Owner / Designer
Interviewed by Carol Grimes
Photograph by Tiffany Manning
Alexandra Ni was born in 1984 in the south of Soviet Kazakhstan to a Siberian-Korean family. She was raised in a creative environment by her mother and aunt, who were dressmakers, from whom she learned sharp precision in cutting and sewing, and the art of delicate care for fabrics.
The label Alexandra Ni was launched in Berlin in 2012, emphasizing the art couture approach. Alexandra Ni is a limited edition handmade line of women’s clothing, worn internationally in Paris, Zurich, Moscow, Oslo, London, and now in Northern Florida.
She was interviewed in October at her home studio in Riverside.
You have traveled and lived all over the world, so what brought you to Jacksonville?
I was born in Djambul, Kazakhstan, then part of the Soviet Union, so I am a long way from my birthplace! I met my husband, Bill Cook, in Berlin, and Bill brought me to Jacksonville. I had lived and traveled in twenty-nine countries by then, but never in the U.S. We came to Jacksonville in 2013 to help with his mother’s business and escape the cold winter of Berlin. We decided to get married and stay here.
What was your career path? How did you get your training?
Like many people in the creative fields, it was in a roundabout way. After graduation from St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts, majoring in History of World Cultures, I attended the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, studying Social Anthropology of Contemporary Society. I lived in Zurich, doing wealth management for Deutsche Bank for several years, but I soon found the work unfulfilling and decided to go in a different direction. I took some time off after severing with the bank to travel a bit and study photography. Then I applied to ESMOD (Ecole Superieure des Arts et Techniques de la Mode) in Berlin. My portfolio mainly consisted of photos of some designs my mother had made for me, but I did get in. I decided after finishing the first year to take independent courses and workshops in practical skills like drawing, draping, and design and construction. I also attended classes in London at Central St. Martins, whose graduates include designers like Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and others.