Transition of Style





Nicole Zizi on Queer Fashion & Streetwear

Nicole Zizi is a stylish sustainable streetwear designer and Haitian lesbian entrepreneur based in New York City.

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Nicole Zizi, founder of NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO and NICOLE ZÏZI HOME – a proud Black queer entrepreneur of Haitian descent – graces Transition of Style in this discussion about sustainability and gender-neutral designs as a driving force in her brand’s development. In this episode, she shares her journey, the role of trends in timing market entry, and the significance of brand values in product expansion.


Rocio Sanchez:  [00:00:00] Welcome to Transition of Style, the podcast about fashion identity and how queer leaders are disrupting the fashion industry today. I’m your host, Rocio Sanchez, and feel free to use any pronouns for me. I’m a digital marketer with a specialization in queer business and fashion. The LGBT community is no longer a footnote in the fashion industry, and today’s guest is proof of that. 

Rocio Sanchez: I am introducing now Nicole Zizi, who is the designer and founder of NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO a streetwear brand that specializes in sustainable materials. But we’re going to be talking today about so much more than that. Thank you so much for being here, 

Nicole Zizi: Hi, Rocio. Yes. Thank you for having me. 

Rocio Sanchez: I would love to hear more about your personal story. I would love to know more about how you developed your style and how does that relate to your personal journey about who you are [00:01:00] on the inside versus how people see you on the outside.

Nicole Zizi: I’ve always messed around with just wearing both men and women clothes. Even when I was a child, I’d wear both women and boy clothes. Just because I was really into street wear. Even as a kid, I I was into skateboarding, biking very like into outdoor stuff. So naturally I was drawn to more of the things that you would wear in those settings.

Nicole Zizi: Big supporter of Mishka during the time there was like Alife NYC. that was super popular. Stussy, of course, which they’re still around today, but. It was super vibrant around the time I was growing up, in middle school. So I always just wanted those things. And the coolest items were always in the men’s section to me, that I would personally like, they would be in the men’s section and I would just buy them.

Nicole Zizi: I mean, they were just t-shirts and at the time, nobody really cared if t-shirts were a men’s shirt or a woman’s shirt. I would just always grab things like that. And, as I got [00:02:00] older, you know, people would point out to me, oh, you’re more like a tomboy or something. I never really noticed it, but it was just something that just naturally happened where I would pick up boy stuff and wear it with girls jeans and, just naturally evolved from there.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, naturally evolved until eventually you ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology. what is the story behind you ending up at FIT?

Nicole Zizi: So originally I was at Parsons. I was studying at Parsons, in product design and, before me even going to a design school, I was already in the art industry in Miami. I was going between Miami and New York because my parents lived separated. So, as I got older, you know, I realized that. I was really into art.

Nicole Zizi: I was painting. I was doing art shows. I was in this collective called X Laced and we were doing this event called the Creative District and, to keep it short, I realized that I was really passionate about art and design, [00:03:00] but I really needed a platform or a school that would be able to teach me. And in Florida, the only way you would really learn about art is by going to like, a private school.

Nicole Zizi: And at the time, I was in a public school. So, I didn’t get the opportunity. But once I realized, hey, I have this ability and there is a possibility for me to continue to do this as a career, I applied to colleges and Pratt and Parsons were the 2. Ended up going to Parsons and at Parsons, I initially got into for communication design, but I quickly realized that I was into more of, like, building things in 3D, in real life. So, I moved into product design because I can mold it into not just fashion, but also like footwear. I like handbags and other things. Besides just, like, limiting myself to just apparel or clothing.

Nicole Zizi: So that’s how I landed in the product design. And then from there, Parsons, I was there for about 2 and a half years and it was just really [00:04:00] expensive at the time. And my family was experiencing a hardship. So I ended up leaving and studying through working for Erika Doering who was also a professor at Parsons. And then after 2 and a half years of working with her, I think I enrolled in some, like, curriculums, like, in between them, but in order for me to get back in school, I had to, get my transcripts and stuff. So that took a little while. But once I did get my transcripts, I went and I enrolled at Nassau College, studied interior design, graduated and then I transferred into FIT.

Rocio Sanchez: From my understanding, in this time and all this transition, you found the time to start NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO. So what’s the story behind that? And your connection to it? I could tell that there’s a lot of your personal style, your personal, like vision, your personal eye, when it comes to NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO style and designs.

Rocio Sanchez: So what’s the story behind how that started and how does that [00:05:00] relate to your own personal style?

Nicole Zizi: Naturally, like, designers tend to design with their own style in mind. So, of course, it will always be. There will always be an influence as I’m making things for the brand. NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO came about while I was at Parsons learning about sustainability and climate change and how fashion was, really involved in that.

