In our latest Issue, we wanted all African everything. We are proud of our talent here and were adamant about showcasing the very best in local design when styling our latest shoot, so it was natural for us to turn to Nico Nigrini, creator of menswear brand Stiebeuel.
A Capetonian with a natural talent for fashion who has previously worked in the film industry, Nico’s designs are simple, classic and timeless, and his range is small and exclusive. His garments featured in our Africa Issue create a simplistic, yet strong aesthetic look which we loved . You’ll see that in most of what Nico creates.
We introduce to you the man behind the label, Nico Nigrini.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
Growing up, I’ve always been captivated by subcultures. Why they exist, what they stand for and how they stand out in terms of their appearance and aesthetic. After spending two years in the UK this interest was especially sparked.
I studied film there after finding my way through all the different disciplines. It didn’t take long before i found it most comfortable in the art department and costume design.
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it?
I launched Stiebeuel in my 5th/6th year working in the film industry. I’ve always enjoyed working in the film industry and still do today but there had been a certain itch I had that needed scratching. Bouncing from one film project to another left me wanting an outlet that was my own.
Are you self taught?
My training had been a touch on basic pattern making and garment construction during Costume Design studies in film school. From there on, I gathered more experience working in the film industry, having to make up garments for movies and adverts.
This gave me an outlined idea of how to manage the process of having garments made up from point a – z. It goes without saying that designing and producing garments for a brand rather than project based ‘once-offs’ is a completely different ball game and there has been much trial and error to get where I am today.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into Stiebeuel?
Stiebeuel has opened up many channels to collaborate with other creatives. I find the process of joining garment ideas with another work medium very intriguing. It also lends opportunity to learn from others in the way they create and how they see things. I’m currently busy with an artist colab that I’m very excited about. But more about that at a later stage.
What is important to you when it comes to the actual making of the garments, and the fabrics and materials used?
Venturing through fabric sources in South Africa it doesn’t take much to realise that variety is slim. Importing fabrics holds numerous challenges especially if you’re not producing mass quantities. It also happens that you might get your hands on a good ‘no brainer’ fabric from a wholesaler to only find a month later that a couple of local brands and designers had made the same discovery.
With keeping quality as the main ingredient I’ve been focusing on dying up fabrics and customising buttons to achieve more controlled palettes. I would like to think that the mentioned process together with experimenting with print brings me closer to a garment that is unique, even though the brand appeal lives within a ready-to-wear bracket.
I’m proud to say that all Stiebeuel garments are made in Cape Town South Africa and very happy and lucky to have really talented people behind the manufacturing of our garments and other goods.
Why the name Stiebeuel and what does it mean?
When the time arrived to come up with a brand name I played around with a few names to suit the brand aesthetic at first. Names coming up were all English and for some reason I felt that they were ‘trying’ and contrived. I changed the title searching approach to support my background instead.
Stiebeuel is an Afrikaans word for ‘stirrup’. It’s representative of my background and upbringing in a small farm town called Wolseley. Afrikaans, my mother tongue, holds so many strong and unique words as a language.
‘Unique’ would be the operative word in what I aspire to translate in Stiebeuel as a brand. I have come to realise that Europeans find ways to engage in the brand name without knowing what it means and I’m assuming that it’s due to the word composition that gives it some European appeal.
It’s been interesting to see the interaction with the brand name. Some would look right past it and I guess think of it as being just a name. To my surprise, even many Afrikaans speaking people, since perhaps it’s not frequently used (could be seen as an ‘old’ Afrikaans word).
One could look at and it sits as a paradox (considering the garments/goods and the brand translation combined with the name). This I find creates positive tension and lends for a creative ‘playing ground’.
I have respect for brands that have no hesitation in representing their roots and even use their background elements to their advantage rather than internationalising.
Keep an eye out on their social media pages for new stockists coming up soon. You can follow them on Instagram to stay updated.
The Africa Issue is a celebration of the future of design in Africa and its potential to drive change. We explore the concept of ‘Africaness’, what this means for our aesthetic. We also dream big with bedroom inspiration and take you on a tour of homes that truly embrace the spirit of the continent. Pick up your copy today and tell us what you think on Twitter @Elle_Deco using #AfricaIssue.