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5 Questions With Nicacelly

By Summer Sewell, Photo by Nathan Weylandfeatures
Oct 11, 2007 - 8:46 PM

Nicole Markoff, founder of Nicacelly, gained notoriety for her one of a kind handmade women's garments. In 2008, she'll launch her men's line. (Photo by Nathan Weyland)

The Bishop longsleeve hoodie from Nicacelly's fall collection, Holladaze. (Photo courtesty of Nicacelly)

The Gem top by Nicacelly. (Photo courtesy of Nicacelly)
The Pon jacket, from the Holladaze collection. (Photo courtesy of Nicacelly)

Nicole Markoff steals lockets on Friday afternoons from outside of neighborhood cafes. “It’s not really stealing…It was on the ground. I found it,” she says in her bouncy, happy tone. Nicole is halfway through another busy day, taking a short break to enjoy mushroom soup at 2:30 p.m. in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, and finding miscellaneous heirlooms on the sidewalk. Her solo lunch is supposed to be business-free, but five minutes into it, she’s answering her cell for an uninterrupted, strictly business talk. The business is her clothing line, Nicacelly.

Conceptualized in 2001 but off the ground in 2005, Nicacelly, named after a family member who died in the Holocaust (“Plus it sounds Italian and people like Italian things.”). After graduating from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study and then earning a second degree in fine arts, Nicole began managing the merchandise/apparel end for Oakland-based hip hop group Hieroglyphics. After finding hundreds of Hiero shirts deemed unsellable due to small color or tailoring mistakes, Nicole, a skilled seamstress, began weaving these scraps of unwanted cloth into one of a kind women’s garments. Her clothes can now be bought from close to 30 fine boutiques from SF and LA, to NY and Japan.

“I don’t like fashion,” she says calmly, before clarifying, “Well, I like fashion, but I don’t like the industry. People are so obsessed with colorway. They do the same prints over and over, just a different colorway, and there’s more to it than that.”

The “more to it than that” is what Nicacelly (an interchangeable name for both herself and her clothing line) excels in. Each one of a kind garment is handmade, most trimmed with a fabric she brought back from her time in Southeast Asia.

With the success of her praised women’s line, and after being sought out and worn by Jennifer Johns, Goapele, and many other innovative women in hip hop, and holding down her own booth at the famous Magic fashion convention, it would be understandable to let the clout get to her brain, especially in this day of shameless self promotion. In Nicole’s case, it’s safe to say it’s not going to her head. She finds a way to downplay her own talent and willpower, stating, “People have been very supportive of me; I have good people around me. I kind of owe it to them [her success].”

Nicacelly has paved a road for herself, and there is no end in sight. She plans to launch a mens’ line in late 2008. And it all seems so effortless for her. Finally, she sums it all up: “In this industry, if you can make dollars outta 15 cents, you’re the shit.” With that said, it’s fair to say, she’s the shit.

If you could sit at a bar with any three people, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Fuck! I really don't know. How about I'd like to sit in a drunk story circle with the following people: John Krakauer so he can tell me more about mountains and mormons, Ira Glass so he can give me the best of This American Life and Kathy Griffin – ‘nuff said.

Who was your favorite superhero/cartoon character growing up and why?

Probably Jem. That darn hair! So long and lookin' like my Strawberry Shortcake cereal.

What would be your last meal if you were heading to the electric chair?

A chicken cutlet dinner with mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad from St. Francis Fountain on 24th Street (in San Francisco).

What song are you most ashamed of on your iPod?

“3 Freaks” remix (by DJ Shadow ft. Keak da Sneak, Turf Talk and Mistah F.A.B). It's nasty and I like it.

What's next for you/what are excited to work on?

Making more goodies, getting rich and spreading it around, getting a yurt in the woods.

For more info, check www.nicacelly.com or www.myspace.com/nicacelly. Come out to SNEAK ATTACK on Friday, OCT 12, to get your hands on freebies from the Nicacelly line, along with other innovative Bay Area


Summer Sewell is a contributing editor to Oh Dang!

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