How designer Niko Nice’s Serbian roots helped build his collaborative workspace

Art director Nikola “Niko Nice” Crnobrnjahas worked on some amazing projects over the years, from directing a music video for Jazz Cartier to designing album packaging for Juicy J to art directing the crash test dummy-inspired branding for A$AP Rocky’sTesting. His latest project, a co-working / agency hybrid, has him swapping out his pens and sketchbooks for hammers and hard hats.

After emigrating from Dalmatia (a region in Croatia) to Canada when he was just five years old, Niko Nice has kept his families roots close to him. Inspired by how people live and work together in Serbian culture, Niko began building Moonbase, an agency / co-working hybrid with the goal of finding talent and fostering a culture of collaboration. After managing all of the construction work himself, he began another brand: Farba, a construction company that is already booking its own projects.

I talked to Niko Nice over email about his work, how being an immigrant motivates him, and what it’s like to literally build an agency from the ground up.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

How did you realize that design was what you wanted to do?

I naturally walked into it — picking up cameras, downloading software, and everything in between. Even as kids, we were making RuneScape clan sites and all that shit, putting random videos up on the early days of YouTube, asking if we can make a video for class projects instead of writing an essay.

What was it like in those early days in the industry?

Although a majority of the work I’ve done has been in the music industry, I don’t really feel like a part of any industry. Same with Moonbase. It was built in an open-ended manner that will be able to reflect all of our interests in due time. When I first started, though, I was just focused on being good and efficient, making sure I was challenging myself and getting my 10,000 hours.

How has your culture / family influenced your work?

In huge ways. My family, friends, and loved ones are the most important thing in the world to me. For those who don’t know, my background is Serbian. I’m from Dalmatia, to be specific. I came to Canada when I was five from a war-torn region that is barely discussed in history. Although I don’t recall the suffering myself, that was what my parents lived through, and, at the end of the day, I’m a warchild. Every new day is a blessing.

As I get older, I’m so much more appreciative of our unique culture that we’re privileged to further develop as Canadians. (Side note: so much of our new, still-internal projects at Moonbase are influenced by Balkan, Yugoslav, and Dalmatian elements. I’m very excited to share each one as time goes on.)

How has being an immigrant impacted your work and the way you navigate the industry?

It’s one of my biggest blessings. It’s very unfortunate what my family and many others in Niagara and around the world had to experience to become immigrants, but seeing my family and those around me make it out the mud — and being grateful for their lives — gives me more motivation than I can sometimes handle. I walked in the rubble of my childhood home. No one can really tell me shit, to be honest.

What is Moonbase?

Moonbase is a collaborative workspace and multimedia agency in its current form. We have two locations, both in Niagara (Niagara Falls and St. Catharines) in Ontario. Currently, we’re working on expanding the St. Catharines locations, finding talent, and launching a handful of sub-brands that will work alongside Moonbase. The ultimate goal is a Moonbase Colony, which is basically a micro-city.

How does it differ from regular co-working spaces?

That’s just the thing: it’s not a co-working space; it’s a collaborative workspace. All of our members bring unique skills to the table. They all operate as freelancers within Moonbase, but they are also able to contribute to various projects. We do have plans of opening a co-working space as well in the relatively near future.

What is Farba?

Farba is a design and build company that focuses on getting the most out of a physical space. Quick back story: when we were building Moonbase, we designed and built everything ourselves. The first location was super small, so we had to challenge ourselves to get the most out of the space. Although the second one is much bigger, we still did the same thing.

Ultimately, this gave us portfolio pieces for interior design and smart space construction. We’re just helping all of our friends build companies pretty much. Farba has already gotten a handful of jobs, and there’s more on the waiting list. Farba Job Site gear is in the works as well.

What have you learned from creating a physical project as large as this?

I’ve learned so much, bro, from teamwork to problem-solving and budgeting. We would work on digital projects from the morning to mid-afternoon, then get back to work on building Moonbase until like 2AM sometimes. When I stop and think about it, what we actually did in the last two to three years, it’s crazy. All future building will be automated through Farba, so I’m excited to just keep going. Nothing really happened that we didn’t expect, maybe some costs, but after we got started, we just went on “fuck it mode” and reinvested everything.

