Interview 014: Nicole Maret
Nicole Maret is the designer and proprietress of The Order. She makes conceptual, jet-black clothing that "transcends the duality of sprit we all possess." And let me tell you, Nicole's personality and aesthetic seem as paradoxical as they come. Girlfriend is sunny af, and her obsession with the glamorously macabre seems at odds with her demeanor... until you remember that people are multifaceted and complex... and that's what she's been trying to tell you all along.
What character stuff have you had to actively work on over the past several years?
More than anything, boundaries -- in so many ways. The last few years have been extraordinary when it comes to character, testing me well beyond what I thought my limits were in both personal and professional realms. My work and life collide perpetually, with no clear boundary defining where one ends and the other begins. I'm lucky enough to do what I love, so this would seem like a blessing rather than a curse -- but being fully present in both parts of life is a challenge when you can't fully distinguish one from the other. A small part of me is always trailing behind; a stubborn shadow that can't quite disconnect from where I was last. Savoring the moment and being wholly present is difficult, which makes it almost impossible to be who I am at my core. For a long time, every move I made was about fixing the past or preparing for the future. Consumed with what was or what will be, I neglected the fleeting (and often beautiful!) moments in between. My endless pursuit of perfection is very much to blame, so learning how to take a step back and letting myself just be has had a significant impact. Letting go invites unpredictability, unpredictability forces you to be vulnerable, and being vulnerable opens you up to what the universe has to offer in that particular moment.
How are you doing on that stuff now?
I write -- scrawl -- constantly. Good or bad, if I can anchor it with ink then it stays there and I can move forward. It's cliche, but the seemingly arbitrary words floating around in your mind are surprisingly powerful when they're on paper. Random thoughts become visually-oriented solutions, with a paper trail to remind you how you got there. I know so many people who use writing as an escape, but I do the opposite and keep only my favorite and happiest moments, both monumental and mundane. When written they become physical representations of good energy, and the book as a whole becomes a portable reminder to multiply them. The book I use has these beautiful gilded pages, and just seeing their edges glimmer in the darkest corner of my bag for a split second is sometimes the only reminder I need.
How would you describe your purpose?
I think my purpose evolves constantly, defined by whatever I'm striving to achieve at the moment. Right now my focus is to continuously defy expectations, which has become the crux of everything that I do. This is neither antagonistic nor anarchistic, but rather an incentive to be true to myself and even more so to make others think. I'm fascinated with the notion of pursuing deeper relationships with uncharted matters, because we only learn and grow when our minds are challenged with something new and unexpected. This is what drives me as a person and as a professional creative, and what carried me from apathetic to ambitious about life and my role in it. I am a living embodiment of this belief, as my light and happy demeanor are offset by my preferred black wardrobe and usually blood-red lips. I'm drawn to anything macabre and have a bat skeleton on my kitchen table, and I've been told I smile while I'm sleeping. I am shorter than I appear, smarter than I appear, stronger than I appear- and I'd take a single-malt scotch over a martini any day.
Define your career... Then tell us how it's different then you thought it would be.
I was an art major and music minor in college at UC Santa Barbara, consumed mostly with writing creative computer codes to generate "artistic" programs that I thought were clever unions of the two. I was an extremely tanned beach bum with an internship at a record label and a job as a studio assistant for one of my art professors. My time out of the water was largely spent listening to demo albums from sixteen year olds and hot-gluing string balls to styrofoam cones. I had no focus, and no real initiative outside of making highly ambitious Halloween costumes. So I had absolutely no idea that I would ever love working for something and wanting it as much as I do now.
My career now infuses every aspect of my life- from the moment I wake up and get dressed, the two worlds have already begun to collide. What I choose to wear becomes a visual representation of my career, a declaration of who I am to the rest of the world. My appearance is a judgement opportunity for anyone who crosses my path to decide whether or not I align with their expectations of what a fashion designer should look like, which is arbitrary to begin with. This has been a pivotal component of The Order, and very much the driving force that goes deeper than the clothing itself.
Do you feel like you've made it yet? Have things clicked? Explain.
Never- I'm on this drive for good. I get lost constantly, both in life and on the road, and I don't think I'll ever truly arrive because I keep taking detours along the way. The notion of "making it" in my own personal context is more limiting than it is empowering, but this is what compels me to keep going. The Order started out as a detour, a path that seemed simultaneously familiar and dangerous- so I followed it. It eventually became my primary focus, and even though I don't think I've made it, it's absolutely the click I was waiting for.
