An Interview with Nanette Lepore, Fashion Designer

An Interview with Nanette Lepore, Fashion Designer

An Interview with Nanette Lepore, Fashion Designer.

Was there a turning event in your youth, upbringing, or existence that inspired you to seek a profession in fashion?

I recognized I liked designing clothes at various points during my childhood, but it wasn’t until college that I understood I might be a fashion designer. From the age of ten to the start of high school, I was always sewing.

Every weekend, I would sew all day and all night. My parents had no clue I wasn’t sleeping since I was up until four o’clock in the morning, typically stitching in my room. Making clothes was one of my favorite activities. I had a professor in college who informed me about FIT (New York Institute of Technology), and I had no idea there was a fashion school I could afford until then. I graduated from FIT with an associate’s degree in fashion design after earning my bachelor’s degree in business. I’ll be eternally thankful to my professor for taking me under his wing and recommending FIT to me.

Please include any previous fashion design jobs you’ve done before beginning your own line.

Before starting my own brand, I worked for roughly 3-4 years and had a variety of jobs, each with its own set of challenges. It was challenging since fashion design jobs are tough to come by. In my first job, I sat in the middle of a closet, drawing.

After that, I went to a knitwear firm whose collection was created in China, and it was a nasty bunch (plenty of backstabbing), which is not at all like my company. After that, I went on to a job at a boutique, where I designed apparel in the basement, which taught me a lot.

I used to handle collections for her business and discounts for her customers, so I’m really good at it now. I’d accompany her on her purchasing excursions around Europe. In her shop, she stocked Claude Montana, Jean-Paul Gaultier,

and Moschino, and I got to view the insides of these showrooms as well as attend some wonderful events in Paris. In London, we shopped small lines, which gave me the confidence to start my own.

I discovered about all these little factories in the garment district, so I realized I could produce in New York, and I had no idea they were here the entire time. Please tell us about how you got started with your line and what your biggest obstacle was when you first started. For $500 a month, I rented a 500-square-foot shop in New York’s East Village. I had a partner, and we took out a $5,000 loan from each other.

Between a petrol station and a soup kitchen, we found ourselves. It was a slum. My recommendation to anybody just getting started is to stand very close to your client so you can observe what works and what doesn’t.

From retail, I soon transitioned into wholesale. We submitted an application and were approved into the Coterie. Our first season was incredible, with sales totaling $250,000. Our greatest issue was keeping the company viable in the absence of funds.

What advice would you provide to a budding fashion designer that is seeking to establish their own line?

To begin, think small. I believe that starting out in retail is much superior than starting out in wholesale since there are less markups. You can sell something that cost you $50 for $100 if you sell it directly to the consumer. Find a little store in your neighborhood and work there for a while to learn the ropes before venturing out into the big world.

What is the concept behind your design?

I’ve always wanted my clothes to stand out and have a distinct style so that they would stand out in a sea of garments on a sales floor. So, if I designed a white shirt, it has to have some distinctive trim or detailing to stand out from the crowd; it’s all about the finer things and ensuring a beautiful fit for my clients so they feel good in their clothes.

From the outset, you realize how crucial fit is. When Neiman Marcus told me I had to return 200 gowns because they didn’t fit the first time, I vowed it would never happen again.

Mistakes still occur, but not as often as they did when we were younger and trying to get by. However, you learn to recognize and respond to little warning signals in order to be more prepared.

What are your first steps in the design process?

Do you start with a theme or an idea, a silhouette, or a just found must-have fabric?
It begins by roughing in the prints and patterns, much like a painting. Slowly, the boards are assembled. It all begins with one or two prints, and then a color palette is created. We now ship once a month, so it’s an effort to come up with a really distinct group each month.

During the months leading up to the exhibitions, we put a lot of effort into trying out various styles and focusing on what the client really wants.

I prefer to push myself into situations where I’m not at ease or acquainted so that I can feel like I’m expanding what I like and what I believe my customers desire.

As a fashion designer, who has had the most effect on you?

I recall several wonderful ladies that were in my life when I was younger. As a kid, I was really impressionable. My mother’s fashion sense is something I recall well. She dared to be different and wore gorgeous outfits all of the time. My Aunt Sandra’s mother wore a chiffon leopard blouse, and I recall thinking she looked stunning.

A stylish lady may leave an indelible impression on you as a child. Sharon Stone, Blake Lively, Leighton Meester, Eva Longoria, Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and many more are among the celebrities you’ve dressed. The goal of each fashion designer’s profession is to attract a celebrity clientele.

What happened to you as this progressed?

Jennifer Lopez appeared on an MTV chat program wearing a shirt from one of our runway presentations, thanks to a stylist. On the show Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker donned our outfits. Celebrities wearing your goods generate a lot of publicity for you, which helps your brand grow.

Because I had to come up with a collection every month, I didn’t want it to distract me and lead me to lose concentration and productivity. However, a lot of it now comes as second nature.

Balancing these two worlds is a lot of fun. That is a rare chance for me. It’s always lovely to see a celebrity wearing something you never knew she owned in her personal life. Kelly Rutherford, an actress, has a habit of doing this.

What function does social media play in your brand’s marketing and keeping in touch with your customers?

We’re all quite new to social media, having just begun to engage in it in a significant manner in 2011. It travels quickly, and so do people.
It’s a quick-paced game.