How did you first get involved with A$AP Rocky? What was that process like?

Robert Gallardo reached out to me on Twitter a few years back. He’s a dope creative, and he did a lot of work with Rocky and AWGE(Rocky’s creative agency). I worked on some stuff for the Tyler & Rocky tour in 2015 and then Rocky’s Coachella merch in 2016. That was super lit.

Gallardo hit me again last year for Testing. It was very rewarding working on an album at the scale, hella ups and downs. I’m still in touch with mostly everyone at AWGE, so you might see more stuff in the future. I definitely want to get Rocky in the studio with Teddy Walton again as well.

What’s your dream project, something you’d love to work on in the future?

Man, so much. I’ve been setting short- and long-term goals like crazy. Moonbase Colony is something that excites me a lot. I grew up with a lot of villager qualities. The way people lived back home was more pure, and we want to emulate that in a modern way with Colony. We’re going to get started in the next year or two and then keep adding for the rest of our lives.

There are a bunch of internal brands and companies we got down the pipeline as well, and a bunch will be launching relatively soon. I’m very excited for all of those. Moonbase and Farba gear are coming soon as well.

What does your creative process look like today? From start to finish.

I’m at the point where I’m confident enough in my abilities and taste to just think of something dope in my head and then make it. I like to make concept and brand boards as well. There are a bunch of people that work out of Moonbase now, too, so I love collaborating and just putting ideas on the table and refining them through experimenting and conversation.

Do you have a favorite tool that you use to create or to come up with ideas?

Sketches and quick notes recently have been the truth. The best ideas come so quick that if I don’t write it down right away, it’s gone. So I’ve been practicing sketching shit out ASAP, which changed the game.

What software do you use on a daily basis?

Photoshop. The whole Adobe Creative Suite is a must-have, though. Being able to use a lot of software has opened so many doors. Even if I’m not the best at all of them, I can express ideas and concepts, which is often a more powerful tool than being able to create it yourself.

Any artists you admire and want to shout out?

Shout out my brothers at Moonbase and Farba. Shout out Teddy Walton, Slim, and Aaron Bow. Teddy and Slim’s albums are on some other shit. I hope the world gets to hear them soon.


The Black Design Collective Pays Tribute to Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter

The Black Design Collective Pays Tribute to Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter

With more than 20 years in the fashion industry, Angela Dean, Kevan Hall, and TJ Walkercontinue to see a lack of support for black designers, which in turn hinders careers and erases the history of those who have made contributions. Dean has designed custom looks for celebrities such as Regina King, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna; Hall is the former creative director of Halston (the house that designed looks for Jacqueline Kennedy and Lauren Hutton); and Walkercofounded the iconic streetwear brand Cross Colours. So this year, they decided to take a step to fix the situation and launched the Black Design Collective. Their mission is to lift up and amplify the work of black fashion designers and black costume designers, by providing a platform for established designers to develop their brands globally and creating a mentorship program for aspiring designers.

Living up to its core initiative, the Black Fashion Collective on Saturday is honoring one of the greats in costume design, Ruth E. Carter, in the group’s first ceremony, in partnership with AT&T. The Academy Award–winning costume designer has been the wardrobe mastermind behind some of the most iconic black films to date: Do the Right ThingMalcolm XSelma, and, most recently, Black Panther, for which Carter took home an Oscar.

The event, which will take place at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, will also be the launch of the Black Design Collective’s scholarship fund, which was created to help young designers in their pursuit of higher education in the fields of fashion and costume design. One merit scholarship will be given to a costume-design student based on their GPA, portfolio, and the changes they would like to see in the world of fashion.

Teen Vogue spoke with the founders of the Black Design Collective about their mission and the importance of fostering a supportive community for aspiring black designers.

TV: Why start the Black Design Collective?
Kevan Hall: When we think about the great designers that so many people don’t know about, like Patrick Kelly and Willi Smith, these people who pushed the door open and broke the glass ceiling—how many people actually know about these designers today? We wanted to have a voice, first, to speak about our accomplishments and our successes, and then, as a second initiative, how can we empower the next generation of designers? So that’s how the Black Design Collective was founded.

Angela Dean: And bringing relevance in history, from a global platform and really wanting to reach out beyond America so that people can really understand how much creative black fashion design exists in the world.

