Nicole DiVito’s design inspirations may seem quite obscure upon first glance. As the Boston-based fashion designer flips through one of her style and inspiration workbooks, random magazine cutouts are paired with loosely sketched images of a Mickey’s 40oz, fly larva, rattraps, and hair-infested shower drains on each page. Having just completed her most recent mix and match, ready-to-wear collection entitled, “Steal Reserve”, DiVito finds inspiration from her overwhelmingly new experience of ‘college-apartment living’ in Boston.
For those unfamiliar with the lifestyle it can be summed up quite simply: Paying too damn much for the tiniest shoebox-like room – most likely infested with mice; an underlying fear of bed bugs; cold showers with hair-clogged drains; living rooms decorated with cheap liquor bottles; the sound of sirens and slightly whacky people talking to themselves outside. Having been born and raised in a series of mundane, rural cities, miles from any real cityscape, and after her eventual move to Boston, DiVito became infatuated with the beautiful scumminess her new urban lifestyle propagated.
Working predominately with digitally printed knits, DiVito sketches and illustrates the things that stand out to her the most – mold, rats, empty beer bottles, used bed sheets, bed bugs, mattresses – in order to create detailed and seriously awesome textiles for her conceptual fashion pieces. DiVito is undoubtedly a conceptual artist first, taking her twisted inner thoughts and obvious imagery from her immediate surroundings to create intelligent and shrewd textile designs.
Tell us about some of the pieces you made over the past year.
Well I’m very much a conceptual artist and designer so this past year I focused on a collection that was devoted to this idea of “Apartment Living”. I started to figure out different concepts of apartment living, the big one being rats. That stemmed from my sophomore year when I had an assignment to do a “conversational print”.
I was sitting on the couch trying to figure out what I wanted to do and this rat ran by. So I decided to do mice eating each other. Intestines and rattraps. I also made things like 40oz printed underwear and bra and egg crate foam purses. The elastic band in the underwear is actually from my grandmother’s underwear. I really liked the vintage look of them and I couldn’t find it anywhere. Another concept was bed bugs and mattresses; I got egg crate foam and sculpted a coat out of it. I ended up taking the sleeves off and using an original print that I made for the arms. Sewing that together was miserable.
I did a whole collection based on mold. I did watercolor drawings then turned them into digital prints for the fabric. It’s was a really cool process. Printing on knit is my favorite right now though. I’ve kind of realized that I’m better at the lingerie stuff and smaller pieces. I love textured fabrics since I’m not huge on color. I feel when I do go to the fabric store I am drawn to the more textured fabrics.
What really stands out to you when you’re hunting for fabric to use? Have you been working with one particular fabric or mode recently?
Recently it’s been a lot of digitally printed knit. But when I go to the fabric store everything starts to look the same. Then I’ll find that one different, textural fabirc, and that’s what I usually get. When you are inspired by the fabric something great usually comes out of it. I’ve had time where I go to the fabric store with all these drawings for a pattern and then wasn’t able to find the ‘right’ fabric, so I always suggest going to the fabric store first because you might be inspired by what you find.
When you’re hunting for a fabric, what are you looking for specifically?
It all depends. When it comes to the digital printing – this is where I can bring in my art in physically because the fabric is the garment. You can make a plain black dress but the fabric will totally make the piece. So if it’s a digital print my concepts shine through more. It’s a literal way of doing things. I never really know where things are going to go. I’m just drawn to a print and then sit with it for a couple of days and then it just comes.
Would you say your creative process is pretty spontaneous then?
Yeah, I mean I made 40 pairs of socks for a certain collection and that was all done in two hours. I just hammered them out because at the time, the ideas were just flowing. I feel like when I have to do something and not thinking about the idea too much, things seem to transpire easily.
So what is it about city life that you find yourself drawn to the most?
I feel like there is something scummy beautiful about urban life. Like the guy pissing in front of your apartment, and this line of beautiful brownstones behind him. Or rat traps around your nice apartment. I never grew up with this kind of stuff. I never grew up with living like this or with people that were a mess. I was born in Florida and lived in Kansas for five years. Then my family moved to Middleton, MA, where it was just dirt roads and cows. Whenever we would drive into Boston I loved it and knew I was going to move here. I got here for school at MassArt and was super overwhelmed but absolutely loved it. Living in this situation for so long you start to get inspired by it, or not even inspired but it just becomes all you know at the moment.
So, your process and concepts aren’t as spontaneous as we thought?
I feel like it subconscious and sometimes it’s more conscious. I mean listen to the honking going on outside right now. I can’t tell you how many car accidents I have seen and heard from my window right here.
What was one of the first fashion projects you worked on?
I had to make something out of non-textiles. I used pads and tampons and I dip dyed them in red. My teacher said it was going to be too literal, but I ended up doing it anyway and it turned out great. That’s when I knew I was going to have to fight people on some of my ideas while at school.
What’s your ideal job?
Ideal goal is to have my own company. One where I can create prints every three months – each time creating a new print so I am consistently making new stuff. And whatever yardage is printed, once it’s done, that’s it. Like a limited edition run. After that it’s the next print and you can’t go back.
I would love to work under Opening Ceremony or an up and coming designer. I don’t want to ever stop making my own stuff though; I’ve seen so many designers start working for other designers and have their ideas and concepts become muddled or lost because they begin to only work in the other person’s style.
Which designers do you have crushes on?
Opening Ceremony. Lazy Oaf form England. It’s run by a graphic designer – so it’s super print oriented. They did a whole project with Garfield.
Where do you usually shop?
I only hit vintage stores and second hand type spots, just because you usually can’t find that stuff anywhere else. I find myself not wanting to buy anything anymore though for the most part.
For more from Nicole DiVito check out her Instagram.