Nicole Richie, known for her former role on the 2003 reality television show The Simple Life, has worked her way into the fashion industry following the launch of her brand, House of Harlow 1960.
As a child, Richie engaged in competitive figure skating. “This was during the time that Nancy Kerrigan was in the Olympics and Vera Wang designed her Olympic dress,” she says. Inspired by Kerrigan’s outfit, Richie decided to create her own skating costumes, which sparked her love for fashion design.
“That was really my first introduction to the idea that you could come up with something in your head and then have it come to life about two weeks later.”
Now Richie spends most of her time creating ready-to-wear collections under the label House of Harlow 1960, which is sold through the online retailer Revolve.com. Within a year and a half of selling through the site, Richie’s brand is one of the most powerful – out of 600 competing brands.
“I have been working on this from the time I was 24. I really didn’t even know if it was something that I could turn into a business. I knew that I loved creating, but obviously, there’s more to it than that. Once I got into the business, I never looked back,” she says.
I recently spoke with Richie about how she made this career transition and established herself as a serious designer. Here she shares five lessons she has learnt in building her brand and managing motherhood along the way.
Create your own version of success
When Richie first started out as a designer she said that she felt a lot of pressure to prove herself so that others would take her seriously. “I am a serious designer. At the same time, I’m still me. I learnt very quickly that validation cannot come from someone else”. Richie says that the worst thing you can do in the fashion business is to make decisions based off another persons idea of what good looks like. “ There are many versions of success and everyone has to define this for themselves . For me, I want to be able to stand behind what I’m doing. Even if it’s a failure, it’s my failure and I can stand behind that,” she says.
Know where you customers are
Part of Richie’s success as a designer was her decision to collaborate with the online retailer, Revolve.com. “This business has changed. The world has changed over the past 10 years, which is how long I’ve been in this. For me this was a pretty simple decision because that’s where my customer is,” says Richie. Taking House of Harlow 1960 out of department stores was driven in part by Richie’s desire to market directly to women in their 20’s and 30’s. Now, Richie is planning to sell her footwear and small leather goods in the same way. “You have to know where your customers are. And online is where they are,” says Richie.
Make a personal connection
With a focus on developing her online business, Richie was able to better connect with her customers. “I definitely feel a personal connection to these women. I make a very strong effort to really understand them. I want to know who they are.” Richie says the online business focus meant that she could have a direct conversations with her customers and adapt her approach based on their ever-changing needs. “To watch that evolution, not only of your customer but of yourself, as a designer is actually very exciting,” she says.