“I tend to be more sweet than sexy sometimes,” says fashion designer Nanette Lepore, “but I think that’s shifting now.”
As long as Lepore alternates between these two moods, her fans will no doubt happily follow. Lepore has boutiques in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Las Vegas, Tokyo, and London. She stages consistently well-reviewed shows at Seventh on Sixth, has created two fragrances and a line of shoes and accessories, and has influential customers such as Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore, and Uma Thurman. Women’s Wear Daily estimated a wholesale volume of $63 million for her company, Robespierre, Inc., in 2005.
Lepore, an aspiring designer from age six, is involved in every aspect of creating her products, putting her stamp on each piece the company makes. But there’s more to the business than design, and Lepore pays close attention to all of it. Before coming to FIT for her 1983 degree in Fashion Design, she earned a bachelor’s in business administration, and she credits her art professor father with teaching her the value of thrift and practicality.
“Think small,” she advises would-be designers. “Think trade show first, not fashion show. Fashion shows are great, but you have to be able to ship the clothes.”