Just one year ago, local handbag designer, Nicole Quattrocki, was your typical college student. With a love of fashion since childhood, Quattrocki had ambitions of attending art or design school after high school to further her interest. However, at the insistency of her parents, Quattrocki enrolled at Bradley University in Peoria , to acquire a diverse education with a greater variety of options to explore. Unable to study fashion or art design because it was not offered, Quattrocki majored in graphic design. Spending hours upon hours in the classroom struggling to understand the material while yearning to study fashion did not bode well for a satisfying college experience, so two and ½ years later, she left Bradley to study at Columbia College in the hopes that a new environment and change of scenery would inspire her further.
The move to Columbia however did nothing to stifle her passion for fashion design or promote her interest in graphic arts. Quattrocki remembers sitting in graphic arts classes “thinking about designing clothes and working for Dior,” while other students were busily discussing their latest projects and plans. Fed-up with ignoring her dream in favor of being practical, she decided that one way or another she would get involved in fashion. She often took jobs for free assisting photographers on photo shoots and at fashion shows to obtain experience and learn from the ropes, determined to one day make a name for herself.
Ironically, it was an assignment for a graphic design class that propelled her to get serious about design and launch her own handbag line. Assigned to design a poster for an event at a nightclub, she decided to put the design on shirts as well for her own personal use. When Quattrocki wore one of the shirts out one night it generated plenty of compliments. This positive buzz is “what made me decide to incorporate my work, my design, my art onto wearable pieces of material. And so Nicole Valeri began…,” Quattrocki says. The name, Valeri, is Nicole’s middle name but it is also a family name that has been passed down. According to Quattrocki, she chose that name so that she “would never forget [her] family roots.”
Once she began, there was no stopping her. Her motivation and determination to see her designs on women everywhere drive her to work hard each and every day. Some might say that Quattrocki has lofty ambitions. Fortunately, she is very much up to the challenge. “I believe that my vision and love of design and art as a whole encouraged me to make a statement of some kind in the fashion world. I see fashion as an art, and form of expression. This encourages me to design something for women so that they feel unique and special when they [wear my designs].”
Finding inspiration for her designs is never a problem for Quattrocki. She draws inspiration from her surroundings on a daily basis as well as “people within the industry who have motivation, passion, talent and compassion.”
She incorporates her sketches, graphic design work, marker drawings, words, and painting into fabric before she begins to construct her latest purse. While she experiments with a plethora of fabrics, she says that her favorite is “the two toned taffeta’s” because the color depends on the way you tilt the fabric. I love color, so any kind of fabric that enhances color.”
At 23, Quattrocki already has purses in Frankies in Indianapolis and is distributing more products by the beginning of spring 2006 to select boutiques in Chicago , as well as stores in L.A. and Florida . Most would agree this is a tremendous accomplishment. While Quattrocki acknowledges that it is, she also says that “success is a personal accomplishment. To, me there is no greater feeling in this world then having someone appreciate my work. Succeeding to me isn’t based on dollar signs or fame, it’s definitely more meaningful.”
Though a serious designer, her approach to fashion leaves room for interpretation and freedom concentrating on doing what works best for each individual. “To me, fashion isn’t what someone says is “in.” Fashion should be about wearing clothes that you identify with that reflects your own individualism and personality. It should be fun.”
Quattrocki feels that Chicago is the perfect place for her designs and hopes it evolves into a fashion capital similar to New York and L.A. “We have some of the best stores, diverse cultures and so many talented creative people it would be a shame for it not to evolve. I have confidence in our city though. I think if all the fashionistas pull together, we can do it.”
One thing’s for sure, with Quattrocki leading the group, this city is well on its way.