__TV: In what ways do you plan to raise awareness around issues that black fashion designers face?__

TJ Walker: With the workshops and mentorship programs that we want to initiate within the organization. We want to educate the students and bring them on to mentor them, but not just mentor them while they’re with the organization, to also track their success and actually guide them through the industry and help them navigate some of the things you would typically face in the industry on your own.

TV: What does Ruth E. Carter’s Oscar win mean for the black design community?

KH: It’s an incredible accomplishment, when we think of Ruth’s body of work—over 40 films and television projects to her credit and 30-plus years in the industry. You know it meant a lot to her and it meant a lot to our community to be able to see a black woman who stayed focused in a career and worked her way to that stage.

AD: She gave inspiration to those that come through to know that all is possible. She’s worked tremendously hard up to this point with very little recognition. We actually came up with the idea to honor her a year or so prior to the win, and have been supporting her long before she won the Oscar.

TV: How have you seen the industry change for black professionals?KH: Things are starting to get better for us because we are now making people aware of the issues. As we begin to speak about it more, as we begin to amplify the talent of black designers and our contributions over the decades, we all will begin to see more of a change. We’re just starting to see a trickle now, and that’s why the Black Design Collective exists, to amplify our talent, to lift and promote our craft and our skills, and to empower our young people.

TJW: Social media has also given us a platform, making it an even playing field for us to actually identify who we are, what we are, and what we’re doing in current times, and, actually, from the past as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Take A Virtual Tour: Former Honolulu Home Of Fashion Designer Geoffrey Beene For Sale At $14M

uncaptioned image

The home’s three expansive stories hug the lower slopes of Diamond Head crater as they meet the water’s edge.


Tucked away on the front slopes of the Diamond Head landmark in Honolulu is a Malibu-style house once owned by one of America’s most iconic fashion designers, Geoffrey Beene. The luxurious home at 3311 Beach Road is on the market with a $14 million asking price.

You might have to pinch yourself to be sure the stunning surroundings aren’t a dream as you view the beachfront home’s three stories hugging the lower slopes of Diamond Head crater as they meet the water’s edge. Stepping foot inside the custom kiln-formed textured glass entry door will likely confirm your feelings that this impressive home is indeed a retreat from the outside world.

Built in 1988, the residence features four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms in 4,878 square feet of living space. Beene bought the property in 1992, and it was gifted to the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 2003. The home was sold in 2005 to its current owner, who undertook a major renovation in 2014, the result of which is a serene, Zen-like haven.

uncaptioned image

The handmade textured glass entry door was designed by a local artisan.


uncaptioned image

Famed American fashion designer Geoffrey Beene owned the residence from 1992 until 2003.


The house is built of glass, concrete and steel. Walls of glass maximize the breathtaking sunrise and unparalleled Pacific Ocean views that one can experience in almost every room. The south-facing beachfront home’s unique position captures views of the Diamond Head Lighthouse on the side of a cliff.

uncaptioned image

The home’s position provides views of the Diamond Head Lighthouse on the side of a cliff.


Julianna Garris and Patricia Choi of the Choi Group with Hawaii Life are co-listing agents for the property.

“The moment you walk in the house you see an expansive view of the ocean, and it’s just gorgeous,” said Garris.

uncaptioned image

Spacious living/dining room combo


uncaptioned image

Eat-in island, custom cabinetry and Thermador appliances lend a sleek backdrop in the kitchen.


uncaptioned image

The luxurious master bathroom includes floating vanities and walls covered in glass tiles.


The residence features smart home technology, a sound system, oceanside spa, central air-conditioning and a photovoltaic system to transform Hawaii’s abundant days of sunshine into energy.

“There are 16 outside cameras, and you can remotely control the house from anywhere in the world,” Garris said.

An elevator and stairs provide access to all three levels of the home where one can admire imported limestone that was used extensively indoors and out. The bathroom walls are finished in an iridescent glass tile that’s a blend of sea salt and beige hues. Subdued shades of sea salt green paint on the bedroom walls provide a restful ambience.

uncaptioned image

The master suite is a peaceful retreat.


uncaptioned image

Ground-floor guest bedroom


uncaptioned image

Oceanside Jacuzzi


The oversized garage can be accessed from Beach Road, its entrance tucked seamlessly into the home’s privacy wall.

