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Interview with Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer

Nina Cicolo is a skilled fashion designer who combines her Brazilian heritage with the laid-back vibe of California. Originally hailing from São Paulo, Brazil, she now resides in San Diego, California, where she is cementing herself as a prominent name within the fashion community of SoCal. We recently had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with her about her past, present, and future projects.

Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer
Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer

L'A: How did you get into fashion design? For how long have you been a designer?

NC: I have always been creative and a fashion lover. When I was a child, my mother was always looking for more fashionable kids' clothing lines, and it was very difficult to find when I was a kid. In my teens, I used to wear the most different looks at school. So, Fashion College was the clear choice to put together my favorite subjects: art and history.

I have been a fashion designer for 17 years. I have worked in different segments, but mostly with women's evening wear.

Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer shows her Latin Blood collection

I have a bachelor's degree in fashion design and a specialization in pattern making. I had a traditional education in Fashion. I learned fashion with French techniques, so I am crazy about clean finishing!

L'A: How has your environment impacted your latest designs?

NC: My designs are influenced by the environment, for sure! For example, my last collection was called Latin Blood. It was about my transition from the megalopolis São Paulo to the easygoing San Diego. I started this collection with the LED Dress, representing the lights of my hometown. The Wave Dress closes the show, showing my closer contact with the ocean in San Diego. When you move to another country, you have a chance to look at yourself, choose what you want to reaffirm about your culture and learn about a new culture. It is an interesting path of growth.

L'A: Can you share information about the most recent collections you have worked on?

NC: Last year, I worked hard on the Latin Blood collection for ten months.

Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer shows her Latin Blood collection

I made all the looks by myself, and there was a thought that I couldn't get out of my mind "There is a time to plant, and there is a time to harvest."

Little did I know that I would really harvest all the work planted and be voted as first place top designer at Fashion Week San Diego and close Orange County Fashion Week.

With this thought in mind, I started to sketch the collection Plant and Harvest. That's the collection that I am working on this year. It is an avant-garde mini collection with fewer looks, is more experimental, and uses alternative materials. This collection is about starting over, keeping going, even after storms, to flourish and enjoy the fruits of labor.

L'A: Your work features unconventional details, such as natural materials like açaí seeds for top straps and raffia for a skirt in Plant and Harvest. Additionally, your Latin Blood collection includes garments with electrically wired lighting. Can you share where you draw inspiration for these creative ideas and how you acquired the skills to execute them?

NC: Mixing is a characteristic of my creations because I have multiple references. I like to go to different places and talk with people with different perspectives.

I usually work with more rigid bases with something with more movement and texture on it. I like to mix tradition with technology, also.

I group my thoughts into a theme, and I start to materialize this theme in images. I sketch and begin to look for materials. The creation is alive; the materials of a predefined theme inspire some designs.

Nina Cicolo, San Diego-based Fashion Designer shows her Plant and Harvest collection

The top with açaí seeds was a way to bring Brazilianness to this idea of seeding. The raffia skirt has the colors of the sunset in a wheat field.

I love to work with alternative materials, and I learn how to work with them while working. Sometimes, after I am halfway done with a look, I realize a better way to work with the material. I have been working in factories all my life, so I got used to different materials and production issues. I am a problem solver.

L'A: Where does the inspiration for your Collections come from?

NC: My work is totally connected with my personal story and reflections of my mind. When I create, I put everything out. That is my way of saying things that I don't want to say with words. It is very organic and natural. I can't control so much; I just have to do it. I am always with my sketchbook. It is a kind of therapy for me—a good way to give an idea a body and let it go. When I don't do it, the ideas are in an eternal looping in my mind.

L'A: What does your brand represent to you? What message would you like your dresses to present to your potential clients?

NC: My brand represents my private world. When I am creating for the runway, I am not worried if the looks are beautiful or functional. It is more about a story and my artistic interpretation.

When I make custom dresses, I put my work on the client's personality and the event they will attend. I want them to feel gorgeous!

I am working on a street collection to come out with more accessible prices than the exclusive pieces that I have worked on in the last few years. It is going to be easy to wear by people of different styles, with a bold touch.

In short, my runway collections are about art. Custom-made is about the client's beauty, and ready-to-wear is about cool, bold pieces that can be coordinated by a more general audience and vary with different stylings.

L'A: What shows / exhibitions do you have coming up?

NC: I will exhibit a dress inspired by a painting at Sotheby's Museum in New York in July.

I will also have a runway show at Fashion Week in San Diego in October.

A fashion film is coming by the end of the year.

L'A: Where is the best place to find your work? (website, social media, etc.)

NC: The best places to find my work are on my website,, and on Instagram @ninacicolo.


Photography by George Arguelles.

Featuring models Ana Carolina Rodrigues, Sawyer Haldeman, and Sydney Hamm.


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