Tons of women nationwide are making a huge impact on the world of fashion, all while still being college undergrads. Each month, we’ll profile a different student designer and give you the inside scoop on her life—and her line of work.
Student Designer: Nina Zilka
Clothing Line: the twentyten, http://thetwentyten.com
How it began When a friend asked Nina Zilka, 21-year-old fashion student at Pratt Institute, to help put some pieces together for a show in Mexico City, Zilka immediately started designing with two of her friends from class. The show ended up falling through, and the three of them—Zilka, Jeff Dodd, and David Krause, decided they had created enough material to start something on their own. “After that project fell through we realized we had enough pieces to put on a show,” Zilka says, “It was then that we thought, ‘We can totally do this.’ ” The three seniors’ line the twentyten, named after their graduation year, officially became a company this summer. They applied for their LLC and for the first time felt like they knew what they were doing as a business. “For the longest time we just pretended we knew what we were doing,” Zilka says, “Now we actually have stuff to back it up.”
About the twentyten According to their website, thetwentyten.com, the line consists of “interesting, architectural garments that still maintain an ease and conformability. The twentyten’s designs are for the woman and man who always like to look sophisticated, but never look like they tried too hard to get there.” The three designers not only live and breathe their line, they live and breathe each other. The students all live together in New York City. “It’s important to have your own space, so we do separate things on weekends,” says Zilka. “However, it’s pretty convenient to wake up and start working right away.” Zilka, Dodd, and Krause find inspiration in everything from buildings to pieces of furniture. “We make art comfortable—but sometimes we make pieces just to be visually dynamic and show-stopping,” Zilka says. With random cutouts and dip-dyed fabrics, most of their clothing is unique, yet wearable. However some pieces are more like art—made of nails or coated with sand. Recently, the team created a juxtaposition skirt made of spray foam, liquid latex, and sand.
Keeping up For most of us, balancing our course loads, having a social life, and remembering to paint our nails every once in a while seems to be stressful enough. Try starting a fashion line on top of all of that. “The financial aspect is the hardest part,” Zilka says. Understandable. Saving money in New York City is—well, nearly impossible. To compensate, their models wear cheap shoes with tights pulled over them, which creates a unique and cohesive look. Also, instead of hiring a hair stylist, they use head coverings. They’ve even managed to find a spot to host their shows for free—Envoy Gallery in the Lower East Side. The trio understands that post-graduation, the finances might not get easier, but time definitely will. “Being a full-time student and running a fashion line—there just aren’t enough hours in the day,” says Zilka. Zilka says the best part about being a student while taking on the twentyten is having professors as resources. “I don’t know who else we would go to if we weren’t in school.” Kelly Horrigan, Adjunct Associate Fashion Design Professor at Pratt Institute, describes Zilka, Dodd, and Krause as “talented, driven, and creative.” “You could tell right away they had a unique ability to weave their ideas into a strong, cohesive collection,” says Horrigan.
Who wears it? Zilka says the twentyten is worn mostly by people in the design industry, “It’s easy and professional, yet unique,” she says. However, there are others wearing the line besides make-up artists and photographers—celebrities! Singer Keri Hilson wore the twentyten in her video with Fabolous, “Everyday, Everything, Everywhere.”
The group’s designs were on display in a showroom and Hilson’s stylist picked them out. Next thing they knew, she was rockin’ out in the video in one of their bright tops from “collection one.” “We would like to get more celebrity clients,” Zilka says. “We’ve been Googling stylists to contact.” For us non-celebrities, their designs can be purchased online at thetwentyten.com, and indie store Blank (445 West 49th St, NYC), with more retail stores hopping on board soon.
Just go for it Zilka advises those who have similar dreams to use school as an advantage. “This is a foundation to start your future,” she says. “This is the best time to make contacts.” Professor Horrigan also credits Pratt for the way these senior designers have grown. “Having these course experiences along side their own personal development creates a strong base,” she says. “[Zilka’s] progress in the past few years has been transforming. I wish her and the twentyten all the success in the world.”