23-year-old Nicole Leth is an artist and designer based in Kansas City, Missouri. We chatted to Nicole about her self love journey and her new store which will celebrate the work of hard-working female creatives…
How would you describe your style? My style is Katy Perry meets Marilyn Monroe meets Jeremy Scott meets Yayoi Kusama meets tween girl in America all wrapped up in a Miami in the 1970’s colour palate.
What inspires you? I am inspired by day to day life and everything that goes along with it. When I first started designing I pulled a lot of inspiration from past relationships and break ups and now I like to view my work as an autobiography or visual diary where I can talk about things I’m experiencing and going through as a 23 year old woman in the world today. I like to translate these ideas and emotions through traditional textile processes, imagery from my diaries, and colour play. I guess to sum it all up: I’m inspired by the notion that everyone has a valid and important story to tell regardless of their age or gender.
When will your new shop open? How have you made this happen? Do you have a background in retail? Ah! My shop is opening on May 6th! ( Eeeee! I’M SO EXCITED!) I’ve been working my way up in retail jobs for the past four years and just recently quit all my other jobs to do Sex + Ice Cream full time. How did I make this happen? Hard work. No bull shitting. I don’t take days off — when I was working my other jobs I would work there for eight hours and then come home at night and work on my own stuff for eight more hours, fall sleep on a pile of sewing supplies, wake up and do it all over again. I think that sometimes people underestimate what it means to be an artist, let alone have your own business, and make it work. I think its super important to set goals for yourself and be your own support system.
What can people expect to see in it? I’ll be selling my pieces that I’ve designed over the years. Everything that is for sale on my online store you’ll also be able to buy in my shop! I’ll also be selling one of a kind items that I’ve hand sewn and hand painted the fabric of. Also, I’ve brought in a lot of work from some of my favourite brands and artists from around the world! Lots of ceramic pieces, zines, handmade panties, patches, pins, and all that jazz. I like to think of it as a badass collective of work made and designed by extremely talented female makers.
Are there any artists that you’ll be collaborating with? I think collaborating is one of the most important and stimulating parts about being a practising artist. I’m working on a million different projects: doing surface design on clay pieces from ceramic artists, creating handmade candles in candle holders with a candle girl, working with photographers and video graphers to produce digital work, and with writers on zines!
On your website you say that your garments are your personal diary, what do you mean by this? I mean it in both a very literal and theoretical way. A lot of my pieces have imagery or doodles that have been scanned directly from my diary pages and printed on the fabric. Other pieces I literally treat as my diary and hand draw, write, or paint on the fabric to record what’s going on in my life, what is exciting me or making me sad. Designing garments is a way for me to express my words in a visual way.
Do you see yourself as a feminist? Yes.
How do you hope to empower and inspire other women? I chose to start designing and creating clothing because I had gone through a bad break up and wanted to do something to empower myself and reclaim the person I knew I was. That was a pivotal, breakthrough moment for me and led me to discover something I was truly passionate about and a future that I wanted for myself. Most importantly, it made me realise how I strong I could be on my own, for myself. I think every women should feel that way — like they are capable of attaining anything in the whole goddamn world. I think the thing that a lot of women connect to in my work is the way I tell stories openly, without shame.
Recently, I’ve also been doing a lot of community work with young women’s organisations. I’ve done a few empowerment workshops where I tell my story, talk about relationships and ambitions, and create shirts with the girls.
Is self love and body positivity important to you? Is it something you want to share? Yes. Its one of the driving forces behind my work and the stories I tell.
Can you tell us about your own self love journey? My self love journey has been a long one with lots of ups and downs. My childhood was filled with endless crash diets and gym memberships. At my thinnest I’ve weighed 120 pounds and at my heaviest I was over 200. I’ve been in relationships that were so tormenting I lost 50 pounds and I’ve been put on medicines that made me gain it all back. It was hard to have a healthy and accurate relationship with my body because it felt like something that was always changing and that I had no control over.
It took years and years and years but over the past two years especially I have developed an intense love and acceptance for my body. It feels really good to finally be content. I think its important to realize and understand that your body is something that cannot be labelled. That your health and self love is not something that can be determined by someone else. That your body is the one thing that has been with you since the beginning and helped you get through every hardship you’ve endured. That your body is beautiful and perfect as it is at this very moment in time.
Can you tell us about your tattoos? Which was your first, do you still love it? My first tattoo is a big feather that turns into birds on my lower back. My father passed away when I was 17 so it was something I got for him. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of tattoos — all of which have personal meaning to me. My tattoos act a lot like a diary as well — I get them to record exact moments in time, experiences, feelings that I never want to forget. I have a portrait of my cat Sprinkle on my forearm (she was the first pet I ever adopted on my own, she’s handicapped and the most loving cat I’ve ever had). I have a few matching tattoos with people who I love. I have a diamond tattooed on my ring finger (my love for myself will always be the most important, I will always belong to myself). I have tally marks on my hand counting how many people I’ve truly been in love with in my life (right now there are two, I hope to add more to it someday).