For the next profile in our series of interviews with Hoyapreneurs, we talked style with Nora Gardner of her eponymous fashion brand.
1. What inspired you to launch your own clothing line after 6 years on Wall Street?
I could not find clothes to wear to work that were flattering and cute but also professional. I realized that there was a great need for more clothing options for working women; I enjoy designing and I have a very specific aesthetic that I like, so I decided that I would try to fill this need with my designs.
2. What is the core mission of your brand?
To empower women by being a clothing resource for work clothes that FIT. Our clothes are engineered to support a busy lifestyle.
3. What's been the biggest change from going from finance to design?
There are many differences and surprisingly many similarities. One aspect of this industry that I love is that there is so much to learn. I am constantly learning new skills as my brand grows, whereas in my last job, I felt that I really was an expert in my area. In my current role, I've learned everything from how to test fabrics, to which types of finishing stitches to use with a woven garment vs a knit, to how to negotiate with investors, to how to open a brick and mortar store in NYC...and so much more. I love the variety of my work.
4. Your line is made in NYC. Why did you choose to make things here at home? Is it a selling point of your brand given the new attention to Made in America?
There are many benefits to producing locally; we prefer to order our fabric in bulk and cut and sew in small batches as we need it. This allows us to keep our inventory low and quickly re-cut best sellers. It is more expensive to produce this way but we make up for it by not having to mark down our products. We also like to support the garment district! We take a lot of pride in the fact that we are creating work - and jobs - in NYC. Our customers love this aspect of our brand -- we have found that it is a major selling point.
5. There are a lot of Hoyas in the fashion world. What is it about Georgetown that you and so many other Hoyas wound up in fashion and design?
I can't speak for everyone but I left Georgetown with a great appreciation for the arts. Studying at the Villa helped with that! I also minored in studio art. I think Georgetown students are incredibly well-rounded and perhaps they are attracted to the creativity that the fashion world allows. Fashion is a good industry to be in if you are creative and also have great business sense; I think a lot of Hoyas have both!
6. What was your favorite class and/or professor during your time on the Hilltop?
Italian Cinema with Tina Fallani (this was at the Villa!), Oil Painting and Drawing with Professor Morrell, Philosophy of Action with Chauncey Maher, Multivariable Calculus with Professor Chang… these are a few favorites.
7. Has the Georgetown alumni network benefitted you in launching your eponymous brand?
The Georgetown network has been amazing; not only have I hosted many successful events with Georgetown groups, but I have also connected with investors and new customers thanks to Georgetown. I incredibly grateful for the support and the amazing community.
8. What's next for your brand? And how could GEA members further support your mission?
I would like to get the word out about the brand (and the website!) as well as my store in NYC - it is on 58th Street between Park and Madison! I truly believe it is a great resource for professional women - more people need to know about it!