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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Tate

Weaving Sustainability into the Fabric of Luxury Fashion

The Visionary Behind Nikki Green Revolutionizes the Industry with Ethical Elegance

domique side
Sustainability Expert, Dominique Side

In the ever-evolving landscape of fashion, Dominique Side stands at the forefront of sustainabilty, embodying the fusion of luxury with ethical living. As a pioneering force in the vegan movement and a celebrated entrepreneur, Side has not only shaped the conversation around compassionate living but has also built an empire that spans across various sectors. From launching a sustainably engineered recording studio, and onto founding a vegan consulting firm, Side's endeavors culminate in the groundbreaking launch of The Luxury Vegan media company in 2024.

At the heart of her achievements is Nikki Green, the first black woman-owned luxury vegan fashion brand that redefines opulence through sustainability. Side's vision for Nikki Green is clear: to revolutionize the luxury fashion industry by proving that high fashion and sustainability are not mutually exclusive but rather the future. With Nikki Green, Dominique Side is not just creating fashion; she is crafting a legacy that promises to transform the industry's landscape, making it a beacon of sustainability for generations to come.

TIFFANY TATE: What sparked your personal journey towards veganism and sustainable living, and how does that influence the ethos of Nikki Green?

DOMINIQUE SIDE: Several years ago, I was working out and I had a family member approach me about a product by Arbon. It was like a plant based supplement, like a protein shake. She said ‘you're working out, this will be great, it's easier for your digestion’ and I thought that sounded great. I tried it, loved it, then several months later, the same person approached me and said, ‘hey, we've got this makeup line, it's clean’ and at the time I didn’t even know what clean makeup meant so I went to do the research. I found out a lot about the ingredients used, like fish scales and all kinds of things that are in makeup which really put me off.  I also found out about some of the animal testing, which I was only vaguely aware of. I decided then that  I can’t buy those products and I got rid of everything that I had and replaced them. Then I started looking into cleaning products, and I came across some green cleaning products which meant less chemicals in my house around my family and kids. Over the course of nine months, I changed three major things and then someone asked me about whether I was going to go vegan. I initially thought I would never do that, truthfully, I thought to myself ‘Are you kidding? I'm not going to change my food’ all I was thinking about was food. I am Creole and I grew up eating seafood, I couldn’t imagine a time where I would stop eating crawfish, I love seafood and steak, they are my favorite foods.

It was when I watched ‘What the Health’ , it completely turned my whole world upside down. I couldn't just unsee those things and there was no way that I could operate in a daily existence and not be mindful of everything I had just seen, heard and watched. So I decided that day, I'm gonna do this and I went out that night, and felt really uneasy about the animal plated food around me, and that was the turning point for me. 

What I came to learn was that although something is vegan does not necessarily make it sustainable. My stylist and I would spend a lot of time sourcing and curating outfits, then he said to me, if you're curating all of these pieces from all these different designers, you know what you like, you know what you want to  wear, why can't we do this together?’. So, I ended up having my former stylist, now creative director, the designer of my line, him and his creative assistant, his design assistant, attend a textile conference in New York and they sat in on the sustainability panels and their minds were blown because originally they were just sourcing vegan fabrics, and that was the goal. The first line needed to be 100% vegan no matter what we could work our way each year with each collection to be more and more sustainable with each collection. We were opened up to so much more through this experience with a goal to bring to the market a beautiful brand that does not compromise on quality, style or ethics, that you can feel your best wearing.


TIFFANY: Can you share a memorable moment or experience that solidified your commitment to creating a luxury vegan brand like Nikki Green?

DOMINIQUE: I think my very first experience in going to Fashion Week in Paris, I was able to see emerging artists, specifically black artists and designers do their shows on a small scale and was powerfully inspiring. I knew that combining my personal style with Christian Allen's design expertise, we could create opulent yet sustainable pieces that people would be proud to wear. 

TIFFANY: We'd love to know more about your personal style and how it has influenced the designs within the Nikki Green collections. Are there any signature elements that reflect your own aesthetic?

DOMINIQUE: Nikki Green's designs are an extension of my personal style, focusing on flattering silhouettes and unique details while Christian is really tapped into what's trending and what's to come. The challenges I would have with a lot of high end designers is I would have to get everything altered because I have curvy proportions, so it was really important that the fit model specs were based on me. We pay a lot of attention to inclusivity, we prioritize models that represent diverse body types, ensuring our pieces complement various figures. Signature elements such as bridal buttons, mermaid shapes, and cropped cuts reflect my aesthetic, offering timeless elegance with a modern twist. 