“The wall creates a buffer between you and any public viewing,” said Garris. “When someone drives past, you can’t see into the house.”

A Jacuzzi and small, well-manicured yard are on the oceanside ground level.

The home is just steps from the white sandy beach and a few dozen paddle strokes away from some of Oahu’s most popular surf breaks. Honolulu’s business district and public and private schools are nearby.

uncaptioned image

Upper landing of the three-story home


The popular hilly five-mile loop around the base of Diamond Head takes you through some of Oahu’s most exclusive neighborhoods. Or you could hike to the peak of the Diamond Head Summit Trail from the entrance to Diamond Head State Park and Recreation Area, just five minutes away.

Fine dining, boutique and luxury retail shopping, nightlife and every possible convenience are available in Waikiki, less than two miles from the home’s front door and an easy stroll along the water’s edge of Kapiolani Park.

“Diamond Head is a coveted area,” said Garris. “Not many people could afford to buy in this area. And then to be on a beach with a beautiful sandy coastline, that’s pretty darn rare. It’s an opportunity for someone who wants the best of the best on this island.”


Leading Designer Calls For Sustainability To Be The Driver In Functional Fabric Innovation

uncaptioned image

Munich-based Performance Days is an event created especially for functional fabrics for sports and work clothing with the aim of giving textile manufacturers, suppliers and service providers the opportunity to present their products to decision-makers from almost every European active clothing and functional wear brand.


Performance clothing is central to the business of the outdoor recreation sector in Europe. According to the latest State of Trade Report from the European Outdoor Group, the apparel category represents 50% of the market’s value. Next month’s Performance Days Functional Fabrics Fairhas as its theme ‘The Beauty of Function’ and aims to show that the concept of beauty is also relevant to functional fabrics for the collections of summer 2021 and beyond.

Independent design professional Anne Prahl specializes in sustainable design innovation and her Expert Talk – ‘Designing Beauty: Considered Innovation for Performance Products’ – will address ‘what role sustainability plays within the context of beautiful functional fabrics and clothing’. She will be exploring the meaning of beauty and how it can be created through a combination of color, texture, fabric handle and garment construction before outlining some of the sustainability challenges this brings.

In an interview for Performance Days regarding the future design of performance clothing, she noted,

For the next few years, I expect to see lots of incremental innovation around fabrics, manufacturing and recycling technologies. We will also see the continuation of new consumption models, such as sharing, rental and reuse, which will have an impact on how functional clothing is designed and used. In response to growing consumer demand, so-called sustainable fabrics will become more ubiquitous and commercially viable.

The industry’s long-term future looks more disruptive, as we will see a new generation of bio-based materials that are lab-grown and engineered, as well as 100 % recyclable and biodegradable textiles fit for the circular economy. This move will also affect how fabrics are coloured and finished and clothes are manufactured so they can be fully recyclable or biodegradable at end-of-life. This will no doubt lead to highly unique and surprising aesthetics, silhouettes and styling.

Another important factor in designing and developing functional clothing in the future will be the use of digital and 3D tools and systems. Some of these tools, including digital material libraries, 3D design programs, virtual prototyping, digital and automated manufacture and digital sales, will provide exciting opportunities for designing and producing original and customised clothing.

In theory, performance requirements should not limit but inspire the design of functional clothing. Some designers may see performance requirements as an obstacle to their creative freedom but the beauty of functional clothing is that products are designed for a specific end-use, and therefore should become items that the consumer loves to wear for a long time to come, rather than throwing the item out after a couple of uses.”

Regarding the role of sustainability in apparel design, Prahl was clear about its future,

I have been working with many different companies, large and small, to find creative ways to make sustainability part of the design process. The first step is to have a clear vision on what sustainability means for the brand we are designing for. This vision needs to be inspiring and achievable and requires a good support system so that designers and developers can make the vision reality through educated choices.

In my opinion, we need to embed sustainability right into our design concepts. This can be done through training and inspiring designers on sustainable and circular design strategies and making sure that sustainability becomes part of the design. As designers, we also need to constantly push fabric suppliers and clothing manufacturers, in order to push the innovation agenda and having a wider selection of sustainable options to choose from in the future.”


