If you’re looking for an example of a small rider-owned brand-done-good, you don’t need to look much further than Nikita. In less than a decade, Heida Birgisdottir has gone from selling hand-made fleeces in her boyfriend’s skate shop in Reykjavik, to being the head of an international fashion label.

Heida Birgisdottir wanted to design fashion for girls who live an active lifestyle and want to look nice, fashionable and also feel comfortable in what they wear. So she founded Nikita Clothing.

For a label designing everyday clothes it is important that the designer has a passion for fashion and has a certain amount of design skills. Same goes for a surf/skate/snowboard label but here it is vital that the designer actually slides sideways once in a while.

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But Heida was not only one of the first female snowboarders in Iceland (and its very first female surfer), she also co-owned the only snowboard shop in Reykjavik, which was founded by her boyfriend Runar Ommarson in 1990 – back then there were only four snowboarders on the whole island. She soon noticed that things for female riders started to improve with companies like Burton, Gnu and Sims producing women’s boards, “but the clothing was still just guys’ stuff in extra small”. Everybody who was a girl snowboarder 15 years ago knows what this meant: hoodies that were way too big, pants that were way too baggy and skate shoes that were way too chunky.

Girls who loved snowboarding, surfing or skateboarding looked like boys, even though they didn’t want to. Like Heida. Runar remembers: “Even though we asked for it from the companies we were importing goods from, we never got the one thing we kept asking for: street clothing that Heida – and our potential girl customers – liked. ”

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Heida started to design her own clothes. “When I found out that there was no women’s clothing available, I simply started making my own.” In the beginning she only made her own t-shirts, jackets and pants but soon more and more girls in her snowboard shop were starting to enquire about this cool ‘label’. Heida rented a little studio and the first 25 individual items she makes were sold out within 24 hours. The first extended line followed but there was still no name for the ‘label’. Only in 2000, when Heida sold more than 1,000 items in one season, did she pick a name. “‘Nikita’ was chosen. After all, it looked good in print and everyone in the world could easily say it.”

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Later came the slogan ‘For Girls Who Ride,’ and in 1999 they sold their (now 2) shops to launch their clothing brand internationally. Soon they created a new product range, put together a team, made a catalogue and booked some ads.

Heida luckily didn’t follow the advice given to her by some big snowboard companies.

“Before we started Nikita, we actually mentioned to a few of the leading companies that we believed that there was a need for a new all-girl clothing brand but they said we were wrong,” Heida recalls and adds: “We love proving that we were right!”

Images courtesy of NIKITA