Nicole Zizi: So really just felt called to developing something, whether it was in fashion and product industrial design. But what really stood out to me as something that I can really have an impact in was streetwear because of how impactful streetwear was to, or is until this day is, to Black culture and culture for people of color.

Nicole Zizi: And LGBTQ people. I felt like, I could create more of an impact versus like, doing like furniture design, Streetwear became something and I realized that fashion probably had more of a environmental impact than, like, [00:06:00] a made to order furniture brand.

Nicole Zizi: So, that’s really what drew me back to fashion, because there was many ways I could have went, because I’m passionate about design in general, but streetwear was the one that made the most sense to me in that way. And in terms of style, I always design, like, thinking about, how will this work for people of color, Black people, and LGBTQ people, like, I’m always thinking of inclusivity.

Nicole Zizi: Naturally, like, I don’t like for other people to feel left out. I don’t know, I felt like was just so much room to grow in fashion in terms of like, why is this jean jacket that’s a little bit more slim fit supposed to be for a woman? When at the same time, you hear about it all the time, how like celebrities will wear like women’s jeans, like men will wear the woman’s jeans because it just fits better or a woman will wear a male blazer because they just like how it looks boxy.

Nicole Zizi: And to me, that says more about, people are more interested [00:07:00] in the cut of a piece versus just like, oh, I want to wear something that says it’s woman’s because it says it’s woman’s. You know, or it’s men’s because it says it’s men’s. I think at that time, I didn’t really like how things were being labeled in fashion.

Nicole Zizi: I think there was so much more room for growth and those labels are really limiting, you know? And even just like me thinking about when I was a young kid. I never once thought about it, but as I got older, more people would bring it to me. Like, Oh, that’s a men’s jeans or that’s a woman’s jacket.

Nicole Zizi: Why are you wearing the two? It just didn’t make any sense to me. So, I think naturally I just was like, yeah, I don’t want to use any of those labels because I don’t even really abide by them anyways.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, there was another guest who is the CEO of Both& Apparel, which is like a gender free brand. He just emphasized so much on the importance of the cut and the form, how it falls on the body instead of this is women’s and this is men’s because there’s an assumption there [00:08:00] From my understanding of the fashion industry is that there’s a lot of standardization, right?

Rocio Sanchez: If you standardize as much as possible, then you can, like, manufacture on a bigger scale or whatever it might be, right? Obviously, it can be more complicated than that. So if you have a woman’s cut, then it’s… created to like emphasize the breasts or to emphasize the hips or to taper into the waist or something like that. Where often people in the LGBT community, people who don’t really adhere to the binary, or even people who just like don’t care, that understand that these labels are limiting, like you just said, they don’t even necessarily have to be non binary or whatnot. They just want something that can fit the way that they want. 

Rocio Sanchez: So I could tell, just anybody could tell if they go to NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO that the cut is very much, you can see that there’s a form to it And of course everybody’s body is different and proportions are different so people have to keep that in mind as well when they buy something. But it just goes to show the intentionality behind all of your [00:09:00] decisions of saying like, this is how it’s going to be cut.

Rocio Sanchez: I don’t want to put any label on it that’s going to limit it, that’s going to put it in this binary. Like what matters is the cut. 

Rocio Sanchez: So, I would love to just know about like more about your actual audience or your customers. Have you gotten feedback from your customers?

Rocio Sanchez: I’ve heard that, the fact that I don’t use model, like models on the product shots or having specific people wearing the clothing while it’s on the website, has helped with, removing the stereotype of who’s supposed to be wearing this. I’ve been doing that deliberately because, it’s easier to just say, get a crop jacket and be like, okay, this is a woman’s jacket because it’s cropped. I haven’t gotten much, but that is 1 of the only feedbacks that I’ve received. So why do you think people connect with NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO and your products?

Rocio Sanchez: I think people connect with NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO because it’s honest and real and what a lot of people have been [00:10:00] asking from brands. But they are very few that are able to actually tackle the topic of both street wear, sustainability, and gender neutral. And if they did, it was short lived.

Rocio Sanchez: I was, wondering, as you built out NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO, has there been any specific… Like one struggle that comes to mind? Of course, there could be so many, but what has been the biggest struggle as you as an entrepreneur or like specifically like a queer leader in fashion?

Rocio Sanchez: Has there been any limitations or even just access to capital, or it could be something as simple as decision fatigue, right? You have a thousand decisions to make a day. So it doesn’t have to be unique to being a queer leader, but do you have anything that comes to mind?

Nicole Zizi: Yeah, I mean, there’s, quite a few things, but, one of the biggest I find is like, a lack of representation of Black queer women in the professional industry. I think we severely lack [00:11:00] mentors, coaches, investors, like support system that we can really rely on. Because if you think about it, most Black queer business owners, the ones that are successful, like super successful, right now they’re super busy. They’re either super busy or they, they don’t even think about those type of things. Or maybe it hasn’t come up, that opportunity hasn’t come across. So, I wish that there was more of that support system for a Black queer woman. Of course, there is a, the few that do exist, like, fashion fair, Harlem Fashion Road, those do exist.

