It’s no secret that many of the people who work in fashion are exceptionally good-looking. The cult of street style has turned editors, photographers, and stylists alike into makeshift models—but what happens when the behind-the-scenes talent takes to a major runway? The answer can be found in Nikita M’Bouroukounda, an accessories designer who was among the fresh faces on Coach’s Fall show. At Henri Bendel, M’Bouroukounda spends her days creating eye-catching bags, and at Coach she looked elegant while modeling them. Though she isn’t the first designer to work on both sides of the camera, M’Bouroukounda’s journey from being scouted on the way to JFK to walking for one of the world’s biggest brands just might be Fashion Week’s best discovery story. Here, she shares the details.
On her fashionable CV
“The past several years of my life have been spent in the world of fashion. In 2013, I graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design where I studied accessory design. I then moved to New York, where I met my first boss, Diane von Furstenberg. I met her at a Bergdorf Goodman appearance; I showed up with a necklace I designed, and she asked me to come in with my portfolio to show her team. Soon after, I landed an accessory design job there.
I joined her team as concept research assistant and worked on the concepts for each season. During Fashion Week I actually dressed many of the models I walked with at the Coach show! Since my DVF days, I have been freelancing with the Henri Bendel handbag design team, and now modeling!”
On getting discovered
“At the beginning of January of this year, I was on the train home from the airport and Paulo Santos, now my agent at Ford Models, stopped me to give me his card and asked me to call him. A few days later I was signed by Ford and jumped straight into Fashion Week with nothing but a few digitals, and just walked my first big show for Coach!”
On the Coach show experience
“I loved working with the entire Coach team. Stuart Vevers, Karl Templer, the styling team, everyone was amazing! And most importantly, the woman who believed in me and gave me the opportunity with only a few digitals and no book—Ashley Brokaw!
The casting itself was exciting because it’s something I’ve never experienced before. It was nice going into it knowing already what happens behind the scenes during a show. I get excited to see what these designers—my peers—are currently working on.”
Her designer’s take on the trends
“Right now anything novelty is huge: embellishments, embroidery, and beading which is actually a specialty at Henri Bendel.”
On finding the balance
“I’ve been in the industry for quite a few years, so nothing has surprised me too much, though I have found it interesting being on the other side of fashion as a model. [Fashion Week has] been hectic—especially balancing my freelance design job and castings. It’s been interesting meeting various casting directors and getting a feel for their styles. Overall, it’s been an amazing experience and I appreciate the opportunity!”