The Drop

How One NYC Designer Is Centering Her Spring Line On Community

Ahni Nichole combines tech prowess and business acumen in her eponymous creative outlet.

Ahni Nichole shot by CME Originalz LLC.
By Jaelani Turner-Williams

Up and coming New York-based designer Ahni Nichole dons many hats. Between running her own namesake clothing line–stylized AHNI NICHOLE™–and studying the field of tech and emerging trends, it’s no wonder that Nichole’s work is impacted by a myriad of influences. Even when promoting her own fashion and artwork, Nichole makes sure to make space for other budding artists on her platform, encompassing community outreach in her mission statement and supporting independent Black-owned businesses in the process.

Mirroring her own interests, the style of AHNI NICHOLE™ balances streetwear aesthetic with traditionally business-ready attire. Ahead of her spring and summer lines–which promise to include new graphic t-shirts and must-have accessories–Nichole spoke with Bustle about incorporating technology into her brand, embracing the current trends in streetwear, and her best advice for other designers who may just be starting out.

How would you describe the AHNI NICHOLE™ aesthetic?

It’s definitely a little unorthodox and I feel like the people who would use it are nonconformists, so not necessarily people who follow trends. The aesthetic is definitely bold, vibrant, lots of contrast. It's like an edgy streetwear feel.

Initially when I was starting it, I wanted to combine a business aesthetic or business casual attire with streetwear, just because I found myself trying to find a sense of style for that.

How has modern streetwear redefined your approach as a creator?

The exclusivity of streetwear has always interested me. I love how certain brands will have drops that always sell out. Everything is so exclusive and everything is always unique. The brands I am most interested in have a very close-knit community feeling, and that's something I aspire to do with my brand. I really want to build a community of people who feel like they belong, for artists and creative professionals because I feel like that market is opening and there are artists everywhere. Streetwear is coming from the ground up–a lot of people are building their businesses from the ground up with not a lot of help or resources. I’m one of those people. I love seeing all these Black-owned brands coming up and opening doors for luxury.

How has technology informed your brand?

Technology is a huge part of my brand. I have a background in art and graphic design and I intentionally want to incorporate those facets into my brand. I'm actually in school right now for User Experience design and User Interface design. The way people connect with technology is so interesting to me. I've actually been doing a lot of research into how people interact with digital products, specifically in the fashion industry. It's taking a turn because a lot of people are using these programs that have like a silhouette of a garment–an invisible silhouette–which is really cool. A lot of these companies are looking for ways to create that kind of user experience for customers in their home.

What do you hope to see in the future of Black women in fashion and tech?

More of us in tech, more of us in fashion. I want to see more black women on top. We sell a lot of trends adopted by the culture around us but we haven't been given the credit for that. Black people as a culture, we've been forced to be creative in so many different ways and I think having that integrated into us, we have so much to offer to the world.

We just need those doors to be open for us as much as we need to push those doors open for ourselves. I think we are well on our way and I'm excited for it. It’s one step at a time, but it's definitely happening.

What advice do you have for aspiring designers who are struggling to find their vision?

Write and talk to as many people as you can. Talk to people about your brand, practice talking about your brand, do a lot of research to see what other people are doing. Really understand your target, figure out who your customer is and don't stop. Don't ever stop because I believe everyone has a vision for a reason, for it to come into fruition. Just keep digging into it, keep unfolding it and it'll happen.