Nicole Zizi: But there needs to be more. I mean, there’s so many, there’s so many people like me that need support. I think that’s something that could definitely be developed. also the second, biggest struggle is like taking the business from made to New York and trying to produce things internationally as a sustainable company is super, super difficult, 

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah. So you have more of the, the [00:12:00] leadership growth or business leader growth side of things, mentorship, specifically to like the Black queer experience, which they are out there. Like there’s probably so many that more than we think. But we like to as in society or even the business world, like to say, ah, that’s so niche, who’s going to come up with that, but there are people out there and I mean. I could think of so many people that could fit the bill of a mentor or this, but they’re super busy, just like you said. 

Rocio Sanchez: So if anybody’s listening out there that has the resources to like, get a group together, make some sort of directory, that would be amazing. The only thing that comes to mind right now is the NGLCC, which is the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Rocio Sanchez: But that is like a LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and they do have like smaller groups within it for black and brown people. And even that could be slow moving and maybe not exactly what you’re looking for, you know, but it’s like the closest thing that I can hear.

Rocio Sanchez: So somebody out there has [00:13:00] got to make some more resources, put a group together, I think that that would be a good idea.

Rocio Sanchez: You had on the one side, the kind of leadership, mentorship struggle, which I think is completely reasonable that you feel that way because you have so much potential in growth yourself like you’ve already reached such potential. And then I could tell that you’re looking for that. And then on the other side, it’s just like the operations logistics side of it as a sustainable brand, You have your own values that you want to stay true to. That’s another theme that comes up a lot in this podcast which is, a lot of the business owners, especially for e-commerce brands, fashion clothing brands or accessories. They struggle a lot with maintaining their value system with not doing something exploitative to the earth, or to workers and people. So that has been, a big, theme. 

Rocio Sanchez: What has been your experience? Has it been really slow? Have you found something, like, something [00:14:00] promising?

Nicole Zizi: I’m in the process of finding something promising. I think from my experience, it’s mostly finding, not only just finding the partners, but it takes time to develop that relationship with the factories, at least in my experience. Even the ones that I’ve been working with in New York, it took me like three, four years in order to like, find one that fit and then be able to then make the samples to a level of quality that I felt was okay.

Nicole Zizi: This is good enough for the product. So it’s just, it’s a process and then, a lot of times, the international companies, they work at a different pace. It’s just like a growing, challenge of like finding the partners, developing the relationship and creating a product that is quality enough. Which can take time because, one of the goals for NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO is to be able to make accessible clothing and I think being able to have partners, not only in New [00:15:00] York, but also internationally would really help with achieving that goal.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, I really hope the best with that because I know that sustainability like that is something that is definitely a buzzword now. So a lot of people are talking the talk, but not walking the walk and, in order to walk the walk, and actually stay true to those values of sustainability, it takes time. You have to build those relationships and you have to trust. You trust the people that you’re working with. 

Rocio Sanchez: Considering everything that you just mentioned, what are the trends that you see developing in your industry? Whether it’s the leadership industry, like the business leader industry, or operations or logistics, shipping, anything like that.

Nicole Zizi: Oh, I’m noticing a lot of brands developing more lifestyle items and like lifestyle experiences. Especially for like the luxury market, like looking to tap into the consumers that maybe they don’t want to purchase a $700 jacket, but they will buy like a [00:16:00] $100 doormat or something or a $100 coffee cup.

Nicole Zizi: I see a lot of that happening right now, like luxury brands deciding they’re going to do like some home goods or random things like a basketball. And then, of course, you see more and more brands trying to tackle, like, the green initiative, by utilizing, like, those new recycled materials or, creating new systems. Which I’m a little bit a skeptic of, but, I mean, it’s there.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah. No, that’s that’s really interesting about the lifestyle ones. Yeah, I can tell because explains why, one of the reasons because you have other reasons, there’s also NICOLE ZÏZI HOME, right?

Nicole Zizi: Yeah ironically. I’ve been working on that brand for, like, since some time in the pandemic. But that’s something that I’ve, been wanting to do since before the fashion stuff, but now it is the perfect time to do it because of the trends going on right now. So, yeah.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, yeah, so you didn’t do it because it’s a trend, but now it’s the perfect time because it’s a trend to really dig into that. I would love [00:17:00] to also hear about what you think are the disruptions in the horizon. We’ve talked about the trends, but what about the disruptions? What do you think is coming up in the industry?

Nicole Zizi: For NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO, we are continuing to explore ways of like producing streetwear, but more with a gender neutral eye. I’m really, really excited about working with different pattern makers and just creatives in order to find new silhouettes, or maybe not new because nothing is new, but really exciting silhouettes that will work well in the gender neutral fashion.