The other things that I was very adamant about are the specific little design elements in the signature collection like bridal buttons. We have button skirts and button blouses and a button corset gown with all the details there. The reason I wanted it is because that's one detail on a bridal dress that always fascinated me because it's small and it's repetitive and speaks to the luxury essence of the item, which is  functional. As well, including a few cropped pieces because they are designed for comfort and very suitable for travel. 

TIFFANY: Sustainability can mean different things to different people. How do you define sustainability within the context of Nikki Green, and what aspects of sustainability are most important to you personally?

DOMINIQUE: At Nikki Green, sustainability encompasses minimizing environmental impact throughout the product lifecycle. We prioritize eco-friendly materials, circular design principles, and ethical manufacturing practices. We are always striving for the least environmental impact, that's really what it comes down to. Paying special attention to what materials are not derived from crude oil, or, have minimal poly, considering the impact our choices will have on the environment. We are thinking circular - about what's gonna happen to the garment when the person is done with it? How does that impact the environment? Whether or not the materials can break down over time, these decisions are really important to us with Nikki Green. 

When I'm thinking about sustainability in my personal life, I'm also thinking about the smaller changes and choices I made in my daily life, as well as bigger ones like my decision to drive an electric car. I figure if I do things that I am capable of doing as an individual, and everyone that cares about some aspect of this too, then supply and demand eventually creates change. My contribution is really how I live my lifestyle, the choices that I make in where I put my money so that the industries can feel it and make the shifts as well towards contributing to overall sustainability.

TIFFANY: Collaboration often breeds creativity. Could you tell us about a particularly memorable moment or breakthrough that occurred during your collaboration with Christian Allen on Nikki Green?

DOMINIQUE: During a fitting session in LA, we brainstormed innovative design ideas for vegan leather pieces, which ultimately led us to the creation of the Peekaboo jacket and cut-out pants. Working collaboratively with each other to refine the designs, we transformed what I initially had doubts on, into one of my favorite looks.

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TIFFANY: In the fast-paced world of fashion, staying true to one's values can sometimes be challenging. How do you ensure that Nikki Green maintains its commitment to sustainability and veganism amidst industry pressures?

DOMINIQUE: Truthfully, I don't feel pressure. And maybe it's just because we're still a young company, or maybe it's because I'm so connected to my mission given I've been vegan for seven years now. I've definitely been challenged in other spaces with regard to my underlying beliefs and personal convictions but this doesn’t really bother me anymore.  I love that my team is now so aligned with this mission, it’s unwavering. We have a really deliberate approach to design and production, emphasizing quality over quantity and resisting the pressure of seasonal trends. Our annual collections are intentionally thought out so satisfy a full wardrobe collection.

TIFFANY: What does a typical day in the life of Dominique Side look like, balancing entrepreneurship, creativity, and sustainability advocacy?

DOMINIQUE: Each day can significantly vary for me, but I prioritize starting my mornings early, and have some me time before I start the day. Once I'm up and about, whether at home or in the office, my day kicks into gear with email checks and various meetings, both in-person and virtual. My schedule is filled each day with many different things, from interviews and podcasts to content shoots for my brands, meetings with my team. Sometimes, I find myself in the makeup chair, preparing for a shoot or event. If recording is on the agenda, my day might extend into the evening as I immerse myself in the creative process, whether it's writing, producing, or recording music.

TIFFANY: Nikki Green is described as offering "opulent" pieces. Can you share a story behind one of your favorite luxurious yet sustainable creations from the brand?

DOMINIQUE: One of my favorite pieces from Nikki Green is the Peekaboo jacket and cut-out pants ensemble. Initially, I wasn't sure about this design, but it grew on me during a photoshoot where I experimented with styling. The black lace with green satin details and gold buttons exudes luxury, while the logo on the back adds a nod to streetwear, we felt bridged the gap between glam and casual. I styled it with a green corset boutier, transforming it into a three-piece suit with an edge. Christian, fell in love with the look, it never even crossed his mind to style it that way, but it became one of my favorite looks.

TIFFANY: As a black entrepreneur in the fashion industry, what advice would you give to aspiring designers, particularly those from underrepresented communities, who are looking to break into the luxury market?

DOMINIQUE: My advice to aspiring designers, is to really prioritize the business side of fashion. I know most designers are creatives and love the design process but while creativity is important, success in this industry requires a strong understanding of the business aspects. Partnering with someone knowledgeable in business or focusing on administrative tasks early on is crucial for longevity. Setting up your company, establishing and understanding financial aspects like production costs and funding are vital steps.

