Breaking the Fashion Rules: An Interview with the Founder of StartUp FASHION

“I wanted to create something that stuck its tongue out at the closed-off, rule ridden fashion industry,” says Nicole Giordano, founder of StartUp FASHION.

I can certainly relate to that.

Nicole, who runs an online community for independent designers, is my fellow “fashion nonconformist.”

We’re both self-proclaimed rule breakers in an industry that has become increasingly disconnected with every passing fashion week. And neither of us has hesitated to make that known.

For those reasons and others, I’m excited to introduce Nicole to you today.

Nicole created StartUp FASHION because she wanted a place for designers to be able to get support. She wanted a place where they could get their questions answered as they navigated the scary entrepreneurial path.

“I wanted to make sure that fashion makers all over the world knew that there was a different path, that they could build something their own way, whether traditional or not,” says Nicole.

Today, enrollment into the StartUp FASHION Community opens until January 30th. Nicole took some time to answer questions about the Community for those of you who are currently running businesses and may be interested in joining.

Tell us about the StartUp FASHION community. Who is it for?

It’s for independent fashion and accessories designers around the world.

But more specifically, it’s for independent designers who are working to build their fashion businesses their own way; our members are breaking the traditional fashion rules and creating businesses that complement their lifestyles.

They are approaching their business models and their problem solving with creativity and a willingness to be vulnerable. They are open to sharing their experiences and helping others just as much as they’re accepting help and learning.

Nicole Giordano, StartUp FASHIONWhat are some of the most valuable aspects of being in the the StartUp FASHION community?

The relationships that the designers build with one another is so incredibly inspiring. When I see a question posted and then other members swoop in and give advice, feedback, answers… I get so excited!

The other thing I love is the way we share the business guidance in the Community. It’s very step-by-step. We create workbooks around important business topics that guide the designers through the steps the need to take using leading questions and brainstorming writing.

When they complete the workbooks they have their next steps written right in front of them; they know what to do next. To me, that’s one of the hardest parts of running a business, knowing what you need to do before you even think about how you’re going to do it.  

Who are some of the designers currently enrolled in the community?

I wish I could share the stories of all of them! But two that pop into my mind are…

Brooklyn based handbag designer Shana Luther. I’ve watched Shana over the past 2 ½ years that she’s been a member build her brand and her business into something that’s just right for her. She’s really taken to heart that concept of building a business that complements her lifestyle rather than one that other think you’re “supposed” to build. She’s built a real name for herself by actively participating in pop-up shops and trunk shows, by consistently running her social media, and by creating a brand identity that truly resonates with what she knows about her “woman”.

Melbourne, Australia-based apparel and accessories brand Hokum. It’s been amazing to watch Penelope build her brand and business. Her designs are so impressive and her victories like securing an NYC showroom and being chosen as one of five finalists for the Tiffany & Co. National Designer Award have been so incredibly exciting to cheer on!

The approach that each of these brands is taking is different, but they’re both finding the success that they’ve defined for themselves.

What is your personal goal in creating StartUp FASHION?

  • To encourage makers and designers and creators to build something that makes them truly happy.
  • To remind them that they don’t need to follow the fashion rules, that they can have fashion businesses in whatever form they so choose.
  • To create a “home” for designers where they can find answers, and encouragement, and guidance, and support to help them reach their individual visions of success.

How can interested designers get involved?

We open up the Independent Designers Community twice a year for one week each time. And right now we’re open! But only until January 30th. So now’s the time to join us!

What is the best entrepreneurship book you’ve ever read?

Just one?! Shannon, that’s like asking me to pick my favorite food. Impossible. Well, I’m going to break the rules. Some of my favorites are:

The E Myth Revisited

Personality Not Included

Raving Fans

Start With Why

What are your favorite tools for running your own business?

I don’t know how I functioned before I started using Asana. It’s a free project management tool and it’s the reason I can sleep at night.

I also lean pretty heavily on Hootsuite, WordPress, and Google Docs.

Current obsession is…

Less consumption. I’ve started making the transition into a “capsule” closet, which I’m loving. It’s been interesting to see how that translates into my business efficiency. I no longer think too much about what I’m going to wear to meetings or events. I’ve got my well-made basics and then have fun with the jewelry and accessories that my mood is leaning toward that day.

Also, my French press.


To join StartUp FASHION for its 2017 enrollment period, find out more here. Enrollment closes on Monday, January 30th. [Update: enrollment is now closed.]