Nicole Zizi: Super, super excited about that.

Rocio Sanchez: Yeah, the gender neutral aspect is what’s going to be disruptive. Is that what you think?

Nicole Zizi: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Nicole Zizi: I think it already is disrupting, right? And I think that it’s going to continue to do that. So I’m, I’m excited to see how you continue to, disrupt that idea. 

Rocio Sanchez: Well, thank you so much Nicole, for answering all these questions. I’m really excited to see where NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO goes from here. To wrap up the episode, I [00:18:00] usually ask guests to shout out somebody else in the community. Whether they are a black queer fashion icon or a queer icon, like whatever you want to shout out. So who is it and where can people find them?

Nicole Zizi: Shoutout to Nico Kartel. He is a dope photographer. Also a queer icon. Aaron Jackson, dope black photographer. Kwame Lee, dope black photographer. three of my favorite photographers right now.

Rocio Sanchez: Do they focus on like the fashion side of things? 

Nicole Zizi: Nico, he used to focus on fashion, but I think he’s, he’s gone more into just, making things with just a fine art eye. And Kwame, he does work in fashion. Aaron is more like a documentary, but he does also shoot fashion, at least he’s done it for me. He was the photographer for the first capsule collection. Kwame was the photographer for the second.

Rocio Sanchez: Okay, cool. [00:19:00] Thank you so much for being on the episode today. I would love for you to shout out like your website where people can find you. whatever you would like to shout out for yourself.

Nicole Zizi: Yeah, you can find the brand at NicoleZizi.Com or NicoleZiziStudio.Com and my Instagram is NicoleZizi. Feel free to follow me on either of those.

Rocio Sanchez: Great. Well, thank you so much. and I will see you around. Okay.

Rocio Sanchez: Transition of Style is brought to you by FC Podcasts, a division of Fashion Consort. Learn more about how FC Podcasts can help you with podcasting, from strategy and creation, to production and marketing at That’s Thank you FC Podcasts, for making Transition of Style possible. 

Rocio Sanchez: Now, back to the show.

Rocio Sanchez: Welcome back to Transition of Style. In this episode, we learned about the journey of [00:20:00] Nicole Zizi and her unique challenges and successes running a sustainable streetwear brand. One trend that we discussed was shifting markets. For an e-commerce brand, this could be as simple as going from streetwear to loungewear.

But for Nicole, this was about shifting into home goods. In April 2023, Rahul Malik wrote about the fashion to home goods pipeline for business of fashion, citing, lifestyle extensions can not only provide fashion brands with access to untapped revenue, but also boost brand equity and help grow customer lifetime value. 

So, what can we learn about shifting markets? From fashion to home goods, or perhaps to something else. Here’s what we can learn from Nicole Zizi’s endeavors. 

One, before launching into a new market, determine if it’s just because it’s a trend, or because you really want to do it. Notably, Nicole mentioned in our interview that she always wanted to break into home goods, even before it was a trend. [00:21:00] It’s no crime to try to reach a market simply because there’s a trend behind it.

This is business after all. But, revisiting your why can help you stay determined when market changes and world events can potentially shake your foundation. 

Two, make sure your brand values translate into your new product line. NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO prides itself in sustainability.

So it’s no surprise that when you visit the NICOLE ZÏZI HOME website, the same values of sustainability and innovation are just as evident on its missions webpage. Remember, our earlier business of fashion writer stated that this approach can really expand customer lifetime value. So make sure your customers remember the essence of your brand, even when the new products aren’t what they’re used to. 

Lastly, envision the life that your customers want and show that to them. It’s not about the clothes they wear anymore. It’s about the sheets that they slip into at night [00:22:00] before bed.

For NICOLE ZÏZI HOME, this translates in the product and lifestyle images you see on the website. It’s consistent with the style that you see on NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO, where you’ll find the fashion line instead. Whichever the case may be, shifting into a new product category, requires significant amounts of research and development, so don’t expect it to be an overnight launch. 

That’s it for this episode of Transition of Style. If you want to know what’s in store for the rest of the season, be sure to sign up to the newsletter on or follow on Instagram @TransitionofStyle. Thanks for listening. And I’ll see you next time.

About Nicole Zizi

Nicole Zizi is a multifaceted designer and entrepreneur, celebrated for her innovative work in sustainable streetwear through NICOLE ZÏZI STUDIO. She is a forward-thinker in gender-neutral fashion and has expanded her creative reach into home goods with NICOLE ZÏZI HOME. With an educational foundation from the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons School of Design, Zizi harnesses her expertise to disrupt the fashion industry with a keen eye on sustainability and inclusivity.


  • Rocio Sanchez, host and producer
  • Caitlin Whyte, audio engineer
  • Sophie Jacqueline, video editor

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