MOSHERY: If you could introduce yourself to our readers in any way, with money not being a factor, how would you do so?
Nicole: I would show them the snapchat mini-video I made with my best friend where I am dressed up as Guy Fieri going around trying food and recreating my own episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. LOL. This is not a joke btw, don’t believe me?
M: Where do you originally hail from? How do you think that has aided in shaping who you are and how you live your life?
Nicole: I am originally from Des Moines, Iowa. I think it shaped a lot of things about me. For one, I think I definitely have that hard working Midwestern spirit that everyone always talks about. But I’m also a very trusting person and very quick to find the best in everyone I meet – I owe that to my upbringing too.
Nicole: I had always always loved art. As a kid, I always drew pictures of Sailor Moon in my diary and I would come up with all these different outfits for her to wear and draw them on her. When I was a teenager I got super into painting and graffiti art. I thought I was such a badass (lol), my friends and I would drive around with these stencils I had cut out and spraypaint tags on buildings around town. I loved photography too when I was younger, and would dress my friends up and do their make up and then take pictures of them for fun. It wasn’t until that infamous break up I had when I was 18 that I kind of just started resonating with the idea of fashion and starting a clothing line.
M: And where did the name come from? (You pegged two of our favorite things here…)
Nicole: I came up with the idea when I was 18 and going through that break up. I wanted to start a clothing line because I wanted to do something to empower myself and create something that would belong to me and only me for the rest of my life. I named it Sex + Ice Cream because I (at the time) wanted to get revenge on the guy who had broken my heart. Him and I had a ritual where we would eat a pint of ice cream after we had sex. He would always tell me that sex and ice cream was “our thing” and that I could never do it with anybody else. So when he broke my heart and I came up with the idea to start the line I KNEW I wanted to call it Sex + Ice Cream – it was my way of telling him, “NO, Sex and Ice Cream is MY thing and I can have it all by myself and you can never take it away from me.”
People sometimes make comments about how it’s sad that I had to start my brand based off something so vengeful but it wasn’t like that for me, and it definitely isn’t anymore (I literally haven’t talked to that boy for 5+ years now). My decision to start Sex + Ice Cream was me choosing to believe in myself for the first time in my life and choose my dreams over a boy for the first time in my life. And I’ll never regret that.
So, anyways, I had no idea how to sew or do anything like that after I had come up with the grand idea to start Sex + Ice Cream so I decided to go to art school in Kansas City for college. It was at KCAI (The Kansas City Art Institute) that I started to learn the skills I needed to know to start making clothing. I was taking sewing classes and weaving classes and surface design classes and even shearing sheep and spinning wool – I was learning every step of textile production and figuring out slowly but surely what things I wanted to make for Sex + Ice Cream.
Designing patterns for fabric ended up being something that really excited me so I started printing doodles from my diaries on fabric I was designing. I had my first fashion show when I was 19 in a warehouse in downtown Kansas City – there was boxed wine and a DJ playing songs on a mini speaker and folding table and the runway consisted of butcher paper and duct tape. Over 300 people came to that show. I can remember feeling invincible after that show – I was so happy with how supportive everyone was and this was the first time I felt like I was succeeding at doing something I loved. After that I started focusing on selling my clothing in stores and over the next two years started selling in stores around America. I had my second fashion show last spring when I was 22 at an upscale event space (upgrade from the warehouse lol) and then moved to Los Angeles for the summer and had a month long pop up shop on Sunset Blvd. It was at that point that I realized that having my very own store was something that I could totally do – so I came back to KC and started looking for spots. I found one this past winter and it just opened in May! Eeee!
M: SO amazing. You were featured in NYLON. What was THAT experience like?
