Curriculum is more than just another online clothing retailer. It’s a destination where discerning shoppers with an eye for unique pieces come to experience fashion. It’s educational in a way, exposing shoppers to many small brands only available halfway around the world. Late last year I was lucky enough to meet up with the brains behind CurriculumShop.com, Nicki Podvalej, to discuss her retail philosophy, buying process, how she found her way into fashion, and so much more. Your crash course begins now.
LoveMirian: What is your background in fashion?
Nicki Podvalej: I had recently completed a journalism internship when I deciding between applying to Ryerson University’s Fashion Communication or Journalism programs. Through that internship I had done an article that got published in a large spread for the Toronto Star. Graduating high school and having already found success in journalism, I chose that direction.
Then I started going and I hated it. I hated the structure. I hated the lack of creativity. I ended up getting a communications job that I did for a few years but then I had an epiphany in my mid-twenties. I was like, “I have a good job, it pays very well, it’s fun, but I didn’t choose it. I kind of just fell into it. So do I continue doing this thing that will bring me money and corporate success? Or do I take some time to figure out what it is I’d love to do?”
Ever since then it had been an exploration until I opened Curriculum. I had done some fashion writing but I felt it was kind of one-dimensional. I wanted there to be more. I worked in retail planning where I gained a really analytical understanding of the fashion industry. That lead me to want to combine my interests into having an online shop.
LM: How do you define “independent and considered design”?
NP: All the brands we carry are quite small so the independence comes from the fact that they are small production companies. I aim to find new brands that don’t exist in North America yet, with 90% percent of brands we carry being exclusive to us here. It wasn’t done on purpose but once it happened it became a motivating factor for us. For it to be a place where you can’t find these brands easily elsewhere.
And in terms of considered design, I like to buy in a way that doesn’t perfectly fall in line with trends or what people are buying. Its a risky move that hopes to build a cult audience with those that enjoy differences in silhouette or fabrication.
LM: In addition to appreciating independent and considered design, do you see any like-minded interests that you and your customer share?
NP: In anything I do, I appreciate thoughtfulness. If I read a book, I want there to be a lesson, a philosophy, something more substantial. I don’t like things that are surface and easy. So I hope that the people interested in Curriculum are also the same in the decisions they make in life. Whether it’s the outfit they’re putting on, the book they’re reading, a person they’re speaking to or spending a lot of time with, I hope that there’s meaning behind it all. They’re not making decisions to fit in or just be happy or complacent.
LM: What is your buying process for the store?
NP: I spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s kind of embarrassing. I’m constantly screenshotting images. Any time I see a brand I love I make sure I don’t skip it. I have a library of things that I feel very passionately about. Then I sift through them and follow my gut. Maybe it’s my own taste that comes out and that’s what aligns everything.
LM: Is it modeled after your own personal style?
NP: No, I’m actually very basic. I feel comfortable in something that doesn’t scream anything. But for some reason I’m very attracted, maybe by the person I want to be, someone that walks down the street and you can’t stop staring at her or makes you think. It’s my goal, the perfect person would wear this stuff all the time.
Sitting in Nicki’s beautifully decorated Toronto home I couldn’t help but draw parallels between her calm, thoughtful nature and the aesthetic of the store. She was welcoming and warm. Soft-spoken but most definitely worth listening to. The syllabus for part two of our interview includes her inspirations, sharing advice, and reaffirming why we should all follow the natural navigation of our gut instinct.
This beautiful two piece set and many other treasures can be found at CurriculumShop.com.