Coffee, cocoa, color; these are the things that come to mind when I think of a place like Colombia. So I was surprised to learn that Nicolas Rivero came from Colombia’s largest and most populous metropolitan area. Could this black sheep from Bogota really get away with designing ‘heavy multi-dynamic dark objects’? It didn’t help that no one was expecting much from him design-wise in those early days, and then there was something about being a ‘poorly skilled pattern maker’. Hardly a fashion try-hard, his head and hands were elsewhere, by night a drummer in a punk rock band, by day a student of graphic design, and somewhere in the middle, designing graphics for T-shirts, his own t-shirts, seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, Nicolas probably knew something about a crowd, and with his local celebrity-dom, his friends and fans became a street-level test market for his T’s, his first ever venture into graphics and fashion-anything nearly eight years ago. When supply began to exceed demands, it set something off: ‘oh maybe I should take this a bit more seriously, or at least consider the next level.’ If you could sell a T-shirt to your friend, who was next? Nicolas decided to study fashion design formally near the end of his graphic design schooling. But it wasn’t until a trip to New York to visit a friend that Nicolas would realize his recently birthed label, A New Cross.
“I went to meet [David Angel in New York], and I realized: ‘here is the kind of aesthetic I was going for.'” David and Nicolas spent time in New York visiting different boutiques, and coming up with some skeleton marketing plans – deciding where they wanted to sell their wares. A New Cross is at once quintessentially New York and Colombian. It’s dark, black and generally cool, with an emphasis on craftsmanship, specifically on Colombian craftsmanship, at its core.
“Colombia”, says Nicolas, “has a certain taste for tropical and colorful,” and no, he doesn’t mean fruit. Nicolas is okay with color. And, he clarifies, “I’m not like ‘the evil one’ or anything! I love black for its mystery and elegance. I’m really drawn into the monochromatic palette and I think it’s always a challenge to give different silhouettes and variations, especially in a limited color range.” His own personal favorite piece from the Fall/Winter 2012 collection is a cashmere cape, with raw edges and leather sleeves. “It’s one of the most pre-ordered pieces and definitely a special object in my wardrobe.” As far as Nicolas’ not being evil, we believe it; his Spring/ Summer 2013 collection, entitled “Ex Umbra In Solem,” literally translates to “From the Darkness to the Light.” It features conceptual pieces that follow the general idea of A New Cross: raw and perforated calf leather jackets, transparent linens, zippers that reveal garment construction. There’s even a new line of jewelry that complements the mood of the collection. “While most of my palette is dark and it’s sometimes hard to fit into this market, I’m happy to be here [in Bogota] because of the wide diversity of materials and artisans that I have found over the years,” he says.
A sense of collaboration has been a mainstay theme in Nicolas’ line. For a time, he worked in an art gallery, which meant constant collision with creative types. “[When working at the gallery] and developing this project inside that place, I was always surrounded by art and a lot of people. I could ask their advice and opinion when it came to the main concepts that carry each of my collections. I think this place really took me to the ‘art-inspired fashion’ mentality that characterizes my brand and my work as well.”
His ventures in all kinds of art would have Nicolas traveling to all kinds of places. [Working in the gallery] helped me to find a lot of contributors to develop different projects, such as fashion films, photography and installations in different cities.” Of all the places though, and perhaps as the most predictable cliche, Nicolas’ most favorite place in the world is a boutique in NYC called Atelier. “I think it’s an incredibly clean and well curated space. I love the energy of that place and the attention of the people that work there. I dream of the day my designs are displayed in that boutique, but they still have a long way to walk.”
Giving clothing that human quality is kind of his shtick. “Fabric is the very next layer after your skin” he explains. Nicolas designs what he refers to as ‘living spaces,’ clothing that is meant to protect, control and project an expression that goes beyond materials. “You can take a jacket, let’s say, and analyze it as a space that can be filled…it shelters you like your home, and it’s really beautiful when you take care of that space because that means something to you, in its own fragility and lifetime.”
For Nicolas, the material and craftsmanship of a garment holds just as much importance as the message transmitted by the wearer. “Fashion can define the personality of the person. Not what they are wearing, but how they are wearing it. The exact same look can have radically different connotations on two different people.” It becomes a two-way fashion dialogue of person-wearing-art inspiration. “I get a lot of my ideas from books I’ve read, and movies I’ve watched. I like to imagine myself as one of the characters, and think of how I would dress if I was one of them.” The framework is built-up, a pile of wools, leathers, knits and linens. Texture plays an important role in Nicolas’ designs; “scratched leathers or damaged materials give the garments a mood,” he says.
I think Nicolas inadvertently solidified my idea that fashion is not about fashion. What did it matter that he was a horrible pattern-maker? Fashion, like all art, is about human connection, a reciprocation of moods and feelings. It is a form of expression and something so personal that somehow becomes relateable. On the surface, he may be a cool guy from Bogota, but dig a little deeper, and he’s an artist in his own right, collaborating with and drawing from others, and nurturing his own ideas, constantly evolving his sense of self. With every new sketch, garment and collection, Nicola combines colorful Colombia with gothic Gotham, showing us that seemingly different worlds can exist in the realms of fashion and art. Some new person with some new idea, some new impression on you. A chance for a new cross…