The Order was built on the premise of being authentic- but in retrospect this was more of an aspiration than a reality. I created the line at a time when I needed something to hold on to; something to nurture and bring to life for a reason more deeply rooted than design. As someone who has been "judged by my cover" more often than not, I was tired of the proverbial boxes that the world makes a habit of creating for those around them- and intrigued by the resounding surprise when those boxes don't quite encompass their presumed contents. That being said, The Order is a direct refection and vehicle for what my purpose has become- breaking down the boxes we create for each other, and creating a movement powered by the vulnerability left behind. Once vulnerable, we become existentially naked which allows us to choose what we want to "wear" on the outside. In the same way that we choose our clothes, we choose our attitudes and the kind of person we want to be. I continually strive to practice what I preach, and my own personal development is a powerful component of strength when it comes to encouraging others to do the same.
How do you think others perceive your life path? Do you care?
At 31, I freelance all over the place and run my own business. I'm not married, I live with my dog, and still talk to my mom every day. I still skateboard, shop at Akira, and walk around with lipstick on my teeth. I still lose my credit cards, overdo it at Big Star, and can't bake anything, ever- but I have iron-clad focus and have never wanted anything more than I want happiness and success right now, whether The Order is the ultimate channel or not. This may not be the path I saw for myself, or that others saw for me, but I think the important thing is that I really, really love it.
Speaking of others, how have your relationships shaped you?
I'm extremely independent, and revel in my time spent alone- but I think this makes the time I do spend with others that much more important. This wasn't always the case though. For a long time, I was so quick to trust and so emotionally vulnerable that my happiness was dependent on someone else, and I lost faith in my own strength in the process. But, it taught me to acknowledge that the people you think you know the best aren't always who you think they are, and more importantly, that you cannot change them. I've come to terms with things that were, and were only supposed to "be" at that point in time, accepting them as lessons; seasons that have come and gone, and learning to move on while continuing to cherish and feed the relationships that still ground me- and I'm lucky enough to have a lot of them.
What's your perspective on life like now as opposed to 5 years ago? 10 years ago?
10 years ago, I had nothing that even vaguely resembled a plan -- my only ambition was to stay in Santa Barbara, run off to Burning Man with my summer fling and see what happened from there. My perspective on life was very fly-by-night, powered by the feeling of invincibility that comes with being 22. It took years to focus and carve out a plan for myself, which ironically resulted in the perfectionism I'm now trying to quell.
5 years ago, I thought I would soon be married, as the other half of Chicago's ultimate power couple. To me, the world was our oyster, and every decision I made was for "us" and the people I thought we were supposed to be, and who I was supposed to be, in that role. Logic and LinkedIn eventually trumped romance and raw emotion, and I think we both lost a lot of ourselves in the process.
Now, I can honestly say that I'm happier than I've ever been both personally and professionally. I'm finally letting life deal my cards instead of trying so hard to peek at them first, and I dabble in magic quite a bit. It's just for fun, but I have begun to apply its principles to everyday life- if we allow our logic and disbelief to be suspended even just for a moment, some of the most incredible ideas and epiphanies can occur.
What are you most looking forward to?
To the things that don't yet have a box on my calendar because I don't know about them yet. To the path uncharted; the twists, turns and detours that will keep me on the edge of my seat. To the souls I haven't yet met, whose paths I have yet to cross and whose impact I have yet to discover. To fall even further in love, with life and with the person I felt a spark with the moment I saw him.
In your daily life, when are you happiest?
I'm the happiest when I first wake up, right as the sun is rising and streaming through my bedroom windows. I love the silence, the quiet of the morning, and the thinking about the potential of the day ahead. It's the only time when stress hasn't quite crept in, when I can take a few deep breaths and savor the feeling of my own pulse and focus my energy toward the aspiration I've set for myself for that day. These are moments when I'm most myself, when I can keep my career and life separate the longest. I'm not dressed in a carefully chosen outfit, not reachable, and not yet awake to the rest of the world.
On the other hand, how do you pull yourself out of a funk when you're in one? And how did you most likely wind up in said hypothetical funk in the first place?
Sometimes you just have to ride it out and let it happen- there is no fixing it, only feeling it wholeheartedly and learning from it. If you can't ride it out, then mind over matter becomes your greatest weapon: addressing the way you allow something to affect you is critical, and very often what helps you find the best solution. Boxing has been my kryptonite for the last 2 years, and it's my go-to for de-funking (second only to chocolate). It's such a mind-body sport that it forces you to be fully present, and it's one of the few things that can truly take me away from whatever is bothering me, which runs the gamut from crooked seams to men to too many searches on WebMD.
Any other questions you wish someone would ask you?
How do you come up with your clothing concept ideas? Can I buy you a scotch? Do you skateboard in heels? How did you do that?
My mother thinks I'm on drugs, but I'm really just high on the potential of creating a world that doesn't exist. Please- double, neat. Yes, but mostly to prove people wrong and it never ends well. And the best magicians never reveal their secrets, so I can't tell you.