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Faces of Ram Nation: Nicole Freddo '18

Sarah O'Neill
There are many remarkable aspects of Tilton School, from the Grade Level Programming design to the top-notch athletics programs, but the students are what really make The Hill exceptional. They breathe life into this campus, illuminating it with their unique personalities and talents.
Although students may walk in with preconceived notions of what their “thing” is, other passions often arise during their time at Tilton. Nicole Freddo ‘18 is recognized by her peers, coaches and teachers for excelling on the basketball team. She helped the varsity girls snag a NEPSAC Class B Championship this year. The Marblehead, Massachusetts native is a beast on the court. But there’s a fun fact about Nicole that many people may not know: she’s an aspiring fashion designer who just launched her own line!

Named for her “alter-ego,” Nikki Swag is Nicole’s brainchild come to life. It’s a venture she’s executed all on her own. She’s produced prototypes, launched a website and started marketing the brand via social media, all within the past year! The theme is women’s empowerment, and she’s teamed up with an organization called MaMa Cash to support “women, girls, trans people and intersex people who fight for their rights.” Part of the proceeds from every sale go directly to MaMa Cash.

We sat down with Nicole to talk about her adventure into business, and to find out what the future holds for Nikki Swag.
What gave you the idea for your Nikki Swag line?
It started last year. I like design and the whole idea of owning something myself, having my own brand and marketing it. I worked on it all last year, and then I stopped because I didn’t have enough time during basketball season. I started back up recently, mostly because I want to do something on my own. It’s what I want to pursue in the future, so I think it’s important to start now.

How did you come up with the name?
Everyone at this school... I’m not even joking...all my friends call me “Nikki Swag.” So I was like, “alright, that’s really weird,” but everyone obviously remembers it and you want something that people can remember whether it’s weird or not. So, I decided to use that name for my line!

Great name. You could also use it was a rap name if you ever decide to go that route…
Yeah - Lil’ Nikki Swag!

Have you always been interested in fashion design?
Yeah - I was when I was little...I mean, I bet every kid was into something similar when they were little. I was always so busy with sports that no one ever really knew I liked art. I didn’t take classes that much but I’ve always done it in my free time. When I came to Tilton and took an art class; it led me to doing it more because I had people around me who were inspiring.

Are you currently taking a design class at Tilton?
I’m taking an art class right now, because I want to see if my designs are something I can work on in the future. Usually I do model sketches because I want my own fashion line...but also I wanted to come up with illustrations to put on the Nikki Swag designs. I started simple this first time around because I’ve never done it before, but I want to come up with original drawings I can incorporate into the line later.

What made you decide to incorporate women’s empowerment and donate to organizations surrounding women’s issues?
I did a lot of research. I looked up “Gen Z Businessman” Patrick Finnegan and was watching one of his videos; he was talking about our generation and how we like to give back a lot more than others. I like empowering women - I’m a woman, I liked the idea and decided to use it. I know a lot of other designers put work into it with their slogans and what not. I was also inspired by brands like Ivory Ella who donates proceeds from each sale to helping elephants.

How did you pick which organization to donate to?
I honestly didn’t know a lot about different women’s organizations, so I looked up the top ones and found one called MaMa Cash. I liked that their not just doing it in in the U.S. but in other countries as well. They do a lot of events, too. I contacted them to let them know I was creating my own brand and wanted to donate money. We talked back-and-forth about my sales and what I can do for them.

Is anyone helping you with the business side of things?
A little bit. My whole family is made up of business owners. My dad owns three pizza places and my mom is self-employed, so they’re all helping me a little bit. Mostly everything has been on my own. I’m pretty proud of myself! I didn’t know how to do anything of this and I just kind of did it.

You’re a senior! What’s your plan after graduating Tilton?
I think I’m going to keep going with this! I mean, it could be hit or miss, obviously, because it’s my first time. I want to play basketball in college, but wherever I go I’m going to take Nikki Swag with me. Probably build off of it if it’s successful, and if it’s not I’ll just start something new. It’s simple like that.

That’s awesome! There are a lot of great opportunities for you to expand this business in college…
Yeah, I’m excited! Recently, after I was done talking (about this business) at accepted student day, a lady came up to me to talk about the business and empowering women...she was a professor at Wake Forest University. I was so shook - it helped me feel like I was doing something right.

How are you marketing this brand?
I have an Instagram and a Facebook, plus my friends are really helpful. I have some prototype shirts and they’ve been posting pictures wearing them, which is really helpful. I don’t have a lot of different designs right now, so as soon as I make more I’ll up the marketing. I’ve been brainstorming ways to market without spending a ton of money….which is the hardest part. So, just little things right now.

Check out Nikki Swag and order your gear today!

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