Nicole Zeniou is a creative multi-hyphenate. She is a journalist by day and a designer/brand owner by night so, by nature, her love for fashion, writing, and poetry are integral to understanding the full spectrum of her personality. An avid fashion magazine reader and poetry enthusiast from a very young age, her career path had been carved long before the final soul-searching years of high school. She studied English Literature in the UK and began her career as a journalist at The Cyprus Weekly and Cosmopolitan Cyprus. Her love for storytelling and scriptwriting led to 5 years of working as a film stylist and Art Director’s assistant, all that while continuing to work as a freelance journalist. Now, she is a fashion writer for Madame Figaro writing on trends, street style and discovering the best local designers and brands.
Almost a year ago, Nicole fulfilled another dream of hers and created her own fashion brand, BRALETTE STUDIO, selling handmade pearl-beaded statement pieces. For the brand she utilised the knowledge she got after taking sewing classes and interning as a seamstress, and combined with her creative urge and unconditional love for fashion, she brought her vision to life. From royalty, to flappers in the roaring 20s, to the likes of Coco Chanel and Jackie Kennedy, pearls have been for centuries an item of adoration by many, and an emblem of love, purity, as well as authority and power. In the same way, the bralettes are meant to add a romantic twist to any outfit from day to night, while exuding the confidence and power of a woman who knows how to carry herself. Nicole wears many hats for the label, as she makes the bralettes on her own, she manages the website and customer orders, and all that while overseeing its creative direction and presentation too. An accurate reflection of its owner’s personality, the character of the brand oozes a dream-like, poetic romanticism.
She talked to FLOAT about what is really like to work in a fashion magazine, how she balances a full-time job while running a business, and what’s next for BRALETTE STUDIO.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you compare working at a magazine to the movie The Devil Wears Prada? Jokes aside, could you tell us what’s your day-to-day routine like as a journalist? What’s the divide between catching up with fashion news/trends and then writing?
I don’t think I can compare it to the film because it’s a Cyprus setting so everything is much more limited! The team is small – as with every other creative industry on the island – so you can’t compare it to what it would have been like abroad. It’s more of a creative space where everyone is bringing their own unique skillset and passion to work.
As for my day-to-day routine – I think being a fashion journalist (and that’s the case with any other creative profession really) is certainly not a 9-5 job. You are always working in a way because “fashion never sleeps”, so you always have to keep up with new designers, trends, fashion weeks, street style – both locally and abroad – which is quite a lot of work. However, I’ve been reading about fashion non-stop since I was a teenager, so now it feels natural to me.
There’s definitely a divide between catching up with fashion news and trends and actually having to write about them. It’s a whole different process requiring the appropriate writing skills and having an eye for what will catch the reader’s attention and what’s worth writing about. It’s not just what’s worthwhile aesthetically, as fashion can be beautiful if you’re just browsing through a magazine, but it’s not the same when you have to write about it and convince someone to read the story.
Which topics interest the Cypriot reader the most when it comes to fashion?
They are very interested in both local designers and international brands. There is a growing local fashion scene in Cyprus – especially in the last few years with the rise of social media use, e-shops, and being able to sell products through Instagram, as it has made it so much easier for small local fashion brands to survive. Another area there’s a lot of interest in is celebrity style and street style – what supermodels, singers, actresses etc. choose to wear and how they wear it. A lot of my work involves writing about styling tips coming from celebrities/influencers, focusing on the ways they interpret and adopt trends through their outfits.
Do you think our use of social media has amplified our interest in fashion and styling? Has the appetite for reading about trends, styling tips and outfit ideas increased in the last couple of years?
Definitely – everyone now has their own social media profile where they are constantly projecting an image of themselves, and what you wear is a huge part of what you project. Also, everyone now has access to brands, style icons etc. so if you want to experiment with your style, it’s so much easier than before. Previously you’d have to read magazines and look at photoshoots to get inspired for your personal style. Also, now with the pandemic, so many fashion shows were live-streamed so everyone had front row seats to the collections, which for so many years was a privilege reserved only for those who were invited to attend. The public could of course see the collections in magazines, but only days after the shows and only via the selection they included. This year was amazing for anyone who loves fashion because you could see all the looks from a designer’s collection up close, and truly get a feel of their creative vision.
Tell us about your fashion brand, BRALETTE STUDIO. How do you balance your full-time job with the work you do for it?
It really is extremely hard. I don’t have substantial free time as it’s quite a struggle to balance both. But what I try to do is set a few days during the week when in the evenings I will work just for BRALETTE. There are of course sleepless nights when I get multiple orders, but I love my brand so those nights are more than worth it – as is everything I do for it.
What is the creative process behind each bralette?
BRALETTE is more than a fashion brand. It is my poetry through fashion, and the pieces are simply works of art. Each bralette is custom-made (using dimensions from the customer) and handmade so it takes approx. 12 to 20 hours to be made, depending on the design. All the bralettes are handcrafted in my studio, bead by bead and most consist of approx. 2,000 pearl and crystal beads. They are exclusively designed which makes each piece unique. The designs are inspired by strong women, who are soft and feather-like all at the same time.
Did your work as a journalist inform decisions you made for the brand? Was your knowledge of the fashion world from the media perspective useful for setting it up and spreading the word for it?
It helped that I had the writing skills, so I could write the press releases and website content on my own, as well as the quotes of the brand which are from my poetry collection. My experience as a Stylist also helped because I did the styling for my photoshoot and the art direction. Even my experience as a seamstress helped because I created some of the clothes that are in the photoshoot to achieve the aesthetic I had in mind. So, everything, to some extent, came into play.
How do you see the brand evolving in the future? Would you like to develop your designing skills even further?
I would love for BRALETTE to grow and become well-known abroad. Vogue UK actually scouted BRALETTE – their team contacted me and commented on its unique aesthetic and original design. So in the future, I think there’s a great market for it abroad. I’d definitely like to expand my design skills – I’ve designed my summer collection and I am planning to launch soon. There’s also a lot of collaborations with other brands in the works and I’m hoping more will come in the future.
One of the most important elements of BRALETTE, and the reason it was founded, is to empower the women who choose to wear the bralettes, to provide them with that integral magic that sometimes only a statement piece (or fashion) can provide, to give them one more reason to walk into any room and own their unique selves. I would love for the brand to become synonymous with female empowerment, or with having the confidence to just be “impeccably yourself” – because as my brand tagline reads, “There’ s no one quite like you, and that darling, is magic.”