Nicky Zimmermann is the designer behind Australian fashion label, Zimmermann. The recipient of multiple fashion awards – including AFI Best Swimwear Designer and Prix de Marie Claire Best Swimwear Brand – Zimmermann has become one of Australia’s most influential fashion figures. With sister Simone managing production and sales, Zimmermann focuses on delicate prints and feminine details that embody Sydney summers. Since its inception, the brand’s high-fashion swimwear and ready-to-wear have developed a dedicated cult following.
Fashion is in your blood—did you always know it would also be your profession?
Honestly, being a designer is all I have ever wanted to do. As a young girl, I used to love making things. My grandmother taught me to sew at an early age and I just sort of started taking my clothes and changing them and reworking them for fun. As I got into my teens, I became really focused on studying design and I worked really hard in a range of fashion jobs to put myself through design school. I can’t really imagine doing anything else.
How many years has Zimmermann been in business?
We started in 1991.
Is your sister still involved in Zimmermann? What’s her role?
My sister Simone has always worked alongside me. Simone isn’t a designer – she has always worked on the business side of things. Simone has been at the cornerstone of what we do since the beginning and has always been a voice of reason. She gives me the support and freedom to work creatively. She makes things happen.
What led you to swimwear?
We’re obviously well known for our swim, but we have always been a ready-to-wear brand first and foremost. It’s from that viewpoint that we approach our swim. We introduced swim in 1996 and at the time, it wasn’t so common for fashion brands to do swim – you were either a fashion brand or a swimwear line. That didn’t really make sense to us, particularly in Australia where swimwear is such an important part of your wardrobe. Growing up around Sydney and the beach it just felt like a natural thing to do and we really enjoyed working on it. We quickly received a lot of interest in what we were doing because it was really different and more fashion focused than what was in the market at the time. It sort of went from there.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the feminine prints?
The inspiration really depends on the print and the story we’re trying to tell with our swim each season. I’ve just finished working on Summer Swim ’14, and it’s definitely more urban and pared back. We keep our swim prints moving.
Does your swim customer usually become your RTW customer and vice versa?
I think a woman that is drawn to our aesthetic is usually a customer of both. It’s been a little bit different in the US because we have only more recently started to open stores (we now have a store in New York and LA) and so the supporters of our brand haven’t ever had that same access to our full ready-to-wear collections in the same way that our swim has been available. So the swim customer in New York or LA is definitely starting to become a customer of our main line. What’s exciting for me is that we are about to open a new, larger flagship store in SoHo and it will finally allow us to bring the full ready-to-wear collection to the store.
When did children’s come into the mix?
I can’t remember exactly, but we started with a small capsule of swim pieces as a fun project and everyone really loved it, so it’s sort of become a growing part of the business.
How has it been received?
Really well. I hear stories about little girls who walk past our stores and drag their mothers in to get them a new dress or swimsuit. Ha.
You have been a mentor to Australian designer Dion Lee–how did this come about?
Simone and I are the mentors in a program called the Spirit of Youth Awards (SOYA), which is a program supported by Qantas to assist young creatives in Australia. The program covers a range of creative fields, for example Marc Newson is the Industrial Design mentor, we are the fashion mentors and others cover music, film and other fields. Dion won the award a few years back and we got to know each other. He’s a really great young designer and a really nice guy. We just acted as a sounding board, someone that he could talk to about things that he was working on. It’s hard to start out as a designer, particularly in Australia, and it’s something we felt we could assist with, even in a small way.
What key advice did you offer for breaking into the US market?
To be honest, our advice would be less about how to do something than to encourage someone who is talented and smart to follow their own pathway and be themselves. Having a unique point of view and something authentic is more important than anything else.
Now that Zimmermann is a global brand, how do you connect with customers all over the world?
We have so many devoted supporters in different places and I get such a thrill when I see a woman in a swimsuit or in a dress of ours in my travels. But while we’re growing around the world, I guess we don’t really think of Zimmermann as a global brand yet. We have always loved creating our own stores and being able to bring that to new cities, like those in New York and LA. It’s been a really great way to tell our story, and to also hear from our clients. That face to face contact, being able to immerse people into our brand – you really can’t beat that relationship.