If you teleported yourself back to your college years, I’m sure you could pinpoint more than a few fashion blunders. Hey, it’s a time for experimenting, so if fashion is the only mistake you made, well done. But for Brooklyn-based shoe designer Nina Ziefvert what could have been a major fashion faux-pas became a signature moment.
Originally from Stockholm, Sweden--where she lived until she was 18 years old--Nina moved to New York in 1999 to attend the Fashion Institute of technology. “I have always worn clogs in different stages of my life. At a young age, I was really inspired by how my mom and her friends wore their traditional 70’s braided clog sandals all year round with socks, which is something I continued to do once moving to NYC,” says Ziefvert.
At that time, clogs were not creating the sartorial moments they are nowadays here in NYC. Zieifvert had to leave the city to find them. “I would look for vintage pairs when visiting Sweden, and at some point, around 2008 or so, I realized that my friends in fashion in NYC actually started to catch on and were asking me to get them pairs while in Sweden,” she says. That’s how it all got started. Still working as a curator at Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Nina Z. the brand was slowly born out of Ziefvert’s Crown Heights living room and at her booth at the Brooklyn Flea.
Six years after founding Nina Z., Zeifvert is gearing up for a new venture as a mom. Here she tells us more about her obsession-worthy brand and what she’s really grateful for this pregnancy.
What inspires your designs?
I found a lot of inspiration from basic, traditional and ethnic design. Also, from traveling and exploring craftsmanship in rural regions, as well as the heavy urban concrete settings and aesthetics one can find in NYC and Brooklyn or any other major city. I love farm life, but, I also love walking on Flatbush, and the two combined pretty much makes up the feel and aesthetics of the brand. I get a lot of inspiration from a variety of female creators who stood before me, and I am hoping to continue to pass that creative force onto my customers through the brand and its products.
How do you think Nina Z clogs stand apart from others?
I think that the handmade quality gives them a “rawer” look and design than other existing clog brands. Our color palette is very natural, so all our models easily work with most wardrobes and seasons. And with our “Made in Brooklyn” studio program, our customers can now order their own individually made pair with leather that we source locally and in small batches, so one pair is never really the same as another. I think that’s a pretty unique experience and program that I am very excited to keep on expanding.
How does NY/Brooklyn influence you as a designer?
Brooklyn is very inspiring in that way that everywhere you turn there are like-minded creative startups, which might not have the typical “business structure,” but that somehow keeps on thriving and pushes through. The immense cultural variety in Brooklyn (and in consequence its fashion) just is such an influence and inspiration for any aesthetically inclined mind, I think. It offers such variety.
Why do you look forward to raising a kid in NYC/Brooklyn?
Growing up in the inner city of Stockholm, Sweden, which is a less culturally diverse environment that NYC/Brooklyn, I look forward to my child growing up here with its immense diversity. We can go for Chinese Food in Chinatown on Monday, Jazz in Harlem on Wednesday, a walk on Flatbush on Saturday and Fort Tilden Beach on Sunday. I also think that NYC offers a tremendous amount of free cultural activities for kids at the museums and libraries, and I am looking forward to exploring all those with my daughter as well.
What has your pregnancy experience been like?
I think I had a pretty easy pregnancy (except for the first 3 months, which was a seriously emotional hormonal rollercoaster). I have, of course, been having the regular symptoms of tiredness etc., but been able to work up until now (8 months), so I feel lots of gratitude for that.
Tell us about your pregnancy style.
I’ve been wearing most of my regular clothes throughout my pregnancy. I just added a few high-waisted American Apparel tights, which have been great. I’ve been wearing lots of oversized shirts with tights, and long dresses, which I would do anyway. My need for natural materials has been intensified during my pregnancy ,and I‘ve been wearing lots of silk, cotton and linen.
What have been some of your go-to pregnancy brands?
I only really shopped at American Apparel, which is not really real pregnancy clothes, but their stretchy materials and high-waisted tights have been the basics and savior of my pregnancy wardrobe.
When you're not wearing clogs, what's on your feet?
Keds or NIKEs.
Photography by Sarina Cass of Red Anchor Photography