By Gabrielle Hall
From hues of toffee, brown and gold that add a softness to the harsh dry of the Flinders Ranges to the brilliant blues of the Spencer Gulf, designer Nikki Atkinson creates with inspiration from her ‘backyard’.
From the family property in the Flinders Ranges and nearby Wilmington to Port Augusta, where she has opened a boutique selling her own Liv Sienne designs and fashion from other Australian designers, Nikki says it is easy to see beauty in even the harshest conditions.
“My inspiration comes currently from the drought conditions and the colours, I draw so much from the environment around me,” she says.
Nikki first launched into design and production after studying at Marleston TAFE, going on to co-own the successful Betrothed bridal boutique in Adelaide at just 26-years-old.
After eight years, love lured Nikki back to the country, when she married husband Dallas and moved to Wilmington in the Mid North. She continued made-to-measure couture and design from home for a number of years with her young children often playing at her feet while she sewed.
As a farmer’s wife and mother of three, Nikki says her passion for the fashion and design industry was bubbling away under the surface and in 2013 she decided to launch her Liv Sienne label and eventually a store in nearby Port Augusta.
It has not been easy, but Nikki has been determined to make it work and share her passion for design and creating, forever fortunate for what her ‘home’ brings to her work.
“The farm is my zen place – to go home at night and see the wildlife and hear the kookaburras really is very special, although I don’t slow down nearly enough to appreciate it at times,” she says.
“Life is busy, but I really needed some of me back. Designing and fashion is ‘me’ and so we make it work.
“When we’re shearing or crutching on the property, I have meals to prep before the kids go off to school, and it’s crazy and it’s busy but we make it work.”
As a woolgrower and also a farmer’s daughter who grew up on a grain, cattle and sheep farm at Buckleboo on Eyre Peninsula, wool and natural fibres have been an obvious choice for Nikki, who is fiercely supportive of Australian-made products.
“I’m very passionate about wool – it’s such an easy fibre to work with,” she says. “It is amazing, it’s pliable, you can do anything with it. It’s a long way from the scratchy, itchy fibre people associated with wool before we really discovered the beauty and versatility of fine wool.
“I probably shouldn’t be so emotionally attached to Australian-made – it is more expensive to create and produce in Australia – but if we don’t, we lose the skills of being able to use a sewing machine, thread a needle and pattern making, and I’m passionate about keeping those skills.”
Nikki’s return to the fashion industry has been well-supported, her designs popping up at country race meets, weddings, formals and even as far as New York where she was asked to design the “perfect dress” for DeVoe magazine’s Full Figured Fashion Week.
Having concentrated the last 12 months on developing the Liv Sienne brand and storefront in Port Augusta, Nikki is now ready to launch back into her real passion for design.
“This is going to be a big year, I’m really excited for what lies ahead,” she adds.
Feature image by Meridee Groves Photography.
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