?
I studied a Bachelor of Fashion Design at RMIT a few years ago and have been making craft ever since. When I finished uni I went to Japan and taught fashion in Tokyo for a while which was amazing and I learned so much from my students (probably more then they ever learned from me) and ended up living in a Buddhist monsetary in England sewing robes for the monks. When I came back to Melbourne my friend and I started a small label called This Wallpaper Rocks and when that ended I thought it might be time to get a ‘real job’ but I just couldn’t quite stay away from the sewing machine. Since then I have been doing markets and selling my products in local Melbourne shops.

You’ve just come back from a big trip – what were some inspiring parts of your trip?
I have been lucky enough to go on a really amazing adventure to Tokyo, Italy, Berlin, Paris and London and had the greatest time. I cannot believe how amazing and beautiful the world is. I had so many highlights I don’t really know where to start. The food was defiantly a major attraction for me, as I love eating. I still daydream about the cakes I ate and the coffees in Italy. Tokyo is one of the best cities I have been too because everywhere you go there is something amazing and inspiring happening – the people are so friendly and fun to be around and the fashion is defiantly the coolest. Italy is all about the food esp. the pizzas. I fell in love with Paris and the mega stylish people. I also maxed out my credit card here and would love to go back soon and do it all again.

What are your favourite websites/blogs at the moment?
I love www.manrepeller.com. This is the funnies blog I have ever read. For good craft advise I always read www.meetmeatmikes.blogspot.com I love reading pretty much every blog and website and I esp. like www.mitchigirl.com she always makes me laugh.

What do you love about being a creative in Australia?
I love everything about being a creative Australian – esp. all of my fellow creative friends. I love a good craft market and I love learning new skills and sharing ideas with friends. I think Melbourne is a great place for a creative Australian to live as there are so many lovely shops and gallery spaces and markets around to sell and show your wears at. So many creative people live in Australia and because we come from all over the world our skills and ideas are all so different which makes things interesting and constantly evolving.

Where would I like to take The Encouragement Award in the future?
I would love to include more clothing into my work and esp. different styles of caps. I hope to keep making unisex accessories and to continue to source vintage materials from all over the world. I aim to continue to make products that are used and loved for as long as possible. I would like to continue to bring colour and a sense of fun to my designs. And maybe one day soon I might even learn how to knit.


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