Lindsay Nichols – Fashion Designer
What work do you do?
I am a fashion designer for my clothing label, Lindsay Nicholas New York. I also run the business which includes e-commerce, marketing and retail.
When you were at school did you know what you wanted to do?
I knew I loved fashion and design, but I never thought of it as a career. I was never particularly entrepreneurial and I always wanted the security of having an employer.
How did you get started?
In my 30’s I decided that fashion design was really where my passion was, so at night I took classes at Parsons School of Design in NYC. I worked in advertising during the day and studied at night and on the weekends for more than two years. But I didn’t actually start my label for another 12 years, because I still wanted the security of working for someone else.
What makes you feel powerful at work?
Daily “wins” make me feel powerful. Being able to see that my efforts paid off and that people like my product makes all of the hard work worthwhile. It makes me feel confident and for me, confidence equals power.
What are you afraid of?
I am afraid of failing, but I also know that if you don’t fail from time to time, you didn’t try hard enough. If you never fail, it means you never took a risk, and if you don’t take a risk, you won’t grow your business or grow as a person. Failure isn’t the opposite of success; it’s part of the path to get there.
What was the biggest fail along the way? What lesson did you learn?
I started too big when I began my business. I wanted to look like a big established brand day one, so I made too much product and spent too much money. I learned that it’s okay to start small. I should have created one dress style, made 20 of them and sold them to my tribe (my girlfriends) and asked for feedback. I should have grown more slowly and then I would have more funding available now that I (sort of) know what I am doing.
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
This year I was accepted in to The Australian Fashion Council’s Curated incubator program and it’s given me such opportunity. I was told I probably wouldn’t get in before I applied, but I applied anyway and gave it my all. When I did my final presentation after making it through the first round, I nailed it. I felt strong, confident, smart and humorous. I knew my stuff! I really wanted it, but even if I hadn’t been accepted, I would have been proud of myself. Being accepted was pretty amazing, though.
Who opened doors for you and helped get to where you are today?
I have had many mentors over my life, and I can now tell when I work with someone as to whether or not they have had a mentor. There is a confidence and a bit of fearlessness when you have had someone who believes in you and helps you to be your best. I think if you work really hard (there is no substitute) and treat people around you well, good things will come to you and you will be noticed for the right reason…and opportunities will come.
What is one of the biggest advances in your industry over the past 5 years?
Technology has changed so much. Clothing brands today really work best when they are omni-channel, meaning that you can’t rely on one channel to sell your clothes, like a website or a store. You need have many points to reach and speak with your customer, and technology is finding new ways to do that every day. Customers want to be able to interact with your brand the way they want to, whether it’s on their phone, in your shop or while scrolling through social media. They define the experience.
What is one piece of advice you can give young girls thinking about pursuing a career in your industry?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but go get experience in another industry first (or maybe two). Work some place where you can learn business and marketing so you have those skills when you become a designer. It’s so important to understand how to run and market your business or you’ll be at a big disadvantage. It also gives you an opportunity to live the life you are designing for, so you know what your customer needs. You know what problems you solve for them.
What kind of work do women do in your industry?
There are some amazing women in the industry that I look up to and I think more and more, females are supporting other females to grow in the business. There are so many facets to fashion design and women are everywhere, from critical roles like pattern-making, textile design, showroom sales, merchandising, buying, to the c-suite. Women can do anything in this business.
When you had your first job, did you ever imagine you’d be doing what you do today?
Never! I was a cashier in a grocery store. I learned so much there though, everything from customer service to how to work in large teams effectively, and those skills are still with me today. Everything you do layers on to make you who you are in the future. And I strongly believe you should take as much pride in your “starter” jobs as you would in your final career. Aim to be the best you can be in your role, because it will leave you with a great feeling of satisfaction. I was a crazy good cashier J
In your wildest dreams, what would you love to do every single day and get paid for it?
What I do now, for sure – run a fashion business and design clothes! My favorite quote is from American writer Henry David Thoreau “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” If you do that, you can’t go wrong.