For Oak Cliff-based fashion designer Nicole Musselman, it was a trip to Bangkok that changed the course of her life. The delicate fabrics and unique, unstructured handbags she saw there set into motion a fashion whirlwind that began with designing bags for friends and culminated with the launch of Koch, Musselman’s clothing line that is now carried worldwide. We recently caught up with this globetrotting fashionista to see what’s inspiring her now.

Where are you originally from?
I’m from California, but I went to high school in Ohio. When I came to Dallas for SMU, I loved it, but I thought to myself, “Can this weather be healthy?” But, I love the people, and I want to stay here.

How did Koch get its start?
Koch [Musselman’s mother’s maiden name] started when I returned from my trip to Bangkok and wanted to recreate the unstructured handbags everyone would carry in the markets. I began making accessories, small leather goods and hand-printed textiles, and it just took off from there. I asked a lot of questions to my friends in manufacturing, and Koch was born. It’s all about pushing forward and persevering.

As business increases, is Koch still made by domestic artisans?
Yes, all of the clothing is made in Texas, and we recently added a highly skilled group in L.A. who does sweaters; it’s a family company. The process begins with my drawings or paintings, and they bring them to life.

Oak Cliff-based fashion designer Nicole Musselman / Photo by Benjamin Hager

Which designers do you find inspiring?
Diane von Furstenberg. I love her “anything is possible” mentality toward women working and finding their way. I find her very inspiring.

Describe the woman who wears your clothing.
She can be in her 20s or in her 70s, but she wants to look put together, sexy but still pretty and be comfortable at the same time. I use flowing fabrics, so women can move around and get things done. This is functional clothing.

Your design studio recently relocated to Oak Cliff. How are you liking the new digs?
Loving it! I love the energy of the area. Being a California girl, I think Oak Cliff has kind of a beach town vibe mixed with the vibe of an NYC neighborhood. And the food is amazing.

What are you working on now?
I’m just finishing spring 2012, which was inspired by a trip to Udaipur, India. That is where James Bond’s “Octopussy” was filmed, and the collection is full of fish, octopuses and golden guns.

What’s next for you?
I would like Koch to continue evolving into a lifestyle brand, including jewelry and accessories. We’ll keep moving in that direction. I would love to have bikinis, or fun boots, and more one day.

And the ultimate goal?
To make beautiful pieces that are made well and resonate with people. If the quality is great, people are attracted to it.

• Find more information about Koch at