Meet Nina Ziefvert, the creative mind behind NINA Z clogs and the mother of beautiful 1-year-old, Sonja.
Never thought I would find myself saying, “I’m addicted to clogs,” but it has become a reality when I put on a pair of NINA Z clogs with a mixture of comfort, style, and simplicity. These classic beauties are versatile enough to be styled with I-feel-like-doing-nothing-outfits to I’m-always-working-outfits, but can be worn all day without feeling any pain like my other semi-stylish shoes.
Before the clog-craze, the terms “grandma shoes” and “man-repeller” were often used to describe the traditional Swedish clogs that have a bulky, roundish front design and wooden heels. Nina reintroduced this idea to working professionals and creatives of New York in 2008 by combining her personal touch of modern art with Swedish craftsmanship. Since then, she has built a strong connection with her customers through weekend flea market trips to Brooklyn as well as well-curated visuals for her online community.
The entire process of the interview spoke for itself: natural light coming through the high ceiling windows, her daughter and husband welcoming us with smiles, being surrounded by constantly changing woodland colors, the inspirations were overflowing from what she calls “Nina Z Studio.”
March 23, 2016
1.Where did you grow up and how did it shape who you are today?
I grew up in Stockholm, Sweden mainly (the capital), but I spent a lot of time in the countryside during my upbringing, which I def think gave me an idea of do-it-yourself and entrepreneurship. Growing up, my father worked as an environmental lawyer for Swedish government but he also built a lot of stuff and fished and hunted. And my mom worked as a student counselor while getting her master’s in Archeology (just for fun), so I think I was just taught at an early age that one can wear many hats, which is the case of us (my husband and I) running our own business. I left Sweden when I was 18 and have since then lived in London, Paris and then New York, where I attended FIT. I have since then have varied jobs within the fashion and art industries and NINA Z just became a pretty organic mish-mash of them all.
2. How did “NINA Z clogs” come to life?
As previously mentioned, I had a varied background in fashion and arts before launching NINA Z, which basically grew out of my own need to wear clogs, which at that time were hard to find in NYC. So I started doing research and came across some traditional clog makers in Sweden that were willing to work with me in creating my own line. My husband joined the company in 2011 and since then we launched the studio program with in-house production and custom orders headed by my husband. He trained with a cobbler in Queens at night to learn how to make shoes (mainly clogs) before we started our own in-house production.
I’m curious to know how you manage to keep your price low while creating everything in-house? Starting out, I never focused on wholesale, but rather direct sales in order to keep prices down. I guess, one just have to take a decision of just “HOW” much one wants to profit and adjust accordingly. I love what I do and I love offering my customers an affordable product and I still have a good life according to my standards, so it all works out.
3. You’ve mentioned you’re not a morning person…what motivates you to get up every morning besides coffee?
Life. Creating. Nature (We live in the woods of Woodstock). I love colors, forms and natural patterns and are constantly trying to create wearable beauty.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is currently trying to start a sustainable fashion brand? What was your first step?
I don’t think that I was intentionally trying to start a “sustainable” fashion brand, however the way we make them (Clogs) just happens to be so. But for anyone trying to start a small fashion label, I think patience, a partner, and passion for the product is a good start. And we grew slow; no big investments and in the beginning I had a full time job as an art curator, which helped me pay my rent, etc (It also meant basically working 24/7). So that’s the advice I can give based upon my own experiences.
That explains the feeling of well-curated visuals presented through your clog brand. Is there any artist in particular you’re constantly inspired by?
I find great inspiration in the works of Leonor Fini. I also love Sigrid Hjerten. We live in a Bauhaus, which is a style, that always has been close to my heart and from which I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration through the years.Just to name a few. And I get most of my inspiration from random aesthetics like the tile combo on a rest stop or someone’s window sill display or the cracks in my step-moms house in Botswana next to a lovely ripe peach peach. Or my brown leather pants towards the lime green velvet chair at the local bookstore (yesterday:). Colors, form, textures are every where if we just open our eyes a little.
I always present my collection of clogs along side a rack of two of well picked natural material vintage basics, so the process of sourcing these pieces and getting them ready for the rack, is also a very creative process for the eyes and hands for me.
5. We truly enjoyed shooting in your cozy home in the woods. Could you tell us about today’s location and why it holds a special place in your heart?
We wanted to move upstate and out of Brooklyn for a while (or at least part-time) and a year ago it was just the right time and we found the perfect house for us (and our then 9 months old daughter Sonja), so that’s how it happened. We had spent a lot of time visiting friends in the area for many years, so we knew we wanted live around here, where we already kind of had a community. We still go down for the Brooklyn Flea on most weekend, and we still kept our apartment in Crown Heights, but I could really just do with the woods. I love it up here.
6. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not designing or thinking about NINA Z clogs?
I like living :). I love nature and my garden and I spend a lot of time there with my daughter. As I said earlier, I love colors and forms, so naturally I spend a lot of time looking for inspiration wherever I am. Living in the woods allows me to have a slower pace and spend a lot of time by myself or with my family, which I really enjoy doing.
7. If you could only wear one color for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh, that’s such hard question. Maybe beige, if I had to pick only one color.
8. What does “Live Your Color” mean to you?
To live according to your own satisfaction and creations. To find a place and way of living here on this big Earth that works for me. And then nothing is forever, so I think it is important to be open to change and stay present in whatever you are doing for this exact moment, which of course is sometimes very hard, but always brings goodness once done.
Thank you Nina!