By Diane Alter

Nisa 1

It is 6 a.m. on a very chilly Wednesday, and Nisa Mars Counter is leading a grueling boot camp class for a group of dedicated fitness enthusiasts. Nisa has been long been committed to fitness and all things healthy. Hyper-aware of the food she eats, where it comes from, the products used on her skin and hair, Nisa launched NisaFit, a fitness, wellness, health, and lifestyle business. As her passions grew, Nisa created Evolutionisa, which focuses on vegan food, information, and lifestyle. Soon after, Nisa Mars debuted to feature her distinctive designs, including this latest line of knit hats and ponchos.

Control of the buying, production, and distribution process was essential. Nisa also wanted to make sure everyone involved shared her values. She enlisted her mother-in-law, Betsy Ramsey, a fantastic knitter, to help bring her fashion creations to life. Nisa designs and Betsy knits. It is a wonderful bonding experience that has resulted in a burgeoning business. Living on Martha’s Vineyard since the age of three when her father sailed the family up from St. Croix, Nisa currently divides her time between Martha’s Vineyard and South America. Nisa took time out of her busy schedule to speak with Dressed MV.

Nisa 2DMV: How did a fitness fanatic get into selling fabulous and edgy ponchos and winter hats?
Nisa: I’ve been blessed to have a successful career as a trainer and lifestyle coach. In that work, I have trained all types of people to exercise well, eat clean, and to live surrounded by beauty. I am grateful to live and work in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Sometimes, this place (MV) can get a little cold for my liking … hence the knit hats and ponchos.

DMV: What is the creative process for each design start to finish?
Nisa: I get these ideas, and as I pursue them, there are often times when I can’t find that something special that I love or want, I will hunt for it with a determination bordering on psychosis. If I cannot find it, I will create it. Lately, I have been having a lot of fun pairing my colorful hand-knit hats with awesome handmade pompoms made with upcycled faux fur. My amazing friend in Canada makes them. She is wonderful.

Nisa 3DMV: Where do you get your materials (wool and faux fur for the pompoms).
Nisa: I have found farmers in Russia, Scotland, Ireland, and Peru, to name a few, who ethically treat and love their flocks. As a vegan, I need to stand behind the materials used in my designs. There is a lot of debate about what the term “vegan” constitutes. For me, it is the natural evolution of compassion for all living beings, which develops from a completely plant-based diet. I believe we can be a positive force in this world by voting with our attention and our wallets in support of that goal. I research endlessly and do my best to ethically source every single product I use.

DMV: Tell us about the coins you use to keep each pompom in place?
Nisa: They are vintage Indonesian one cent patina copper coins from the 1930s-1940s and have a Nederlandsch Indie inscription inside. The Dutch were in control of the Netherland East Indies until 1942. I am Dutch and was born in the West Indies. The coins are a fun little trademark and a nod to my heritage and childhood.

Nisa 4

Nisa 6 DMV: What are the most important components of the work you create and turn out?
Nisa: Integrity, compassion, and love.

DMV: What do your finished pieces aim to say?
Nisa: That compassion is beautiful.

DMV: Do you remember the feeling you had when you sold a piece to your first paying customer?
Nisa: I remember the first time I saw someone I didn’t know walking down Vineyard Haven’s Main Street in one of my designs. That was pretty cool.

DMV: What are your plans for the knit line?
Nisa: Well, I launched “Nisa Mars” as a creative outlet for all of my design whims. So, I limit the hats and ponchos I release each season. All are singular pieces and inspired by my gardens, flowers especially inspire me.

Nisa 5DMV: What fashion item are you obsessed with right now?
Nisa: Anything warm and cozy, usually with some sort of up-cycled faux fur. I’ve also always been obsessed with stacking gold rings. My favorite ring right now is an 18k gold incredible snake sculpture by Anthony Lent. His pieces are remarkable with incredible detail. I also have my eye on Hannah Carnegie’s new jewelry line. I love to support women with vision and talent.

DMV: Please finish the following. I am most particular about…
Nisa: Everything

DMV: Where can people find and buy your pieces?
Nisa: Everyone can find my ponchos and pom hawk winter hats at the
Greenroom in Vineyard Haven!

DMV: Any closing thoughts?
Nisa: I am very grateful to experience such an outpouring of love and support for this super fun “side hustle”. I am always pushing myself to create new and interesting projects that keep me engaged with my creativity and share my love of all things beautiful. Thank you so much for including me in this DMV holiday publication. I am honored.