Graphic Designer, Fashionista and Entrepreneur
Ilia Nikco (pronounced eye-LEE-uh nee-KO) is slowly, but surely, changing the perceptions of beauty and what it means to be natural. Her lifestyle clothing brand, Natural is Dope, is only one year old but it has already garnered considerable popularity and attention. Keeping God first and pursuing her goals, Ilia is KREATING her own reality.
For some of our readers who may not be familiar with you, describe the mission/goal of Natural is Dope.
To redefine the Beauty of being natural, which is not only about hair, but being comfortable in YOUR NATURAL, the way God created you. I am the founder and designer of the brand.
What sparked the idea and the launch of Natural is Dope?
It initially started out as an outlet for my artwork, as I am a graphic designer mainly. A way to express myself creatively through a tangible platform and create DOPE clothing to wear and share with other people.
Do you have a physical store?
Not right now, but maybe in time!
How were you able to start your own business?
It was all about taking a step out on faith, building relationships and a lot of trial and error. It’s only been a year, so there are many kinks that are being worked through, but thankfully there’s been such a rapid and positive response to the line. The growth has been humbling and also surreal. I have a luxury branding company, so I have been doing my own thing for a while (since 2009 officially). I always say if you can’t find an opportunity, create one!
What are 5 things you would tell aspiring entrepreneurs?
1. Plan and set goals
3. Build relationships
4. Be persistent
5. Keep God first and acknowledge your blessings in all that you do.
You say that “natural is more than a movement, it’s a lifestyle,” explain what you mean by that?
It’s your life. Being Natural is about being yourself, loving yourself. That’s deeper than a trend. It’s you!
The messages in your clothing promote a pride and confidence in one’s self. Why do you think it is important that men and women possess this confidence?
When you are confident you can conquer anything. Confidence is acknowledging God’s gifts that you are blessed with and upholding them. We live in a world that constantly tries to establish one standard of beauty. But there are infinite ones. No one person is alike, yet we are all created in God’s image. That’s something to embrace, love, and be proud to rock!
What advice would you give to women struggling to accept their natural beauty?
Do what makes you feel good. Enhance your best feature. It’s about your spirit and what makes you joyful. That’s the best way to exude natural beauty! Never be afraid to just be you and embrace the way God made you.
What are your top 5 fashion tips for naturals wanting to be dope this season?
1. ROCK WHAT YOU LIKE – be confident in your choices
2. DON’T follow all of the TRENDS, create YOUR OWN
3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, you don’t know unless you try
4. CUSTOMIZE your pieces – make it unique to your own personal style
5. Accessorize, but don’t over do it. Less is more, let your hair be the focal point, it’s your natural crown, ROCK IT!
In 4 sentences or less, tell us a little about the woman behind the brand.
I am a creative. I’m passionate about my craft. I love people. I just want to make a positive impact and future.
Share with us 3 interesting facts about yourself.
1. My name came from the very first Star Trek movie in 1982, Lieutenant ILIA (one of the main characters).
2. I am originally from Kansas City, MO /Graduated from Kansas State University as the 1st Black woman to graduate with a BFA in Visual Communications (Graphic Design) going straight through the program 4.5 years (no transfers) in the history of the university and program.
3. I’m 5’11. Most folks think I am short. But no, not at all. I’ve been this height since I was 11 years old.
Are you natural?
Yes. 19/20 years now.
What made you decide to make this choice?
I got a perm for the final time a few weeks before my 7th grade year, went swimming and my hair started curling up at the roots. I thought to myself, I have wavy/curly hair! All of the women in my family did anyway, so I decided to grow it out. The crazy part is, I was doing the “natural thing” before it became the “thing” to do (especially where I’m from). I just looked at it as I have a nice grade of hair that I loved and I can manage myself. All I do now is wear my hair curly or in protective styles. It’s definitely a part of me.
What else can we expect from Ilia Nikco in the future?
MAJOR MOVES in branding, fashion, art, and positive strides towards greatness in my purpose. Stay tuned!