TIFFANY: Sustainability isn't just about the materials used; it's also about the lifecycle of the product. How do you encourage your customers to engage in sustainable practices beyond just purchasing Nikki Green pieces?

DOMINIQUE: I am very much an advocate for buying pieces that you know you're going to wear over and over again as opposed to wearing once and then moving on from. But if you are a person that wears something once and then you're wanting to move on from it, knowing what happens to it next is just as important even when you buy it. We educate customers on sustainable fashion practices, encouraging them to prioritize longevity and versatility in their wardrobe. For example, for clients that buy the full collection, we offer styling consultations and closet audits, helping our clients assess how many looks they can get out of the pieces, extending their lifespan.

TIFFANY: We'd love to hear about a moment when you felt particularly proud of Nikki Green's impact, whether it's in terms of sustainability achievements, customer feedback, or community engagement.

DOMINIQUE: One standout moment was our collaboration with a school in Africa, providing sustainable uniforms for students in need, about 2 weeks ago. The school has been open for about 10 years, but the students there have only ever had two uniforms. Christian brought the uniforms for over 100 kids, and the kids were just so happy.  Seeing firsthand the joy and gratitude the students had reaffirmed the positive impact we can make with Nikki Green, even beyond fashion, I am really proud of that. 

TIFFANY: Fashion often intersects with culture and identity. How does Nikki Green celebrate diversity, and how do you ensure that your brand is inclusive and accessible to people from all walks of life?

DOMINIQUE: Nikki Green celebrates diversity by offering inclusive sizing and unique designs that resonate with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Our collections cater to various lifestyles and occasions, ensuring representation and accessibility for all. I connect and work with a lot of people from various cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life and I try to bring this through the designs. Personally, being an entrepreneur, artist, performer, and traveler, the fact that I can pick something from my line for just about any occasion, I feel like we are at a place where we can satisfy different people who are in different spaces.

TIFFANY: Fashion is often seen as an industry that's slow to change. How do you navigate the balance between staying true to Nikki Green's values and keeping up with evolving trends and consumer demands?

DOMINIQUE: We are very much pushing against the ‘norm’ and I feel like the more well known we become, the more industry will recognize and probably challenge us because we are going against the grain in a few different ways. I hope as we gain traction in the market about who we are, what we are about, we can help progress the movement that is promoting positive change.

We are very much pushing against the ‘norm’ and I feel like the more well known we become, the more industry will recognize and probably challenge us because we are going against the grain in a few different ways. I hope as we gain traction in the market about who we are, what we are about, we can help progress the movement that is promoting positive change.

TIFFANY: Sustainability and luxury aren't always seen as compatible concepts in the fashion world. How do you challenge this perception through Nikki Green, and what do you hope to communicate to other luxury brands about the potential for sustainability?

DOMINIQUE: Believe it or not, I actually feel like sustainability and luxury in the sense of manufacturing are inherently more aligned than not  because the luxury industry is not producing on the scale of fast fashion. So in that regard, because they produce less volume overall, I feel like they are aligned from a sustainable standpoint, and I don’t shy away from pointing this out. In fact, I've seen from some designers, some innovation as far as leather alternatives. Alexander mcqueen walked a vegan leather bag this past season on the runway. We've got Stella McCartney who all of her bags use leather alternatives. Then Balenciaga came out with a vegan alternative leather bag. So the fact that they're using handbags as an entry point into having vegan leather be a part of their collection in general,  is amazing to see. I can only hope the response is great so that they will be drawn to integrate and introduce it into the clothing. I see it happening.

TIFFANY: The fashion industry has a significant environmental footprint. What steps does Nikki Green take to minimize its environmental impact, from production to packaging and beyond?

DOMINIQUE: Nikki Green prioritizes local production in LA to minimize transportation emissions and support ethical manufacturing practices. We source eco-friendly materials and explore sustainable alternatives for packaging, with an aim to reduce waste throughout our supply chain.

TIFFANY: Collaboration is key in the creative process. Can you share a bit about your collaboration process with suppliers and manufacturers to ensure that Nikki Green's high standards for sustainability are met?