Nicole: IT WAS INSANE. The NYLON feature was something I didn’t see coming whatsoever. It was like 9pm on a Thursday night and I got an e-mail from a Nylon reporter asking if she could write a piece about me, she sent me a ton of questions, I stayed up all night answering them, and by 10am Friday the article launched. I was at work folding t-shirts at Raygun when I found out the article had gone live. I had no idea what the timeline for the piece was going to be so I was so caught off guard to see it going viral online. I quietly went to the bathroom and cried because I was so happy. By the time I came back out my bosses had seen the article on social media and were like “WTF NICOLE YOU DIDN’T TELL US ABOUT THIS” and I was like “I KNOW I JUST FOUND OUT TOO”.
M: You have also been featured in a ton of other really great publications. Do you have any anecdotes from those experiences?
Nicole: HAHA actually I was just about to say that all my experiences have been pretty professional and straightforward EXCEPT just a few weeks ago I got contacted by a local news station asking if I would dress up in my Guy Fieri costume and do a cooking demo on the morning news. I died laughing.
M: But we’d kind of love that, too. If you could work with any publisher–or any brand–which would you choose, and why?
Nicole: One of my biggest dreams has always been to collaborate with Nasty Gal. I’ve been a die hard Nasty Gal girl since the very beginning and have been following Sophia Amaruso’s (the CEO of Nasty Gal) story and have always been mega inspired by her as a business woman. I admire how curated NG is and how they mix together all types of pieces ranging from expensive to affordable by popular brands and independent designers.
M: You wear such phenomenal and bright clothing, and your personal style just absolutely rocks. What’s your go-to outfit right now?
Nicole: Lately, I’ve been super into vintage band tees and thrifted overalls and utility coveralls. My absolute favorite vintage shop is Wildman Vintage in Lawrence and I always score the best gems from there. I got this kickass camo men’s jumpsuit there that was worn in the Vietnam war. I wear it all the time and the best part is it only cost $10. My style, however, is something that is always changing and evolving. I always explain it to people by telling them I wake up everyday and dress to match my mood. Music influences my style a lot too – lately I’ve been really into old Beach Boys and Billy Joel and I think those retro surfer girl neon summer vibes are especially coming across in my style.
M: What is one staple you think every woman should have in her closet?
Nicole: Overalls and a hot lingerie set.
M: We can dig that. You speak a lot about women and empowerment. What does being a feminist mean to you in the modern world?
Nicole: I’m really glad you asked this question because I think in today’s world the term “feminism” has become very muddled and misconstrued. Feminism is the concept that men and women should be treated as equals, and that’s exactly what it means to me. I love that feminism is something that’s trending right now and that it’s back full force in its second wave, but I think people get really lost in translation and act on it in ways that are more negative than progressive. Feminism, to me, is not about hating cis-males, I love cis-males, especially ones that are respectful. Feminism, to me, is not about shaming girls because they aren’t “feminist enough” because they listen to rap, cater to their boyfriend, wear make up, get plastic surgery, etc – feminism is not a competition. People need to realize that people are allowed to be at different phases in their feminist journey and that feminism does not have a specific set of rules or guidelines. Feminism is about supporting women, or those who identify as women, NO MATTER WHAT (whether they are feminists or not).
For example, I’m somebody who gets a lot of judgments placed on me because of the ways in which I display my body, dye my hair, and do my make-up. A few months ago I was enduring a situation which included terrible sexual harassment and I opened up about to a few friends. More people than not responded to my story in anger telling me that I was “asking for it” or “what did I expect would happen with the way you display yourself on social media”. Thankfully, I’m at a very confident and stable place in my life where I did not take their words to heart and question my own character – I know that what a woman is wearing does not double for consent, and that a woman who is confident in her sexuality does not deserve harassment under ANY circumstances. BUT, the moral of this story is that even though these women criticized me and shamed me does not mean that I wouldn’t stand up for them if they were one day harassed. Just because they weren’t feminists doesn’t mean that I won’t fight for their rights too. This can be translated in so many different ways and I think this part of feminism is so incredibly important. You don’t get to pick and choose which women are valid of having rights. All of them do. You support all women. And you support men too. We are equals.
M: Really couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Your Instagram is very striking. What is your inspiration for the visuals you share and the messages you convey?
