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Live & Work

October 19 2016

Gastown's Creative Women: Meet Nicole Bridger

Give me three words to describe yourself?

Generous, soulful, playful.

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How did you get started in fashion design?

I started sewing when I was 13 although I didn’t think it could be a viable career. When I was 16, I was dating John Fluevog’s son. We were together for 4 years and John became like a second father to me. It was then that I realized I could do something I enjoy and make a career out of it. I wanted to design my own clothes and have my own stores. I went to Ryerson University in Toronto and for my third year, I did an exchange programme to the UK; in London, so that I could intern at Vivienne Westwood. For a long time, I have wanted to do some good in the world but I wasn’t sure how that was going to fit into my career. I’m not a fashionista and I was worried that I’d have to sell my soul to succeed. Vivienne showed me that I could really use the clothes as a platform for my voice. She showed me that I can be whoever I am.When I finished my degree I moved to back to Vancouver and started working with Chip Wilson. Eventually, he asked me to start a business for him, creating clothing for El Coco; a casual eco wear line. It was a perfect environment. Growing up in Vancouver, we were always recycling. In university, there was a crew of us that did yoga and ate organic food and we all used natural fibers. I created Nicole Bridger in 2007 out of my mom and dad’s basement in Kerrisdale with 4 or 5 machines. I was a one women show and did everything myself. In 2011, I opened up a store in Kits. By 2104, I had moved the store to Gastown and felt at home immediately. Our sales doubled. It was a great move.

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Describe your creative process and what inspires you?

The philosophy of the company is “I am Love” which is about remembering that our true essence is pure love and discovering how to move from that place through all facets of one’s life. How it appears in our business is in three parts: do what is right for the earth, people and spirit. For the earth, we use sustainable fabrics, for people it’s ethical manufacturing and for spirit, we sew a label that says, “I am Love” into each piece of clothing. It acts as a reminder to the wearer to come from that place; how are they speaking to themselves in the morning, how do they treat others, and so on. I believe that all women deserve to feel beautiful, just as they are, which is very counter to the fashion industry which promotes the opposing ideology. In designing the clothes every season, I reflect on the life lessons that I’ve experienced; it’s abstract. I will then take that life lesson and it will dictate a mood and a colour palette. Designing clothes is about creating things that are useful for people. The pieces need to be able to go from dropping the kids off at work, to the boardroom, to going for cocktails, with a simple change of necklace and shoes. They need to able to be thrown in the wash and worn for years. The intent is to have fewer clothes but more quality pieces that become your favorite clothes. Simple pieces that are never boring. Clothing that is beautiful and elegant and designed to last.

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What do you like about doing business here in the neighbourhood?

For me, there is an energy in Gastown that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Vancouver. I believe there is a combination of innovative, interesting and new businesses and people here that are the next generation of the city. I really connect and resonate with that. I also love the aesthetic of this neighbourhood. It has such an incredible character and history behind it. I also value the diversity of the community in Gastown. I believe that diversity is really important in all neighbourhoods. It helps us to stay grounded and connected and reminds us that we are all more alike, than different. I feel very fortunate to be so blessed and I always want to be able to help others. In Gastown, there’s a lot of opportunity to do that.

What are your favorite places to go to and hang out in Gastown?

I often hit L’abattoir for a fancy dinner. I like The Diamond for cocktails, East Van Roasters for chocolate and coffee, also Revolver for coffee. For the rare times I go dancing, I go to Alexander.

What would you say to other aspiring fashion designers who dare to dream?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is to figure out a way to really hear your inner voice and trust it. The only times I have regretted decisions was when I didn’t listen to that voice. It takes practice to know exactly what it is. Spend time connecting to your inner voice, how to hear it and then, trusting it.