A Conversation with Spencer Nikosey

Designer & Entrepreneur

Photograph by John Liwag

Despite the name of his brand. Spencer Nikosey is very much living the life. Studying industrial design at Art Center in Pasadena, California, his talents have brought him to the current point of running a young and emerging brand. While KILLSPENCER mostly designs and manufactures bags, Nikosey was wearing a button-up that he had made himself. While speaking to him, he had said that he understands how most things in the world are made. The power in knowing that you can create anything you’d like is unlimited. While he lives his life. it’s apparent that he’s not only designing products for commerce — Nikosey is essentially designing his life. The KILLSPENCER workshop is a reflection of himself, as well. Divided into a few different sections: he has an area for what he aspires the brand to be (a wall of project specs from his mentors who work at Apple), an area for the people closest to him (a wall of polaroids to remember that relationships are everything), in addition to an elite team of craftsmen to make sure the company is consistently churning out well-made products. On top of these different elements in the workspace, he truly loves working with the people on his staff. Just by having multiple conversations with him, it’s apparent that he has an innovative way of thinking and is capable of achieving some very big things in the future. If I were you, I’d be paying attention to the brand in the years to come.

Have you always wanted to be a design entrepreneur?

I’ve always been designing. Making things. From very early on I was working with my hands. Building skate ramps, modifying my skateboard, building BMX jumps, making t-shirts, album art and poster for my band, and drawing almost every day. When I was studying graphic design at CCA in San Francisco I discovered a book Taschen put out on Philippe Starck at the SF MOMA, and instantly I fell in love with Industrial Design. So I transferred to Art Center and learned how to make products. I’m an artist at my core, but I think Design Entrepreneur more correctly explains how I work. I love making products and spend so much time working out every single detail, while also running a factory, a business with employees, and maintaining a vision for what is to come.

For those wanting to be creative entrepreneurs in the future. What advice would you give them from your experience with KILLSPENCER?

A quote from Steve Jobs says it all…. “love what you do, love what you make, and make it to perfection.” If you follow that rule of thumb, anything is possible. If owning and running a company was easy, everyone would be doing it. Running a business is an extremely challenging and complex organism. It’s much more than just designing a product. If you have the passion for what it is you are creating, then all those complexities become fun challenges.

Are there any restrictions on your creativity and the risks you take with your products due to the current state of the economy and being in the product industry?

There’s a lot I want to do. But I have to be smart with what I make and how I make it. For example, when I first started making money with the company, I developed an entire line of shoes, button-down shirts, jeans and even had my own socks woven for me.

I love designing and making everything but I learned really quickly that I need to focus on getting good at one thing. So I’m going to be working on mastering bags for the next 10 years or so.

How big of an effect does Los Angeles play for you creatively? Would you consider living/operating in any other city in the world?

I love LA’s diversity. The people are amazing, the city has so much to offer and from a manufacturing perspective, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I can literally make anything I want here and I’m doing what I set out to do. I would love to open a workshop in San Francisco and New York down the road but that won’t be for a while. I would also love to build a workshop in Japan. The culture and level of perfection are things I respect and want to learn more about.