Naomi Nicoleau, a 16-year-old Laurelton resident who aspires to work in the fashion industry, landed her first big project collaborating with Knicks basketball star Immanuel Quickley to design a special Knicks-inspired sneaker for charity.
Quickley wore the custom Nike Air Force Ones to the annual “Knicks Kicks and Cocktails” fundraising event held in February. The sneaker, which was autographed by Quickley, was auctioned for a final bid of $1,800 and will benefit the Garden of Dreams Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with MSG Entertainment and MSG Sports to bring life-changing opportunities to young people in need.
The Knicks team and alumni attended the event and guests had the opportunity to meet the team and enjoy various activities, all while wearing cocktail attire and their favorite sneakers. All net proceeds from the event, including ticket sales and auction sales, raised a total of over $225,000 to benefit the foundation.
Nicoleau, who is a student at Wadleigh Secondary School for Performing and Visual Arts in Harlem, collaborated with Brooklyn-based artist Tiffany B. Chanel to design the sneaker.
The Knicks, Garden of Dreams and Coinbase facilitated the collaboration between Nicoleau, who is affiliated with GDF through its partnership with SCAN-Harbor, a nonprofit youth and family services organization that provides a variety of integrated supports to the highest-risk children and families of Harlem, East Harlem and the South Bronx.
When asked about her collaboration with the Knicks, Nicoleau said it was an exciting first-time experience for her.
“This was my first big project, and I know it certainly won’t be the last one,” Nicoleau said.
Quickley met with both Nicoleau and Chanel early on in the process to discuss his personal style and an overall vision for the sneaker design. He then met Nicoleau and Chanel in person prior to the Knicks vs. Pelicans game at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 15.
“He wanted something true to New York. He wanted something true to what he plays for, the environment and the fans,” Nicoleau said. “He was very open and intrigued in what he liked. It was almost like we already met and felt like I was creating a shoe for a friend. He was excited to work with Tiffany and I, and he just seemed like he had fun doing it. Sometimes you don’t get that type of experience with people in such high places in life, and to see that it was really fun working with him.”
For two months, Nicoleau worked with Chanel in her Brooklyn studio designing a pair of white Nike Air Force Ones entailing the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and a basketball with splashes of the Knicks team colors of blue, orange, silver and white.
“The brainstorming process was almost like someone was in my own head finishing my sentences. It was just really fun,” Nicoleau said. “I was watching myself work in a different way and being able to understand someone who understood art like me.”
At the age of 13, Nicoleau realized that she wanted to pursue a career in the fashion industry.
“I’ve always been into fashion … watching my mom get dressed up to go out and looking at fashion commercials and magazines that she would bring home from Walgreens,” Nicoleau said. “I remember looking at the magazines and saying, ‘Oh, they should’ve put this on her,’ and that’s when I realized that fashion was something that I felt I knew how to do.”
Nicoleau’s dream is to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan and hopes to one day make her mark in the fashion industry. When she’s not busy studying, Nicoleau spends her time painting and creating original designs.