Nicole Kaminska specialises in Performance Sportswear Design, focusing on the development of innovative cooling materials. Because of the unique perspective of herself being a triathlete, her designs are focused on the human, looking at enhancing and supporting the physical as well as the mental performance of the athletes.
During her Masters in Royal College of Art she has closely worked and tested her designs with professional competing triathletes, conducting a series of interviews and testing sessions. With her previous background in Womenswear, she approaches the field of sportswear considering the nature of being female in a male-dominated sports industry and introduces an emotional, subtle view on performance sportswear.
Why did you decide you wanted to go into Sportswear design?
When I first joined Royal College of Art, my area of expertise was Womenswear. In the first term we could choose from a variety of design platforms and I chose ‘Sports as Identity’ led by Graeme Raeburn. It really opened my eyes to the beauty of sportswear and design innovation. Because of my experience as a triathlete, I found I have this unique perspective of having been an athlete that I can use to design products that make a difference in people’s lives.
What was the main inspiration for your graduate collection?
My main inspiration was a conversation with my triathlon coach Bogumil Gluszkowski from my hometown Poznan in Poland. His insights on training and himself being a professional athlete inspired me to create optimal designs tailored to the needs of professional triathletes. Based also on my own experiences in triathlon races, which usually take place in high temperatures, I decided to focus on developing innovative cooling designs that can enhance human performance and keep the athletes in an optimal state,where they can focus on being present in the moment and and move beyond their limits.
How easy did you find it to source fabrics for your designs?
Sourcing fabrics for this project has not been easy because of both lockdown and Brexit. I collaborated with a production studio in Poland to create my cooling fabrics for the triathlon suits and worked with local London and Polish manufacturers to source the rest of the fabrics for my collection.
What are your favourite parts about being a designer?
My favourite parts about being a designer are definitely the conversations with people I am designing the products for. For this collection I have interviewed both male and female triathletes in different age groups, both professional and amateur. Those conversations have proved invaluable to my design process. I also love the prototyping process, where through testing with the end users of the products, I get their feedback about what works and what still needs to be improved. As my coach beautifully summed up: For me both art and sport have this dimension where you can keep improving yourself infinitely.
What is your least favourite part about being a designer?
I don’t think there are any particular parts about being a designer that I dislike. Although the creative process can be sometimes exhausting and most of the time you need to make countless prototypes of one piece to finally achieve the desired effect I think we can learn much more from failures and that’s what makes being a designer a beautiful and rewarding experience.
Were there any other limitations you found not having access to the studio?
Yes, especially with arranging fittings and testing sessions with athletes, which was essential to my collection development.
Has sustainability influenced any of your designs and why?
In the Royal College of Art, we were taught to put sustainability in the forefront of our design thinking. I would say sustainability was one of the most important aspects when it came to developing my designs. My patterns were created to minimise the number of seams and fabric waste. I have also used digital design modelling softwares like Clo3D to minimise the physical fabric waste. Most of the fabrics I used for prototyping were upcycled from existing sportswear gear that was donated to me by my friends and athletes. I think in the times we are living now, it is extremely important to consider how what you are creating will impact the environment.
What strengths and skills do you think it takes to become a successful fashion designer?
It takes a lot of hard work and determination, as well as constant personal development and reflection. I think an important thing to realise is that collaborations with other creatives and experts in the field are essential to becoming a successful designer.
Your collections intend to create a dialogue. What conversation did you want to park here?
I wanted to approach the field of performance sportswear from a more emotional, female-centered perspective, considering the nature of being female in a male-dominated sports industry and open the conversation to why women’s sportswear gear is often overlooked by companies in terms of design quality and its response to female athletes’ needs.
Now that you’ve done your final collection, what are your next plans?
I would like to continue to work with professional athletes and create designs responding to their needs, as well as further develop my cooling materials and participate in a triathlon this September!
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