images courtesy of Teen Vogue Fashion U and DKC News PR
Walking into the Teen Vogue's Fashion U designers' lounge, I was met with the warm and energetic countenance that is Nanette Lepore. Clearly a creative in every sense of the word, you could feel the burst of ideas and fantastical visuals that would come from a mind such as hers. As we sat down to begin our interview, we chatted first about her recent trip to Dubai. She teamed up with Fashion Forward and was so amazed at the vibrancy of the fashion industry there. Clearly, being inspired by the non-traditional dress of the women in Dubai. As she explained what she saw it took me back to that scene in Sex in The City 2 where the women in a back room took off their traditional dress and underneath were amazing luxury pieces in every color and texture. Nanette's experience in Dubai clearly impacted her and dare I say may impact collections to come?
Hear what else Nanette had to say about her process of creating and her love for mentorship!
Rai Mensah: What motivates you on a day to day to create?
Nanette Lepore: There is always something that I want to cover that I just haven't yet. I spend a lot of time figuring out what I need. So, as a woman a lot of it comes from what I need and how I want to express myself. I like to dress in a fantasy mode, some days are really lacey and vintage other days I feel very modern and sharp. Also in watching my daughter, who is now 15, I get inspired. She's had a strong fashion sense since she was 10. I spent a lot of years just biting my tongue [about what she chose to wear], but I've never tried to influence her.
Rai Mensah: Do you listen to fashion critics?
Nanette Lepore: When you go through the process of a fashion show and you work really hard, putting yourself at the brink of exhaustion, it is really hurtful when critics say something mean or judgmental. [The interesting thing is that] over the years some of the shows where I've had the worst criticisms have actually not mattered because, if the consumer loves you they love you. So no matter what [critics] say there is still a following if you are true to yourself. I can't dwell on [the criticism]. I give myself like a day and half to feel sorry for myself and then I keep working.
Rai Mensah: Why did you decide to get involved with Teen Vogue's Fashion University?
Nanette Lepore: I love to mentor. I like to talk about my story because it is such a real story, I started off and really worked from nothing. A lot of what I did is accessible to people and I feel like its inspirational, like the idea that we started as a small shop in the East Village between a gas station and a soup kitchen where my rent was $500.
Rai Mensah: What is one of the biggest lessons you've learned thus far?
Nanette Lepore: I've learned so many different lessons. One is that whatever can go wrong will, Murphy's Law is real. When we've had these large production disasters I always had a sixth sense about it but ignored it. So [a lesson I've learned is to] listen to your intuition because when something feels like its going wrong it usually is. Also, always put your best product out there. The main thing for me is not the fashion shows, it's once you get into the stores making sure your best product there is absolutely as perfect as you can make it. Thats when you know whether you're a star or not, when your clothing leaves the rack into the dressing room and goes up to the cashier. Thats the most important part of being a designer, it's that follow through.
I am always inspired by those who are open to sharing their stories, their successes, their failures and the tools they've learned to keep going in this industry. Nanette, did an amazing job doing just that!