Yvette Nekuda is a force of nature, harnessing design for many purposes, all steeped in Eastern European history, art and architecture. An immigrant from Prague, Czech Republic, Yvette journeyed from a home with of whom she has a complicated fondness, to the Netherlands, to eventually finding herself in Calgary. If you have an opportunity to experience first-hand her beauty and creativity – just take it!
Yvette is wearing the Rock Salt Robe.
Okay let’s do this – let’s imagine we are just chilling, a glass of something in our hands – and we are planning a trip to some fantastic place. But first what is your go-to beverage?
Definitely French 75 or a glass of Prosecco.
And now where are we headed Yvette? Why?
That’s a tough one as there are many places l would go back to… like Barcelona, for its crazy Gaudí architecture and Park Güell, with the ergonomic benches tiled with a mosaic of broken pieces. I pay great attention to the detail colours and beauty of each piece. The art museums and galleries. The hidden tapas bars waiting to be discovered, getting lost in the history of the city.
Now tell us about you – your accent is very cool and at first, we first thought you were Dutch.
I was born in Prague, Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), so I am a true Bohemian as Czech Republic includes Bohemia and Moravia, and a graduate from Art School in Prague.
Our country was under communist regime. We didn’t have freedom of speech, couldn’t travel anywhere outside of the Eastern Bloc without a special permit. There was no capitalism, all businesses were confiscated and belonged to the government. They forced people to join communist party and many people did in order to advance. My family did not, and that was a black mark on us - for our entire life. My grandparents lost all of their businesses and real estate in 1948. It is important to note that although our country was socialist it was ruled by communist party.
In 1968 our country tried to restore freedom, so called “socialism with a human face”, and that was the reason that our country then became occupied by the Soviet Union. I still remember the tanks and the soldiers running with guns. I was just 9 years old.
Our family defected in 1980 to Netherlands. In our absence we were sentenced to two years in jail for illegally leaving our country and all of our property was confiscated. I lived in Amsterdam for a year, waiting for a visa to Canada, while also recently married as well.
Yvette is wearing the Morroco Chemise.
Thank you for sharing Yvette, it must have been very difficult for your family. The journey to migrate from Europe to Canada resonates with us for many reasons. But we now know where the Dutch-ness comes from :)
So, you arrive in Canada, did you love your new home? Did you thrive?
My dad was an architect and the city of Calgary had been recommended to us by the Canadian ambassador in Holland, as it was a “boom town". So, my parents and my younger brother moved to Calgary and sponsored me and my (now ex) husband to move here as well. I didn’t know anything about Calgary and only moved here because of my family.
When l arrived in Canada in 1981, it was a shock coming from Europe and l did not speak a word of English. Therefore, it was impossible to get a job in my field, visual arts, design and graphic design, so I applied for a job as a Floral Designer. The problem was I didn’t know anything about flowers, so I relied on my design background to carve out a role for myself in that industry. A floral retail and production company later, I now teach a Floral Design Certificate Program at Mount Royal University for the past 12 years.
During the time when l owned my floral company, Holt Renfrew was among my clients and that’s how l got into fashion retail. I’ve now worked there part-time for 14 years.
But my creative love is making one of a kind handmade jewelry design – specifically necklaces. l work in my “mini" studio room at home – where I have drawers and boxes of beads, treasures and elements found on my travels. I always “hunt" for more interesting elements l can use in my jewelry, so this takes me to exotic locations and off the path markets and shops, and well I have become very good at negotiating too.
Your jewelry designs are just beautiful. As you have suggested they are a great pairing with HK – We’ve tried them out J. How can people find them, do they just contact you directly? Etsy?
It is mostly and currently word of mouth. I do have clients who collect my work as each piece is one of a kind. I am happy to show my collection to prospective clients and I am planning to open an Etsy online boutique soon, so I will let you know.
Beyond your ‘work’ what gets you up in the morning, how do you live your life, albeit in a prairie city like Calgary.
Ha ha...coffee gets me up! I like to be busy, work, family…especially with my 3 grandsons. I do crafts with the kids, love to read and sometimes just coming up with different interesting art and craft projects and pieces… at heart, I am a true designer.
As we interview you, it’s an early morning here in Santa Monica, the coffee is tasty – we are getting ready for a style reconnaissance trip. We love the style and vibe here. What city really inspires you?
There are many cities that l love. My inspiration comes from different places including being in nature. Of course, Prague my hometown is of great importance, but l am also very fond of Amsterdam where l lived for a year and I love the vibe and people there.
I have some experience with Eastern Europe – Budapest, Warsaw, Dubrovnik – beautiful cities, and in most cases heartbreaking history.
Yvette, we’ve had always loved your style and shopping with you is a blast – we can be super honest, and you are never offended. You’ve introduced us to some amazing brands like The Row, which we just love. We’ve introduced you to HK, what do you love about what we are doing at HK? What pieces have you invested in?
I love the simplicity of HK pieces and the fabrications. It’s great for travel as well as easily mixed with other designer pieces like The Row. My favorite piece is the long summer dress with pockets, the tunic as well as the robe. They are so easy to wear. All you need is a Nekuda Necklace to complete the look!
Right Yvette is wearing the Rock Salt Robe.
You are most infectious – I see people rally around you – what do you think that is? Your energy is super cool.
Ha! I always say what l think, and people appreciate that about me - my honesty, most of the time anyway!
How do you tap others – family and friends, clients – for your energy, creativity?
To be honest, I am usually the tapped one, that being said l think l always learn something new, from people, my students included. I am very observant, l notice “everything" and pay attention to every detail.
How do you characterize your style, and what is your most important style advice?
Luxurious casual chic. Work with your figure, just be comfortable. Don't worry about trends, wear what works best for you.
Well, l am often called the black and white Czech, so l am guessing the answer is… everything.
Did someone at some point take a chance on you and provided an opportunity that changed your life?
This one is hard to answer. As an immigrant, there have been numerous acts of kindness from many different people. For example, our friend in Holland helping us out when we arrived with a suitcase and money smuggled in the gas tank of my dad’s car (imagine selling your house in Czech) which equals a value of 2 one-way plane tickets to Canada, but you need 4. And l could go on and on, but l am afraid it would turn into a book.
Well, we look forward to that book Yvette, thank you for sharing with HK.