Bold. Evocative. Classic. These three powerful words can only describe one iconic designer—Nanette Lepore. With a small loan from her father and just her talent to guide her, Lepore is now one of the leading names in American contemporary fashion. She works hard to empower women with her fashion and raise awareness and demand for American-made clothing.
We caught up with Lepore, a FIT alum, as she discussed the growing up in a crafty family, advice for aspiring designers and the golden age of American fashion.
CollegeFashionista: When did you realize you wanted to become a designer and create your own company?
Nanette Lepore: I had always loved making clothing. I jumped from a Spanish Social work major half way through my college career. I was studying Fashion Merchandising and I had a business professor tell me about the Fashion Institute of Technology. I couldn’t find a job that made me happy, so I made my own.
CF: What do you wish you had known about the fashion industry while you were starting your career?
NL: That it was a golden moment for American fashion. American fashion was about to explore into the international scene.
CF: How would you describe the Nanette Lepore customer?
NL: The quintessential Nanette Lepore customer is artistic and saavy. She loves colors and prints and has a lot of fun with fashion. She embodies feminist feminity.
CF: Is there a reoccurring source of inspiration that you turn to when designing a new collection each season?
NL: I have always been inspired by the idea of handcrafted in America. I grew [up] with a craft family; anything we needed, we made. My Italian bricklayer grandfather built every house we lived in and my Irish carpenter grandfather on the other site build all the furniture that lived in our house.
CF: What has been the most rewarding experience of your career so far?
NL: My first fashion show.
CF: From your experience, how has the fashion industry changed since starting your company?
NL: New York fashion has grown so much. There is a lot more opportunity to wokr in fashion then when I started.
CF: What advice would you give students looking to break into the fashion industry?
NL: If you love fashion, work for someone else first. You need to get a lot of experience under your belt before following your dream.
Photo credit: Jing Chen