“Your insides are as important as your outsides. Never forget to celebrate what’s Beneeth.” That’s what Nikeisha Nelson writes on the tag of each of her originally designed and created pieces of clothing. Nelson, an Art & Design senior, knows how to spell — Beneeth is the name of her clothing line.
On track to graduate this spring, Nelson is already much more than a student. A freelance graphic designer and fashionista, she has a few gigs in Brooklyn starting in May. Luckily for Ann Arbor, she’s sticking around until then to finish her degree, put on a fashion show on April 10 and exhibit her work in one of the School of Art & Design’s galleries.
As a child, Nelson — whose parents are both from Jamaica — moved around a lot, and her designs display her ability to combine fashion influences from all over the world. A short-sleeve sweatshirt in the new collection displays her interpretation of a Nigerian Ife bronze head. The sculpture is made with ridges pulled out in the sweatshirt to make lines that cross over the left shoulder. Where the lines end on the back, she placed the number “27,000,000” — the estimated number of people forced into slavery all over the world today.
“I want things to be not too dense, but not too shallow,” Nelson said of her clothing.
One of Nelson’s personal favorite pieces is a pair of bright purple and yellow high waist shorts. The shorts feature details including material-covered buttons and a pull-away flap. On the inside of the flap is a Maya Angelou quote: “Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?” A small diamond image lies in the cuff of the shorts.
“I’m first a graphic designer, before a fashion designer,” said Nelson, who makes all of her own patterns starting with hand-drawn sketches.
She then scans images — photographs, prints from art books or handwritten messages — and uses Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to make a final design before screen-prints it onto plain fabrics like jersey.
“To succeed here, you really need to push down the wall to do what you want to do,” Nelson said.
She’s proven that she’s capable of doing exactly that, and one can only guess what she’ll be up to come May. But there’s no doubt that she’ll keep producing original creations and staying ahead of fashion trends while always staying true to what’s Beneeth.