Designer Nicole Bridger weaves West Coast values into collection

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      With positive thinking, environmental and social sensitivity, and die-hard Vancouver loyalty, local designer Nicole Bridger has transformed a classic West Coast sensibility into a formula for success.

      The B.C. Fashion Week 2007 Generation Next winner had some famous local names as guiding lights. Her first boyfriend was the son of local shoe designer John Fluevog, who became “a second father” to her, and whose example demonstrated that it was possible to make a career out of your passion. From then on, her goal was clear. “Since I was 16,” Bridger explained by phone, “I knew I wanted to open my own company. It was just a matter of what I needed to do and figure out.”

      During fashion studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, she interned with British designer Vivienne Westwood in London, England. “Hanging out with her, I realized you could still be who you are and be successful. That you didn’t have to sell out and get caught up in the hype of everything”¦she really showed me that you can use your talent or your drive as a sort of venue for something that’s meaningful for you. And for her, it was definitely the anarchist movement, and for myself, the environmental movement.”

      After returning to Vancouver—in spite of criticism from industry types for doing so—Bridger worked at Lululemon, and approached founder Chip Wilson for business advice. “What I was looking for was experience in creating a company from scratch so that I could, after two years, go and do it on my own with my vision,” she said. Consequently, Wilson and Bridger started an offshoot, Oqoqo, a fashionable yet sustainable casual-wear line, in 2004.

      With two years of business experience under her belt, she finally launched her own eponymous line with a collection that appeared in stores in spring 2007.

      Her work reflects her life. “I get a lot of inspiration from my own personal growth or life lessons that I’m going through at the time,” Bridger said. A case in point is the use of her marriage in September as her muse for an airy spring/summer 2008 collection, Unconditional Love. “The palette was very soft, yet cheerful. There’s a happiness in there. But still introspective.”

      While Bridger’s West Coast approach is evident in her desire for her clothes to be comfortable and functional, her time in London—where she learned “the art of sculpting fabric” from Westwood—instilled an edgy, provocative tendency in her.

      The collection (which includes tops, tanks, tunics, skirts, and dresses) balances a body-conscious, feminine aesthetic with a laid-back appeal. Fashion-forward details emerge in unique touches like the asymmetrical draping effect of the Hope dress. And to spread the power of positive thinking, each garment has a positive affirmation, such as “I am love,” printed on the label.

      Yet being an environmentally and socially conscious designer does have its challenges, such as using a limited range of fabrics. There are also endless other considerations. “One of the hardest things is knowing what is right sometimes because there’s so many angles on something being sustainable,” Bridger said.

      Nonetheless, she remains undaunted. “I wanted to do good in the world, and while I’m here, I want to do whatever I can to make a positive impact for growth and moving forward.”

      The Nicole Bridger spring/summer ’08 collection will be in stores this week, including Twigg & Hottie (3671 Main Street) and the Velvet Room (2248 West 41st Avenue). Visit for other retailers.