New York–After sending iridescent hologram leather handbags and shoes down her Fall 2013 runways, it was clear that Nanette Lepore is a gal who loves a bold accessory. Lucky for us, she’s delving deeper into them, amping up offerings and expanding her brand’s reach.
Known for her bold colors and prints, Lepore started her label in New York City in 1996 and has been a staunch supporter of protecting the Garment District ever since. Her feminine-yet-cool designs have been worn by Michelle Obama, Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift, Blake Lively and numerous other celebrities. Here, she chats with Accessories magazine about her growing accessories business
What was your first foray into accessories?
We started with shoes about seven years ago, and it was a long, slow learning process. We had consultants, then a licensee, then brought them in house, where they’ve been for a year. Now, for the first time, the shoes have entirely matched the aesthetic of my brand. I wear my own brand shoes every day! I know I’ve achieved my goal when I’m not shopping at shoe departments every Saturday. Every day it’s my new Nanette Lepore shoe of choice. Retail ranges: 198 to $398.
We started with a licensee four years ago but just brought the handbags in house as well. This fall, we’re launching our first collection of handbags fully done by my staff in house. It’s been really fun; we’re using printed hair calf, textured leather, embossed leathers, and some of the hologram leathers that we featured in our runway show. Retails range from $98 for accessories pieces like tech up to $598. We also recently invested in beautiful custom hardware and it really elevates the look of the bags. It helps us set ourselves apart and build our branded look.
How much do you incorporate your accessories into your runway shows? Are the pieces more theatrical?
I love using my accessories on the runways and showing our brand extensions. We will amp up the glam leathers for the show, which will sell at the higher end of the pricepoint spectrum, but we put the quieter bags out there too. We want to show people the range.
Not to play favorites, but which accessories do you love using most on the runways?
We’re really having fun with the belts, especially the wide and woven leathers [licensed to WCM]. We introduced belts this spring and it’s been nice to have that extra element that fits with the bags and shoes. Belts retail for $58 to $128 and that pricepoint allows consumers to get a little piece of the show in the form of a belt.
What is the process of designing apparel and accessories into a cohesive collection?
The accessories actually get designed first, which is a bit tricky. Factories are usually overseas and the leather items just take longer to produce so they get done first. Therefore, the clothing is kind of the final component. But you do keep it all in mind when designing. With shoes, for example, you must keep skirt lengths in mind. It’s all about the overall silhouette.
So it’s fun to put it all together on the runway?
When the shoes go on, it’s this excitement and anxiety at the same time. One show, they didn’t fit the models. We just do the best we can and make it happen.
What’s your newest accessory launch?
We just added a scarf line, which we’re also doing in house. We had a tiny sampling for spring but are showing the full line now for Fall. Materials include silk/cotton combos; silk/modal; wool/silk and some cashmere. These will be a bigger size, with some in wrap dimensions. From printed to embellished to knitted. The most exciting is that the prints match back to the ready-to-wear line. Retails: $98 to $198.
Nothing as of now, but we’d love to do sunglasses and jewelry. It’s the next logical jump and extension.There seems to be many opportunities for branded designer jewelry. There has been a discussion about the staying power of all the fast-fashion, non-branded lines. I have such fans from my clothing and there’s such excitement about my licenses, and I just love jewelry—from retro to more modern. I love layering on lots of fun pieces and playing with color.
Will you double-expose your accessories via outposts at retailers who carry your ready-to-wear?
Of course being able to double-outpost in a retailer is great, but not always possible. But since I have several of my own boutiques, I really look forward to being able to present my whole aesthetic, and brand extension, exactly as I would like. I have seven boutiques in America, two in Tokyo and three in China. Japan and China are through partners.