In conversation with Stiebeuel
Talking with Nico Nigrini, founder of Stiebeuel, is never dull. His passion for what he does and his plans for the future seem to radiate through the phone. Nico talked us through how Stiebeuel came to be and allowed us to dig a little deeper into the thrills and challenges of running an independent brand in South Africa.
Nico’s journey into fashion has not been conventional to say the least. After studying costume design, Nico went on to work in the film industry for ten years providing him with more than a solid foundation into design and garment construction. From styling commercials to heading up costume design for major international productions, the parallels between building a narrative for a film and creating a brand are only too apparent. Nico compares costume designing a feature film to running full production of a fashion label, from conceptualising, sourcing and fabric selection, textile manipulation, patternmaking, through to construction and finishings.
These impressive projects did come with their constraints and the constant juggling of clients, producers and directors meant Nico never had complete control over the creative process. “I am more of a creative and a dreamer” says Nico, whilst outlining the laborious processes the industry demands. Fortunately his years of running costume design in the South African film industry left Nico with a contact book full of quality suppliers and local manufactures. So in 2005 in an attempt to claim back his creative freedom, Nico launched Stiebeuel.
You, like us, might be wondering how Nico came to the name. Stiebeuel, pronounced STIE-BU-EL meaning stirrup (from a horse’s saddle), is an old and somewhat forgotten Afrikaans word he stumbled upon by chance, driving through his childhood home town of Wolseley. After previously failing to find a name that encompassed the minimalist and strong aesthetic of his brand, Nico instantly connected with this lapsed word. Stiebeuel felt authentic to his Afrikaans heritage, his love of his rock and roll growing up and his appreciation for scandi design.
What strikes us the most about Stiebeuel is without a doubt the impeccable qualIty of each and every piece. Nico admits “execution of quality has always been my draw card in differentiating Stiebeuel from other brands”. From the detailed construction to the choice of cloth, everything Stiebeuel creates is considered. Each collection is propped up by his core pieces, classic yet contemporary staples made with precision and always with sustainability in mind. Timeless and made to last, Stiebeuel’s clothing transcends trends but somehow always remains current. His collections are punctuated with unique pieces that carry a story, another fitting nod to his film industry roots. His last collection ‘Wish you were Here’ is the perfect example of this. Born out of a collaboration with South African illustrator and tattoo artist Richard Moir. Stiebeuel’s beautifully constructed tees host a few of Moir’s stunning artworks. Each illustration conveys a satirical view of Cape Town capturing it as not only a desirable destination but if you look a little closer, they reveal some of it’s darker truths.
Running a business in South Africa has its challenges at the best of times, throw in a global pandemic and it's safe to say it has not been an easy year for small businesses. But Nico’s positivity and drive has led him to making the best of the situation, turning his thoughts from the pandemic into inspiration for his new collection, Returning to Nature with Compassion. With an optimistic colour palette, the new collection draws on the unique opportunity we have had for reflection and introspection. We can’t wait to bring some of these beautiful new pieces to Sojourn.
Nico has recently taken the leap into running Stiebeuel full time with his sights set on building his own atelier in the near future. “Having greater control of manufacturing will allow us to be more agile with creative development and we will be able to tackle more elaborate and detailed designs.” We are so excited for what the future holds for Nico. Stiebeuel’s philosophy around creating clothing that is thoughtful and made to last profoundly resonates with us as company. We are so proud to partner with Stiebueul and can say with confidence that this brand is going places.