As the creative force behind Toronto eveningwear label Narces, Nikki Wirthensohn Yassemi is known for her love of illustrious dresses. From embellished strapless creations to gowns adorned with asymmetrical hemlines, Wirthensohn Yassemi’s frocks are intricate and feminine. The proudly Canadian designer also boasts international roots, as she was born in Austria and raised in Iran and the United Kingdom. Her global upbringing, paired with her passion for 20th century inspired dresses, has clearly set the stage for Narces’ aesthetic.
Recently, Real Style spoke with Wirthensohn Yassemi at the FashionCAN Pop-Up Shop at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre. From her favourite fabrics to collaborating with her inspiring mother (who worked with Princess Diana’s couturier, Victor Edelstein), the local talent spilled on the story behind her fairytale designs.
Real Style: Tell us about your latest designs for Narces.
Nikki: We are introducing our little girls’ line, Narces Mini. We are doing some of our pieces that are our most loved pieces. We are bringing them back with a bit of a twist. There are going to be some classics that we have within the line. We have new pieces, and we have a few custom pieces that will be a part of the collection.
Real Style: How would you best describe your pieces?
Nikki: Everything is made with love. We do want to create something that is different, that is one of the things. I am inspired by things that exist, but more so by things that don’t exist. We tried to create things that are unique. We do a lot of that when we do our custom gowns. [Custom dresses] have been a big part of our business since Day 1, and that’s what evolved into our ready-to-wear collection.
Real Style: You’re known for your voluminous dresses! What are some of your favourite fabrics and materials to create with?
Nikki: Fabrics for me are my biggest loves. They are your ingredients that you are using, so a really important part of what goes into the dress. For me, I can’t even narrow it down to one type of fabric. I love laces, embellished fabric, embroideries and any hand work. At the same, on the flip side, I love industrial materials. We have a piece that we have made a wedding dress on; it’s industrial heavy duty mesh. It’s really not used for apparel, so we use that and we pair it with really soft lace. It’s kind of a contrast of the two, which is something that I enjoy working with.
Real Style: Who are your biggest creative icons?
Nikki: Obviously Alexander McQueen. Since his early collections, he was a real inspiration. There are so many incredible designers out there; it’s just very difficult to even talk about just one. There are a lot of Middle Eastern designers that work on highly embellished pieces. When you look at their work, it’s incredible- the amount of 3-D work that has gone into each piece.
Real Style: What is your favourite fashion memory?
Nikki: My mom has been in the business forever, so that’s how I got into fashion. I always had it around me. One of the biggest memories I have was when my mom was working on a collection for Victor Edelstein. He had a fashion show, and we were backstage working with the models on the dresses. When you’re eight, it just kind of sticks in your mind. You’re looking up, and you have all of these tall models wearing embellished eveningwear. That was my first fashion show, and it definitely sticks in your mind.
Real Style: Tell us more about the influence your mother has had on your creations.
Nikki: She’s a designer and dressmaker. We work together, she’s my advisor and she’s been my backbone. I continue to learn from her. I don’t know how to separate it [the influence], it’s just mixed in. I feel like in some ways we’re overlapping, in terms of our ideas and opinions. Obviously there are differences as well in creativity, which is amazing, because that’s where we bring it all together. She’s more structural, I always call her my engineer. She teaches me so much. I’m just lucky to have her in my life, and to learn from her on a daily basis.
Real Style: Who is the typical Narces woman, in your opinion?
Nikki: I don’t have a typical person who I am designing for. The only typical part of that person is maybe their lifestyle- wanting to have fun and going out, and wanting to dress up. We just see it from people who come in who we do custom dresses for. It’s just a big range of people, big age group and different cultures. I love that, because I never wanted to be a brand that caters to ages 25-32. I don’t care if someone is sixtysomething and they want to wear [Narces]. There is no age requirement.
Photos: Amanda Skrabucha