Apple’s chief iPhone, iPad chip designer leaves the company

Apple's chief iPhone, iPad chip designer leaves the company

APPLE’S LONG-RUMOURED ARM-based desktop processors might not arrive as soon as first thought, as the firm’s lead chip designer has reportedly left the company.

CNET has the scoop and reports that Gerard Williams III, the Apple’s senior director in platform architecture, left the company in February after a nine-year stint in Cupertino. Williams joined the company in 2010 after a 12-year stint at ARM, and prior to that he was was design team lead at Texas Instruments.

The report doesn’t say why Williams left his position at Apple, and he’s yet to update his LinkedIn page, which reads: “Chief Architect for all Apple CPU and SOC development. For CPU, lead the Cyclone, Typhoon, Twister, Hurricane, Monsoon, and Vortex architecture work. And every day, I still work on very very cool stuff.”

While not a well-known name like Jony Ive or Philip Schiller, Williams – who is listed as an inventor on more than 60 Apple patents – lead the development of Apple’s custom processors from the A7, the firm’s first 64-bit processor which made its debut in 2013’s iPhone 5S, to the 7nm A12X used in Apple’s latest iPad Pro models.

According to CNET‘s report, Williams initially lead the design of the custom CPU cores for Apple’s chips, but more recently oversaw the layout of the various parts of the SoC, such as the GPU, CPU and memory, inside the company’s iDevices.

Williams’ departure comes potentially just months before Apple is expected to launch its first custom ARM-based Mac processors, with rumours claiming the firm is planning to move away from Intel chips in 2020.

The shift will, according to a Bloomberg reportbe part of a “multi-step transition” in a larger effort to make iOS devices and Macs “work more similarly and seamlessly together.”


Fyre Festival’s lead designer talks about branding a scam

We’re living in a cultural moment obsessed with scams. From the HBO documentary on Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos to Netflix and Hulu’s dueling documentaries on Fyre Festival, con artists have captured the popular imagination.

In the case of both Theranos and Fyre, branding played an important role. Holmes was able to make people believe in her fictional technology in part because of the strength of her personal brand coupled with the prestige of her industrial designer, Yves Béhar (who coincidentally has participated in a number of failed products beyond Theranos).

For Fyre, it was a lesser-known designer named Oren Aks, who played an instrumental role in convincing people that buying a ticket to Fyre would mean buying the chance to party in opulent Bahamas beach villas with Kendall Jenner. The festival’s glamorous brand, portrayed through its trailer and its Instagram feed, which was supported by a dozens of influencers like Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Baldwin, was the primary way most would-be attendees heard about the event. Of course, when these would-be festival-goers arrived on the island, there wasn’t enough food or shelter. The disaster earned the festival’s founder, Billy McFarland, six years in jail.

I sat down with Aks to talk about designing a brand for a product that didn’t exist, and whether he feels responsible for the role he played in convincing people to buy Fyre Festival tickets. The conversation underlines the role design can play in selling almost anything–and the ethical problems involved when it does.

[Image: courtesy Oren Aks]


The Fyre Festival’s immensely effective branding was the work of Aks, a graphic designer and cofounder at the social media agency Jerry Media, which was founded on the back of the popular Instagram account FuckJerry. After graduating from San Francisco’s Academy of Art University with degrees in advertising and graphic design, Aks worked at a few startups before getting a job as an editorial graphic designer at Thrillist. Soon after, he joined Jerry Media and quickly began to work with the company’s first client: Fyre.

“From the start, the brief wasn’t really a brief. It was just: This is our audience, this is what we’re trying to sell them,” he says.

[Image: courtesy Oren Aks]

Who was the target audience for this campaign? “You don’t have to be an influencer, but you’re this New Yorker kid who knows everything, goes out to all the new places, vacations frequently, ticks all the boxes of the wannabe influencer on Instagram,” Aks says. “It was for the influencers and for the wannabe influencers and their community. The package was that lifestyle just bottled up.”

Aks says that he created the brand out of a logo, colors, and a pile of stock assets.

