The second Carissa Stastny set foot in Nanette Lepore’s Las Vegas store, she knew she wanted to work for the ultra-feminine designer. Little did the Colorado State University student know, one day she’d hold multiple positions with the brand and she’d even tie the knot in a Nanette Lepore wedding dress. But for Stastny, 28, securing a position at Nanette Lepore was anything but easy.
After studying Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University, Stastny knew that if she wanted to pursue a career in fashion, an internship was a must. “My only internship was with Nanette. She was the only one I applied for,” she confesses. “[But] I did work [for] a company, Ollie Sang, in Denver. I worked [there] while I was waiting to hear from Nanette. It was more volunteering than an internship. [They] literally worked out of [their] living room. As someone who had the goal of owning my own company one day, it was cool to see someone doing it.”
Stastny soon heard back from Nanette Lepore, which meant one thing: she’d have to pack up and move from Colorado to the fashion capital of the world, New York City. It was “scary, really scary,” she says, “but there was also a sense of excitement.” From January until May, Stastny lived in the New Yorker hotel (“which was literally across from the design office,” she says) as she cut her teeth as an intern.
As her internship came to an end, Stastny flew back to Colorado for graduation. “I loved the company and the city, so I was sad to leave. About a week after I got home I was antsy to come back. I had left my resume and some of my senior portfolio work with Nanette but never heard anything,” she says. Not to be deterred, Stastny reached out to her internship supervisor. “She told me Nanette would need to see a portfolio to get the ball rolling on being hired. So, I put together a portfolio and sent it to New York. [I] waited and heard nothing.”
Frustrated and eager to get back to New York City, Stastny reached out again to her supervisor. “I called back and she said Nanette didn’t see enough ‘Nanette’ quality [in] my portfolio and that it didn’t seem strong enough.” Instead of getting discouraged, Stastny got creative. “If at first you don’t succeed, try again!” she says as she reminisces about sending in a second portfolio, “I still heard nothing.”
That’s when Stastny’s out-of-the-box thinking came into play. “About a week later, I sent a floral printed box with a vintage shoe inside. The shoe had a note tied to it that read, ‘Just trying to get my foot in the door.’” But unfortunately, it didn’t warrant the response she had hoped, “Crickets. No response!”
Stastny wasn’t ready to give up just yet. She had excelled during her internship and knew that she’d make a great addition to the team. “[A week later] I sent the other shoe in a smiley-face printed box that said, ‘We aren’t a pair without the other.’ So cheese-ball but it worked! [Nanette] called me and I came in for an interview.”
It’s been almost seven years since Stastny began working for Nanette Lepore. “I started working in design as an assistant, then took a job in production doing the cut tickets for production, then moved back into design and was a factory assistant, then became a sample factory manager, then moved into in-house sample room manager, and then last summer [I] moved into my current position as Design Room Manager/ Merchandiser/ Designer at Nanette Lepore,” she says. Her mantra? “Don’t ever sit still. If you want something, make it happen.” Even if it means sacrificing a pair of vintage shoes.