DOMINIQUE: So one of our secret weapons, which is not so much a secret is Christian's design assistant, Alice. Alice has been in the industry for around 30 years. She has amazing relationships and connections we tap into and because she's been in the industry so long, especially in the couture space and luxury construction space. Now that she is familiar with sustainability and the goals she's able to put the two together. Alice is phenomenal in negotiating with suppliers and manufacturers, ensuring that materials and production methods align with Nikki Green's sustainability goals.

TIFFANY: Your collection features a range of pieces, from ready-to-wear to gowns and accessories. Do you have a favorite item or category within the Nikki Green line, and if so, what makes it special to you?

DOMINIQUE: Favorites are so hard! Most people would probably think it’s the green suit. It looks amazing, I've worn it more than once, it’s something that everyone loves, and gets pulled a lot for media. However, I would have to say the cropped tee. It’s easily overlooked, but a fave of mine probably because I designed the cat. So, the saying on it is ‘vegan pussy’ and an anime-inspired cat design. I see the cat as an anime version of me, it's got red with gold hair and it's sassy, but it's a crop tee.  With all the travel, it’s important to me to also be thinking about extremely comfortable items and I put a lot of time and creative energy into developing it. 

TIFFANY: Innovation plays a crucial role in sustainability. Are there any upcoming developments or technologies that you're particularly excited about integrating into future Nikki Green collections?

DOMINIQUE: Yes, one of our big accomplishments  is Olive leather - it is exactly what it sounds like. A vegan leather alternative made from Olive waste, we were presented with the opportunity to use this material, but it was not fabricated in a way that was usable for the application. We needed it for clothing so Alice and Christian spent a lot of time with the textile manufacturer on what we needed to change to make it usable. We're now using it for belts, for clothes and most likely explore it’s use in handbags. We’re excited to perfect it and bring it to market.

Yes, one of our big accomplishments  is Olive leather - it is exactly what it sounds like. A vegan leather alternative made from Olive waste, we were presented with the opportunity to use this material, but it was not fabricated in a way that was usable for the application. We needed it for clothing so Alice and Christian spent a lot of time with the textile manufacturer on what we needed to change to make it usable. We're now using it for belts, for clothes and most likely explore it’s use in handbags. We’re excited to perfect it and bring it to market.

TIFFANY: Beyond the fashion itself, Nikki Green also emphasizes compassionate living. How do you incorporate this philosophy into your brand's messaging and engagement with your audience?

DOMINIQUE: How I speak about my veganism is a ‘compassion mindset’ and because I am vegan, it is at the center of all of my brands, woven into the mission, core values, our operations and in the way we communicate our messaging.. A compassion mindset is the cornerstone of everything that I do. Compassion for the planet, compassion for animals, and compassion for myself.

TIFFANY: Building a brand requires resilience and perseverance. Can you share a moment from your journey with Nikki Green where you faced adversity or setbacks, and how did you overcome them?

DOMINIQUE: At the very early stages with Nikki Green, we really took our time with finding suitable partners for garment construction. There were some pivots and changes along the way to build key strategic relationships that we are really proud to have established and be in business with.

Sustainability is the center of all of our conversations, it comes naturally as a vegan founder, and will continue to be upheld at every stage, guiding all brand decisions and initiatives. We can easily get lost in all of the throes of business and whatever is going on but you just have to take a moment to realign with your mission statement, pivot if necessary, and then move forward.

TIFFANY: Representation matters, especially in industries like fashion. How does Nikki Green strive to amplify diverse voices and perspectives, both within the brand and in the broader fashion community?

DOMINIQUE: Nikki Green prioritizes diversity in its representation. We want to be sure that its models showcase a range of sizes and backgrounds because I believe that when all of the models look the same and you can't see yourself wearing them. The look book really aim’s to showcase the elegance and sophistication of Nikki Green's designs across a wide range of people.

TIFFANY: Your look book showcases the elegance and sophistication of Nikki Green's designs. Can you walk us through the creative process behind a photoshoot or campaign for the brand?

DOMINIQUE: The look book came together with a multi day shoot, across several locations. A lot of planning and effort went into trying to make it look like it was all shot in one place, to maintain the brand integrity, aesthetic continuity and  feel. It was a very well thought out process, and very exciting to see it all come together.

TIFFANY: Sustainability is often a journey rather than a destination. How do you envision Nikki Green evolving and adapting to new challenges and opportunities in the future?

DOMINIQUE: I think we just always have to remain flexible, but stay firm with prioritizing sustainability over trends. I am very meticulous with strategy and planning so being flexible can sometimes be a challenge but we always weigh our options when challenges or new decisions arise to ensure our plans are aligned with our core values and mission. 

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