“It just was given to me with the brand assets, like the colors. And that was kind of it: the logo, two colors, dark blue, and the orange. The generic crowd . . . it’s stock content, the video is stock, the music was actually a track that they didn’t have licensing to at the time. It was Missy Elliott and Kaytranada. I actually voiced that: We’re going to get flagged by Instagram. This isn’t going to even get past their algorithm. So we’ve got all these, like, random assets. Nothing was original and nothing was finalized. So I have this pile of nothing.”

The feed Aks created (which you can still scroll through on Fyre Festival’s official Instagram page) is a mix of orange and blue graphics with images of models and palm fronds, many of which feature an orange zig-zag or the festival’s flame logo. It’s clearly an advertisement for a utopian getaway (at least for straight men).

But Aks’s crowning achievement wasn’t the feed; it was the idea to pay dozens of influencers to post a solid orange square on Instagram at the same time as a way of announcing the festival.

[Image: courtesy Oren Aks]


The brand identity was so successful that Fyre sold out all its tickets, including those for the grandiose villas that would never be built. Aks doesn’t think that his branding influenced people’s emotions or that it’s what ultimately convinced people to buy tickets to Fyre. “I’m not doing market research and studying lab rats and how the mind works,” he says. “We’re literally just holed up in SoHo, a bunch of Instagram kids that are just fucking around.”

But he does admit that the brand was able to effectively conjure emotions–feelings of fear of missing out (FOMO), in particular:

“There were influencers going and it’s another emotional connection. It’s not a branding situation when you see the Jenners are going, and you’re like, it’s going to be awesome. That’s not really branding. It’s like an emotional thing. There’s a very fine line where the two meet. I think a lot of it was FOMO. That was a thing we did discuss as a selling point. It’s not something that is really branding. FOMO is again more on the emotional side. It’s its own thing . . .

So I think we tapped into emotional situations. Like, yeah we’re going to use these influencers because we know we want to tap into a good time or this photo because we want to invoke this vibe. We’re talking vibe, emotion. These are all separate from visuals. I think what people see is up to them.”

[Image: courtesy Oren Aks]


While Aks says he “would definitely have done it differently” if he had known where the Fyre Festival was headed, he stops short of taking any responsibility for the scam.

“I think that the easy, surface thing to say is to blame everybody involved but there’s people that just were coming to work. I was at [Jerry Media] at the time as a graphic designer. I had no idea what my boss was up to, what the financial situation between him and our client looked like. And when I did, I raised the alarm, being like, hey, we haven’t been paid a quarter million dollars in three months. As a cofounder, I have enough care in my own future in the company that those were things that I brought up.

So I brought things up to the best of my general knowledge of what I saw in front of me. I think that’s all I could do. A lot of people got screwed because of giving too much trust down in the the Bahamas or locally. It’s just one of those situations where it’s a human interaction where trust is a common factor, where you just give everybody you know that benefit and then nobody expects, like I said, a festival to crash and burn like this. Maybe now if we were talking about a new festival you might double check this because there was a festival once upon a time that sounded like this, and ended up like that . . .

I don’t like that I was involved in it. I would definitely have done it differently. I don’t like that people were affected locally in the Bahamas. I don’t like that people here that I know were affected. People were shook up. I don’t really think regretting it now makes sense because it’s too late. It’s more just looking back now, realizing what has happened, learning from it, and taking that to the next project, the next client, and sharing what I know.”

Aks later participated in the Hulu documentary about Fyre. He calls Netflix’s own documentary “a polished turd,” reasoning that it was produced by Jerry Media to make the company look good. He’s currently working on a memoir about his experiences at Jerry Media that’s supposed to illuminate what it was like to work on the festival, via his texts, Slack messages, and email threads. Despite Aks’s insistence that it wasn’t his visuals that convinced people to buy tickets, the fact that the marketing campaign went viral suggests that Fyre’s brand and advertising did sway people, convincing them to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on something that didn’t exist.

It also points to the enduring problem of what you might call vaporware (or a marketing campaign for a product that doesn’t really exist). It’s getting harder and harder for people to discern what is real and what is not. For most people who were scammed by the Fyre Festival, the festival’s existence was shaped solely by its social media feed and website–until they arrived in the Bahamas, and found that you can’t always believe what you see on Instagram.