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Nanette Lepore Has Some Advice for Young Designers

Nanette Lepore

Image: WENN

The youth is the future of fashion but this industry is not an easy one to break into. With all the competition and scraping for funding, it can be daunting for a young designer looking to build a brand in this climate. Thankfully, the members of the fashion industry realize just how difficult it is to launch a successful line and we’ve seen many organizations use their dollars to help support the future of the industry. Last night, FIT raised $1.3 million for its Educational Development Fund at its annual gala, which will help provide support for FIT students, the future creatives and tastemakers of our industry. 

It ain’t easy being a young designer and everybody knows that, including designer Nanette Lepore, who was on hand for last night’s festivities. She cited financing and achieving brand recognition as some of the biggest challenges young designers face today. “It is a hugely crowded playing field, so I think it’s better to be really small and remember that your own time you have to value at like a penny an hour,” she told us. “When you start out, you have to realize that you’re not going to make any money and you’re going to have to work a couple of jobs or whatever it takes because you’re not going to make money in the beginning.”

But the rigors of having to get on your feet and establish a name should not make young designers, especially those based in New York City, forget the tremendous opportunity and access they have living here. “Remember how lucky you are that we have a garment center here in New York City and you can use the local factories. That is key,” she said. Lepore also stressed that designers must not lose sight of perfecting their craft or give in to the fanfare of runway shows before their time comes.

“Remember that the more you learn about the technical aspects of design, the better off you are with patternmaking and sewing. Remember that the most important thing is not to have a fashion show, but to build your brand through trade shows or small shops or even flea markets before you risk everything and worry about a runway show.”

Fern Mallis, who was also in attendance last night, had her own advice for up-and-coming designers looking to get their foot in the door. “Be nice,” she said. “You only want to do business with and help people who are nice. Doesn’t matter how much talent you have because there is a lot of talent out there — nobody wants to work with people who are a pain in the butt.”