Nicole: My Instagram is not something I map out. It is very much so a visual diary for me. I post things when I want to because I want to. I take selfies to document myself at a specific moment in time. I post pictures of things that make me happy like my cats, my friends, funny things, pretty things, cute things, etc. I post about things that are happening in my life, whether they be good or bad. That’s something I try to be very transparent about – that bad things happen, that things stress me out, that sometimes I don’t feel 100% confident. It kind of peeves me when people create themselves to be these flawless perfect humans via social media because people compare themselves to that whether they want to or not. Nobody is happy 100% of the time and nobody’s life can be condensed into an aesthetically please Instagram feed. I’m not saying everyone needs to reveal all their darkest secrets via social media but that is what I do. I use Instagram as a way to write about break-ups, death, anxiety, body image issues, etc. and I think that’s why it resonates with so many people. Sometimes my posts will have a take-a-way lesson and sometimes they don’t. Just like life. In a way, I treat social media a lot like designing clothing. They feed off of each other and everything comes from my need to be open and talk about relationships, break-ups, grief, and love to learn to cope on my own.
M: You are clearly far beyond your years in talent and grace. What inspires your creativity and your drive?
Nicole: I’m inspired by day to day life. I’m inspired by relationships and heartache and giddy butterflies and lessons learned. I’m inspired by the notion that everyone has a unique and distinct story to tell. I’m inspired by new beginnings and human growth and puberty and best friends.
All of the things I just listed above are things that I’m inspired by, and they are all equally valid. But I think underneath it all I was always inspired by my father. I know what you’re thinking, wait a second Nicole – didn’t that fuckboy who cheated on you when you were 18 inspire you to start designing clothing? Yes. Yes, he did. But, there’s also another story I don’t tell when people ask what initially inspired me.
My father was a magnificent man. He was brilliant, like an actual genius. He was a published author and designed jewelry and was also one of the top anesthesiologists in the country. He was unlike any human being that I’ve ever met. He was so emotional and wore his heart on his sleeve every day of his life. He was the most driven yet compassionate man I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He is also someone who believed in me immensely, even from a young age when I had no idea what I would make of my life. He pushed me to write every day (so much of my art revolves around writing, I owe my writing skills to him 100%). He was the one person in this life who was exactly like me.
My father took his own life when I was 17 years old. This was my junior year of high school, a year before I would fall in love with that fuckboy, two years before I would go to art school and start Sex + Ice Cream. This was something that changed my entire life. When I think back on my childhood I remember myself being one person up until age 17 and then after his death I became an entirely different person. I hate to sound cliché but its kind of like I was reborn. Life is so different after something like that.
So people always comment on how mature I am for 23, or how driven I am or confident or whatever. And its because of that. I became a fully grown adult when I was 17. And I don’t want to talk about this and have it be depressing because it’s not anymore. I will miss him every day for the rest of my life, but his death taught me so much about myself, my dreams, and life as a whole. It challenged me to get up and get out there and not take a single day for granted. It taught me to go after my dreams TODAY, not tomorrow, because I never knew what would happen. I learned to be resilient in times of sadness, which is why I think I was so fearless when I made the decision to start Sex + Ice Cream after that break up and burn the boy who had hurt me. I promised myself after his death that I would live every day for the both of us, and every person on this earth who couldn’t, and that is what inspires me, drives me, and motivates me every day of my life in my career, in Sex + Ice Cream, in my journey to self love, in my relationships – everything.
M: Holy cow. I can’t even follow that up. But I will try. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Nicole: Birthday cake flavor. Ok, and also Glace always has Sweet Corn flavored ice cream every summer. That’s my favorite too. I only wish it was year round.
M: Agreed on that front. The tats. Any background or stories on them?
Nicole: All my tattoos have different stories – some more personal, some to make me smile, some to make me remember. I treat my tattoos the same way I treat a lot aspects of my life: as a visual diary. I tattoo images, lyrics, words, drawings on my body to remember specific people, moments, songs, and feelings. This is important to me because I feel with this attitude I will never regret a tattoo – I will only look at it and remember who I was at that exact moment in time when I got it.
