VIDEO: Ipswich coal miner turned fashion designer
UNDERGROUND mining was the "spiritual suicide" Nikke Horrigan needed to take up fashion designing.
The 28-year-old from Brassall swapped the hard hat for distressed denim, frayed hemlines and the minimalist relaxed aesthetic that is his clothing label Nikke Horrigan.
The boilermaker turned plumber turned navy aircraft technician turned coalminer turned fashion designer said he always knew there was "another side" in fashion designing he had never shown.
"When you're younger you're afraid you'll be judged but as I started growing up and I started to believe more in myself and started to find myself I lost a lot of friends because of it," he said.
"I gained more about myself and learnt a lot about life and that I'm grateful for.
"People aren't really that fashion forward around here and it's not like I'm doing women's (fashion). Women have support and they dig that kind of stuff but there is the stigma if you're a fashion designer you're gay or queer but it's just a different art form for me.
"My plan B is to make plan A happen. I can't see myself doing anything else. I'm most happy when I can be myself and fashion lets me do that."
The label reflects Nikke's motto "perfection is dead" and features strategically distressed denim, raw edges and relaxed cuts.
"People are seeking perfection and living this pretend life," he said. "They're (the clothes) distressed to represent life, it wears you out."
Nikke said his mum was instrumental to the design development process with weekends shopping in the city paving the way for his eye for detail and design.
"My mum and I used to spend a lot of time together shopping in the city at David Jones and Myer so I really found this passion, as cheesy as it sounds, for fashion and it just snowballed from there," he said.
"She was the key to it. I was rocking Tommy Hilfiger clothes when I was in grade four."
Growing up, Nikke said he was often in trouble with the law and a rule breaker - attributes which were reflected in the clothes he designed. He said his dad served as the grounded reality check which was not always welcome in the fashion design process.
"Dad is the complete opposite. He is quite conservative. The household is quite divided," he said.
"I don't think he really understands what I do, I haven't told him but I think he's starting to understand.
"I once asked my dad what he's learnt and he said don't take advice off experts and go with your gut feeling."
Nikke said clothes were a way for him to express himself where uniforms and the norm otherwise wouldn't allow.
"I've always been a bit artsy and I like to express myself in a certain way but for me fashion imitates life. For me how you dress is what your life is about," he said.
"I started designing for myself because I couldn't find things that I wanted. I had this vision that it would be so dope if I could find certain things but I never found it."
Coalmining in the Bowen Basin was a means to an end for the local designer who saved significantly to make his dream label transform from drawings to clothes on a rack.
"I was working big hours, 21 days straight and out in the desert, exhausted and hot. I was seeing people living their lives and thought why can't I be them?" he said.
"Then I woke up and realised that I can, they were just like me, the only difference was they had a go and they were persistent and they made it happen. There was no excuse.
"It was spiritual suicide, not doing what I wanted to do. So I started taking sewing lessons and reading books about it."
Launched as a full-time reality only weeks ago but a dream of Nikke's since 2013, the label took a turning point on a business trip to Guangzhou, China.
"I wanted to brand myself in Australia but no one would give me a go, I got knocked back a lot," he said.
"It came to a point when I needed to decide whether to do it full time or as a hobby so I gave up working away and went to Guangzhou. I had a suitcase full of patterns and all my ideas and dreams.
"I was so naive and I thought people would be able to speak English. I was on my last straw and thought I had completely messed this up, spent all this money.
"It really showed that I really wanted it, I was really out of my comfort zone. I remember thinking 'you're there chasing your dream', it's a surreal feeling when you start ticking boxes off like that so that was a real turning point because a lot of people won't do that. It was something I had to do and don't regret.
"The brand is still young, I'm still young, I'm still learning and making mistakes.
"My goal in the future is to expand but keep exclusive as the same time."