Yes, Yes Nanette
When asked to describe the inspiration behind her stunning use of color in her spring 2012 collection, Nanette Lepore seems to have conjured up the perfect image of life here in Southwest Florida. “We love the mix of hot neon colors with soft pastels, reminiscent of nature at its extremes: a powerful sunset, the ocean sparkling at dusk with flashes of lightning in the distance,” says the designer. New York–based, Lepore isn’t hemmed in at all by geography. In fact, she’s becoming a worldwide fashion force with boutiques opening around the globe. Everything she does seems inspired by her travels and her love of everything that is fun, feminine and flirtatious. It’s no wonder that Lepore, who produced her first couture look at the tender age of nine, is the go-to designer for young fashionistas like Blake Lively, Taylor Swift and Scarlett Johansson. Before her trip to Naples to present her latest collection at Saks Fifth Avenue, we checked in with the designer to talk about her love of color, what to wear now and how social media are transforming the way she connects with her customer. (Her Naples appearance at Saks is from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 12.)
Why did you decide to use such vibrant color in this collection?
I had so much fun working with the bold, beautiful colors with the collection. They’re so alive. With these colors, simple shapes can make a big statement. Simpler shapes and a more basic cut pop in color. It makes everything fun.
These clothes seems perfectly suited to the Florida customer. What do you love most about coming here?
There’s just something about the way the sun hits you, you feel silly wearing all black. It usually takes me a few days to get out of my dull colors and acclimate to brights. It’s been proven that people who get more sun are happier people. It’s true.
Your blog includes a lot about your design process and your life. Why is it important for you to share so much with your customer?
I like to share the fun parts of the creative process. Designing is glamorous, but it’s hard work. What happens behind the scenes is very personal. I like showing the creative stuff and things about my life with my family. (Husband Robert Savage is the brand’s president.) I also have a lot of photos on the blog because I’m fascinated with people’s photography. It’s all an eclectic mix of elements from my perspective and with my sense of aesthetics.
Do you use social media to connect with your customers?
We’re on Facebook and Twitter. This is the way you reach the 20-something customer. My core customer isn’t necessarily on Twitter, but the recent college graduate looking for something for her new job and the teenager looking for a prom dress are. It keeps me current. Social media are also more measurable than advertising. You can see how many fans or followers you have.
What’s your favorite new item for spring?
I’m drawn to the womanly silhouette and a real feminine figure right now. The pleated skirt is iconic-the way Sophia Loren and Marilyn Monroe wore it with wedges. I love that. I love it in navy with a hint of purple. It’s the new neutral.
You dress several hip, young celebrities. How do you connect with them? What does that type of exposure do for your business?
They find us or their stylist does. They become fans. I recently met Abigail Breslin when she came up to the showroom. She wore my neon yellow suit to a movie premiere, and the next day she made teenvogue.com’s best-dressed list. The picture was everywhere, which is really great for us.
You christened your line of luxury knitwear basics Oonagh, which is your daughter Violet’s middle name. Is she your muse?
We love the name because the double O’s are so beautiful. My daughter is 14 and has her own sense of style. When she says, “No, Mom, I don’t like that,” it’s crushing. Her taste is so cool and refined. She definitely inspires me.
In the past, your dresses have been very short. Have you considered adding a little extra fabric tucked into the hem so that those of us who can’t carry off a super leggy look can make some adjustments but still get the look?
A year ago we were doing too many minis, and we corrected that. For most women, there has to be a balance, so we’ve addressed that. Not to worry anymore.
How do you define luxury?
Having the ability to take personal time with your family. In the material sense, it’s a piece in cashmere that feels perfect on your body or the perfect, high-cut, two-piece bathing suit.
Are you planning to expand into other areas?
I’m working on some new licensing agreements. My handbags are going to be more integrated into the main line, and I’m working hard at building my shoe business—I’m a total shoe freak.
What’s next for you?
2012 is a big year for us. We’re opening a new 3,000-square-foot store in Tokyo and shops in China—Shanghai and Beijing. I’m also a guest judge on Project Runway All Stars, and I’m going to be on ABC Family’s new show about fashion, Jane by Design. It’s all very exciting.