My very first tattoo was a big feather turning into birds I got on my back. I was 17 and my mom had to drive me all the way from Iowa to a strip mall in Kansas because it was illegal to get a tattoo under 18 except at this specific parlour. This tattoo was one I got for my dad right after he died; we put the same graphic of the feather and the birds on his gravestone.
Since then, I’ve gotten way too many tattoos to count. I’d say I have more than 25 and less than 40. I have
a portrait of my cat Sprinkle on my arm. She was my first pet I ever adopted on my own, she’s a handicapped kitty and the sweetest animal I’ve ever known. I have stick and pokes that my best friend gave to me while sitting at my kitchen counter eating Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I have a diamond on my ring finger (my love for myself will always come before someone else’s, I belong to myself). I have two tally marks tattooed on the inside of another finger (tallies for the two people I’ve truly been in love with this far in my life, I hope to add more tally marks someday). The Aquarius astrology sign (I’M SO INTO HOROSCOPES ITS REDIC). I got a drawing I did of my body tattooed on my arm on my 23rd birthday this year (I wanted to remember my body at this point in my life and celebrate the love I finally learned to feel for it during my 20’s). And my most recent tattoo is a drawing I did of the front of my store! (the most important, meaningful, proud achievement this far in my life).
M: So many great stories, and so many magnificent examples of ink! What are your favorite things to do/places to go/people to see in Kansas City?
Nicole: Oh jeez, I’m a sucker for shopping so I do love the Plaza. Also shopping downtown in The Crossroads area and 18th street. I love local eateries like West Side Local, Little Freshie, Glace, The Farmhouse, Succotash. Theres a sushi restaurant in Shawnee that has a little train that brings you sushi – I think its called Sakura – I live for that little train. I love Brookside and Waldo – great thrifting there! Picnics on the Nelson lawn are a must.
M: All the best things! What do you do to stay healthy and keep a positive mindset?
Nicole: So recently I’ve been super super into yoga and meditation and clean eating and it has helped me SO much. I’ve always been someone who has exercised religiously, spent hours in the gym, and been crash dieting since my preteen years and throughout all of that, I’ve never felt better than I do now that I’ve stopped with all of that. It’s refreshing for me to step outside of the gym and stop counting calories and really get back in tune with how my body feels, how my mind feels, and how I feel. It’s so important to care for your mental wellbeing first, I really believe that. You can be miserable pounding away in a gym eating chicken breasts and broccoli for the rest of your life or you can be out in the world eating wholesome, enjoyable, healthy foods and spending alone time in your mind and caring for your body that way. For me, that’s what works.
M: Such an incredible realization. Do you know the muffin man?
Nicole: Yea, he’s my ex. I dumped him because his muffins sucked.
M: Good. Who do you think is the most maniacal/crazy celebrity ever? Substantiate your claim.
Nicole: Donald Trump. He’s not a celebrity, but still. I don’t think I need to explain this further haha!
M: What’s your advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Nicole: You gotta work hard. Like really hard. I can’t stress that enough. If you’re not pulling all nighters, working nights and weekends after your other part time job ends, and literally putting your blood, sweat, and tears into it you’re probably not doing it right. I really think customers, and people in general, can tell when you’re half-assing something or don’t care. And if that’s the case they won’t support you. If you don’t dedicate every fiber of your being into your business or craft and believe in it more than anything else how do you expect anyone else to.
**photo by Suzanne Corum-Rich
Meredith has spent her life pin balling across America. She is often referred to as an entrepreneur, photographer, writer, and multi-media maven. She would label herself “butcher,” “baker,” and “candlestick maker.” (Hint: One of these is not true.) She is currently trying to find the perfect design for the DIY ukulele her twin gave her for Christmas. You can find her random musings on Twitter and Instagram.