As an obsessive quilt lover, I fell head over heels for Sarah Nsikak’s handmade beauties at La Reunion as soon as I set eyes on them. Her feel for color is mesmerizing, as is the inherent storytelling within her work. They each feel like a snapshot of a certain time, place and emotion. In addition to her quilts, her handmade dressed embody this same spirit, each with a unique point of view. Read on to learn more about Sarah’s journey and inspirations.
Can you tell us about how you go into textiles, quilting and then ultimately fashion?
Any first generation Nigerian american can attest to the fact that you aren't supposed to tell your parents that you want to study textiles or fashion or art. They worked so hard to get to this "land of opportunity", and the expectation is for you to become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I wasn't interested in becoming any of those things, but I always had an interest in Psychology. I sort of finessed my way into studying art by pursuing Art Therapy, which I got my Masters in. Thankfully that was aspirational enough for my mother who convinced herself that I was on my way to becoming a PhD certified Art Therapist. After my Master's program in 2014, I started a small business where I was making clothing out of textile waste and upcycling vintage garments. I was trying to preach this message of sustainability to people in Oklahoma who either didn't care or cared just enough to verbally affirm it and move on.The concepts I was trying to spread were fairly new there at that time, and Forever21 was still the most referenced store for clothing. After two years of struggling to have my little company and working full time at a counseling agency to support it, I realized that I didn't have to keep exasperating myself and doing the work of educator and maker at the same time. I was also asked a lot of questions about who I am as a black woman. Many assumptions were made about what I was doing because of my skin color. People tried to barter with me, people asked me to do their alterations, people asked me to give them things for free. It was confusing to me because I didn't have the arsenal of understanding that I have now, but I felt strongly that I needed to be somewhere else. I followed that impulse to Brooklyn and have been here ever since.
I initially found your work with textiles and quilts, but then quickly realized you made some incredible clothing as well! Did you always want to have a clothing company, or is it more about melding all of your passions?
It's a bit of both! I had another fashion project, but was a bit disillusioned by the fashion industry for a few years. It took awhile for me to find what felt like the perfect way to re-enter the fashion world with integrity.
I absolutely love the sustainability element of your work, and I’m sure it’s not always easy to uphold. What motivated the decision to focus on this and what keeps you moving forward with it?
I also learned from my time working in the fashion industry that there is a world of existing materials that we could be utilizing. I collect scraps from cutting rooms, factories, thrift stores, and online vintage sellers. There's a local vintage shop near my apartment that I pop into every month or so and leave a bike basket full of remnants. Chloe recently took a trip to Maine, and she sourced at some antique shops up there. There are some very special textiles with meticulous hand work full of vibrancy and texture. I gravitate to textiles like these and feel like they really honor the message of supporting artisans and keeping handmade work alive in a time that's all about instant gratification.
How has the shutdown effected your business and how have you adapted in the last few months? Have any new ideas developed for you during this time?
Do you have a long-term plan for La Reunion or any goals you’ve set for the future?
Yes, I'm planning on growing an art practice and making wearable art pieces for the indefinite future :)
These days I’m loving...
Pickled things! So good, easy to do, and a great way to reduce food waste.
I love my new clothes from Loup! I also love a new dress I got from Little Tienda, a lovely label based in Australia. Other than that, I've accumulated some vintage staples and those are what I wear most days.
I have a subscription to Criterion and enjoy their film curation so much. One of my more recently referenced films is Agnes Vardas short documentary called Black Panthers. It's wonderful! Also, I'm very inspired by all things Micheala Coel does so naturally I've been loving her HBO show called I May Destory you.
I'm pretty inept and slightly disinterested when it comes to beauty products but there are 3 things I love right now. 1 is this body oil I've been using by Maison Louis Marie No.4, my boyfriend accidently got me the body oil instead of the perfume oil. Best mistake ever - it's moisturizing and smells like heaven. 2. NOTO multi stick the color ONO ONO. This is the only makeup product I use. Love an all in one, and it makes my lips tingle which is wonderful. And last is Lesse face wash. My face feels so soft and glowy after I use it!
Most recent is @xodvf who is infinitely wise and beautiful with all kinds of wellness tips that I never knew I needed.
“Me time” activity
Images shot in the Brooklyn, NY