Rather than attempting to make it about purchasing in my businesses, it’s more about exchanging thoughts and sentiments. It has enormous potential for growth, but you never know where it will go.

Every day, we go through our tweets. We’ll surprise someone who I believe will have a great time. We have a “Who Wore It Best” contest with a prize for the winner. I’m not sure whether it will help us establish a customer, but it’s a lot of fun.

How can you create clothing and accessories that are loyal to your style and vision while still being financially viable? Is there ever a time when there is a disagreement? There is a great deal of disagreement.

It’s difficult because you frequently take a risk and try something new, and the consumer loves it. However, you constantly tread carefully and wonder whether it’s OK to compromise a design in order to be more commercial.

I ask myself this question at least once a week, if not more often. Your risks may succeed at times, but they may not at other times.

Your clothes and accessories can be found in nine of your Nanette Lepore boutiques around the world, including locations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Chevy Chase, London, and Tokyo; specialty boutiques like Scoop and Olive and Bette’s; and department stores like Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales.

What advice would you offer to a budding fashion designer hitting the streets in search of their first retail account?

Because I had previously worked in retail, I knew exactly who I wanted to target when I started my collection. Make a list of your objectives. Examine the lines you’d want to be a part of. Don’t be fooled by the prices.

The lower the price, the greater the number of customers you’ll attract. People are hesitant to pay designer fees for a brand name they have never heard of. It’s quite uncommon for someone to suddenly find themselves in the designer pricing range.

My company took off once I altered my price to be more in line with the current world. I had been straddling the contemporary and designer worlds for a long time and it wasn’t working.

Try to heed the advice of those in your immediate vicinity and those whom you admire. Because they are open and prepared to explore new designers, Barneys is the first account for a lot of designers.

Take a number of road excursions with your clothing in the back of your vehicle and shop at the stores you wish to visit. You’ll need to be a little forceful and persistent while going door-to-door, but not too much so.

You can’t feel that going in with a suitcase to charm the shops is beneath you. Put your items on a website to attempt to sell them online, and be as creative as possible.
Your site is beautiful and welcoming!

Do you contribute significantly to its upkeep? When there is a significant change, we meet to discuss it, and they run everything by me. Everything that is placed up has my approval.

Despite the fact that I am not engaged in the actual practicalities of making it happen, the creative sense of the website is very important to me.

Surprisingly, 85 percent of your collection is made in New York City, and your design, patternmaking, manufacturing, and shipping divisions are all located at your Garment District design studio.

How can you keep your expenses low when you can’t immediately benefit from decreased labor costs by exporting your manufacturing activities to another country?

Asian factories aren’t much less expensive for a company my size. We’ve come up with pretty close to the same prices by producing here when we’ve counter-sourced a number of stuff.

We are often at the same cost by the time we create it in China and bring it here, paying all import charges and transportation. I’d rather have control over it and be able to maintain it and look at it on a daily basis.

I have greater quality, inventory management, the flexibility to turn around and refill someone who is selling well, and I can utilize higher-grade materials manufacturing here. That, to me, greatly surpasses any marginal cost differences that may occur if I were producing in China or India.
I am dissatisfied with whatever I produce there.

I never think the fit is as excellent as what we manufacture in New York, and I never think the fabric characteristics are as wonderful as what I can utilize working in New York. I import all of the Italian textiles while I work in New York since I use many of the same materials as the high-end designers.

We collaborate with Italian mills, then bring the cloth to New York to cut and sew. I’m unable to import Italian cloth into China since it is too expensive due to the many tariffs imposed by the Chinese government.

You initiated the “Safeguard the Garment Center” campaign in an attempt to save New York City’s Garment District, together with fashion designer Anna Sui and numerous other designers, organizations, and businesses.

What drew you to this project, and what remains to be done?

The Garment District was said to be on the verge of being relocated abroad. I couldn’t let it happen, so I realized I had to confront it. The manufacturers brought the little designers here, and we’ll lose them all the minute the factories collapse. Because of the large number of tiny American designers, the worldwide press and buyers flock to this city.

It is critical that we spread the news. The design community as a whole needs to become more involved. There is an ethical code in place here for giving back to the future while maintaining the Garment District. I’d want to leave a legacy for my daughter as well as future designers.

You’re married with a kid and operate your own fashion design enterprise. What’s the best way to keep everything in check?

I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job of balancing everything. I just make an effort to spend as much quality time as possible with my family. I make an effort to have meals with my daughter and speak about her day or play games with her. I try to be there first thing in the morning to prepare her breakfast and assist her in leaving the house.

With my sister and her children, as well as my father, we go on a lot of family vacations. Those were the days, as kids recall.

Please describe your ideal day.

Anywhere near water in Italy would be ideal for me to wake up. Capri or the Amalfi Coast are two great places to visit. I adore Italy, I adore being on a boat in Italy, I adore hiking down the hill in Capri to the beach club and then boating and swimming through the emerald grotto, and then getting back out of the boat and having a nice lunch with white wine and fresh fish and pasta,

and then hiking back up the hill to burn off the calories and jumping in the swimming pool at the top of the hill, and then taking a little nap to get ready to hike up the hill again for That’s the life I’ve always imagined for myself.