Nanette Lepore is one of the leading names in contemporary American fashion. The Ohio-born designer and FIT alum launched her eponymous line in New York with nothing more than a $5,000 loan from her father. The now international brand spans the U.S. to Asia and attracts tastemakers and celebrities from Michelle Obama to Blake Lively who seek Lepore’s signature gypset style, bold colors and evocative prints.
Did you ever feel like the small town girl in the big city?
Of course! I hadn’t even ridden a city bus or subway before I moved to New York.
What year did you launch your label?
I launched my line in 1993 in a tiny storefront in the East Village in New York City.
Was there a major turning point when you felt – OMG I’ve made it? When was it?
When I walked down the runway for the first time with my nine month old daughter in my arms. That’s when I realized I had everything.
How do you describe your brand’s aesthetic?
Fun! My brand is known for all the bold colors, evocative prints and signature silhouettes. I spend so much time on each item to making sure it is perfect for our customer.
In what way do your seasonal campaigns speak to your customer most?
In it’s attitude. Our woman is sexy and powerful, feminine and taken seriously. She’s the life of the party and the boss. Oh, and a little fantasy never hurt either.
Do you find your approach has drastically changed over the years or stayed the same?
Every year is different. I’m always trying to discover what my customer needs and give her fun solutions — whether she’s packing a suitcase or going to a fabulous party.
What are your efforts on behalf of saving the garment district? Do you think it can go back to what it used to be?
I’ve raised awareness about saving the Garment Center by speaking to as much press as possible and explaining the importance of preserving the local manufacturers. My staff and I have worked to organize rallies in the Garment Center to raise awareness. I’ve spent countless hours explaining my cause to Congressmen and Senators — I even visited the White House to speak with Michelle Obama’s Chief Of Staff. I truly believe the New York City Garment Center has the potential to thrive and grow; I can’t wait to see rolling racks on 7th Avenue again.
Who are some of the biggest supporters in this effort?
The CFDA and the press have been very supportive. The best show of support has been through thoughtful consumerism. It makes a huge difference when customers ask for products that are made in America.
What are you up to this summer?
I visited Paris with my daughter, Violet, and now I’m spending as much time as possible in the Hamptons.
Any favorite things to do during a New York summer?
I love to walk home from work, sit in an outdoor cafe, sip rosé and stay up late with my family.