In Conversation with Nikole Tursi
Millinery Fashion Designer
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Nikole and I’m a milliner fashion and costume designer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I only recently moved to London and I am starting a new chapter in my life. I make haute couture, so the whole outfit with the head pieces and the clothes.
Which past experiences would you say have shaped your work, design sensibilities, & aesthetic?
I think everything started when I was 13 years old. I have memories of my grandmother, Betty, sewing dresses for me. When I started to choose what I wanted to wear and saw the process of choosing fabrics, proof correction, and the final result, I knew that I was going to dedicate myself to that. At 14 I had already started designing my own clothes, at 20 I started inventing what I did not know were called Fascinators.
I have several "Master Treasures" as I call them. Over the years these Masters have added much wisdom, tricks and secrets to my treasures. The first was Cesar Orlando Nunez, those two hours of workshop with him were glorious for me. Cesar taught me different techniques, from haute couture dresses to hats, crowns, resin masks and felt wigs.
My second Treasure Master was Araceli Pourcel. I still have her as a consultant. With her I learned to create my own materials. Araceli introduced me to the sublimating machine, which I use for many things, in addition to sublimate. She opened my eyes to the path I wanted to take in haute couture.
Maria Bucchieri, was my Haute Couture teacher. Since the first moment I saw her, it was like love at first sight. She is Italian and her knowledge is impressive.
Elisabeth Roulleau, my haute couture embroidery teacher, taught me a technique called Luneville. I went to do an intensive at his atelier in Lyon, France. Laura Noetinger is my current treasure.
My last job at Teatro de Colon has contributed the most. It is one of the most important theatres in the world, I never dreamed of going to work there but it just happened. Everyone always told me that what you make is really good, but you are the only one who can use them because it looks good only on you. Because my pieces have always had a lot of theatre to them, they are more crazy and forward than real life. I want to make my things not for the theatre but for real life, so I’m trying to do that. I learned a lot of things in the theatre, it gave me wings. I realised that I can do anything I want. Having to meet dates, adapting to the available materials and more than anything to the pressure that must be achieved.
You worked at Teatro de Colon. How was that experience?
The Colon Theater was definitely a before and after in my life. Working at the theatre gave me wings. It's a magical world where you see it. Amazing things happen in those subfloors. It is very difficult to describe the sensation. I learned an infinite number of things, above all the things that they ask of you, which you are capable of creating. It cost me a lot to make the decision to leave the theatre because I am very passionate about my work, but inside me, there was something that told me that I have to go for more, and that the Teatro Colon has to be my springboard. I do not rule out going back, I already dream of being The Costume Designer.
Where do you think the theatrical element in your work comes from?
I think it comes from my inner Universe. I have a fantasy world inside me that I’m trying to bring out. And I feel like I have only started to scratch the surface right now. I need to work a lot to develop what I want to do.
What is your personal philosophy in life?
I am very crazy and disorganized, I just do what comes to me naturally. I don’t have a process, I just start working. I never know what I’m going to do, I just play with the materials and the output is never what I was thinking at the beginning. I let my hands do the work.
How would you define your personal style?
I never think about it. I’m not able to put it into words, I just let people see it and make their own assessment. I prefer not to go out and buy specific materials, I instead like to work with what I have. I have a machine that I use to fuse fabrics to innovate my materials. That’s because I don’t like to work with materials that everyone else is using. I don’t want to go to a shop and realise that others are using the same materials as me, I make my own so it is unique. Now that I am in London I know that my work is very different from the milliners here because here they have a specific process that they learn at school. But in Buenos Aires you have nothing like that, so I had to play with a lot of things because of which my style is very different from what they do here and I love that. I also don’t like to use hat blocks because I don’t like other people to have the same shape as my hats. So if I use a hat block I will use it in a very different way than it is meant to be. I don’t like to make very classic hats, it’s boring for me. Now that I’m in London I want to learn the traditional way as well because I always want to learn more, but I don’t think I’m going to use it as my base. I don’t like to do more than one piece of one style, I prefer to do a new thing every time. I’m not good at copying.
What inspires your work?
Everything inspires me. I have this non-stop way of working, my head is thinking all the time. My process starts from the material. From the moment I have the material in hand, be it a cloth, a raffia, a plastic, stones, ribbons, laces, wires, feathers, enamels, or whatever it is that caught my attention at that moment. That's when my creative process begins.
When I first started I used to draw before. But I realized that my way of creating with more freedom is making a "collage". I'm moulding and testing on the spot. On the mannequin with the garments and on the casts in the case of hats. My hands know things that my mind does not. There, a style is marked.
I cannot go into detail to describe a particular process because each piece carries a different process. They are individual pieces, made by hand from the beginning to the end. Each piece I achieve by paying extreme attention to detail. What I'm looking for is to obtain timeless work that last over time, that is unique and has its own identity.
When I enter the process of a piece, I immerse myself entirely in the piece. I go around and around until I feel that I achieve the "goal". I fall in love with each piece. I'm giving it shape, experimenting from the choice of unusual materials, fusing them with novel fabrics. I work the elements with different tools, and manual techniques. I try to achieve hypnotic textures, forming volumes and assembling structures. In its entirety each one is a work of art.
What is your vision for your craft?
When I first decided to move to Europe, I was thinking about going to Paris because I love Haute Couture. I wanted to go there and learn more, so I started to learn French. But then the London Hat Week happened, and I decided to first go to London and see how things work out there, and here I am and now I don’t want to go to Paris.
To imagine that there is a possibility of meeting with the Colbert Haute Couture Committee in France is like a fantasy, which can become a reality. They called me to participate in the London Hat Week! To dream and long for it so much, for so long, is bringing me closer and opening the way for everything to be possible. This year I was able to fulfil one of my goals, that my headdresses are walking in the Royal Ascot in England.
Who are your favourite artists and designers?
Alexander McQueen and Iris van Herpen. Iris is very different from my style, but I like her because she has a unique style. It has a lot of movie and theatre that I love, it’s not my style but I love that she is making it work this way. Also, I love Björk and I would love to design for her.
What is your favourite travel destination and why?
My dream is to go to Norway to see the Northern lights. I have also always wanted to go to Japan.
Your favourite book, film, activity - that motivate & inspire you.
I love music from the 80’s. I love electronic music also, I love going to music festivals. People tell me I should go to these festivals like the Burning Man with my clothes and headgear.
My favorite film is How’s Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki. I love the book ‘El Poder de la Hora’ (translation – ‘the power of Now’).
What value are you trying to create through your work?
I want people to think less about what they’re going to wear or what they’re going to do. I want them to just do what they want. I think it’s a very London thing.