MICA graduate Nikki Hendricks doesn’t see our country as a cultural melting pot. In her view, it’s more of a salad bowl.
“Cultures still have their own characteristics, but are mixed in together to make this American salad,” she says. “We have a lot of flavors, but it’s still one bowl.”
That’s the message behind her senior thesis, a fashion collection called “The Blends” that was recently selected for inclusion in the upcoming New York and Paris Fashion Weeks.
Hendricks received the news via an email from Oxford Fashion Studio, a company that organizes shows for up-and-coming designers at all four worldwide Fashion Weeks. They told her they had combed through over 8,000 Instagram pages, but Hendricks’ stood out.
“I got the email, freaked out, and ran around the building,” says Hendricks, who was working on a final in the Diversity Office at the time. “Honestly, it was a long-time dream for me, and for it to happen right when I got out of school was insane.”
Hendricks began The Blends as a research project of sorts. She chose 16 models of different races, body types, gender identities, sexualities, and nationalities, and then interviewed them to find out what they had in common.
“With all the political issues going on right now, there’s a lot more division happening through the entire country,” she says. “I asked [the models] questions like, ‘What do you do on a Sunday afternoon?’ A lot of people don’t think this, but we do a lot of similar things.”
She also asked what symbol each model felt best represented his or her own identity, and then incorporated those symbols into each piece in the collection. (A Greek model, for example, donned an evil eye.)
The end result? An abstract and eye-catching collection, with repeating bright colors and shapes that tie the six pieces together in an homage to the humanity we all share.
Hendricks debuted the collection at MICA’s annual benefit fashion show in April on a pop-up style runway, where it was met with rave reviews–a surprise for Hendricks, as it was only her second collection and show.
Though she always had an interest in art and fashion design, her drive faltered when a high school art teacher told her she didn’t have any talent.
“I’m like an artistic and creative kind of person, so I didn’t really stop drawing altogether,” she says–but she did choose to study Mass Communications at University of Bridgeport for a year before realizing she missed taking art classes and transferring to MICA as a film and video student.
During her junior year, she helped put on the Black Student Union’s annual fashion show, where she premiered her very first collection: La Marine de l’Oshun. The debut caught the attention of CollaBMORE: Baltimore’s Fashion Show & Marketplace and D.C. Fashion Week, both of which showcased her work. Now, she’s off to New York on September 8 and Paris in the spring–and she owes a large part of it to MICA.
“I have had so much support and so much encouragement for what I’m doing, from both the faculty and my fellow students,” she says. “Just being in that environment made me think, ‘Oh, maybe this isn’t as impossible as I think it is.'”