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Designing Women: Rachel Sax Buckles Up

September 23, 2012

Rachel Sax of Nona E. Rose

Interview by Jennifer Markas, Photography by Amy Lee

Rachel Sax, designer and founder of Nona E. Rose, is a woman with an old soul. She channels an heir of sophistication, beauty and charm in everything she designs. Rachel’s line of vintage-inspired belts and accessories is aptly named after her three grandmothers who inspired her line with their integrity and class. Damsels in Design had the opportunity to catch up with her as she launched at Henri Bendel just a few weeks ago. Learn how Rachel buckled down to make her vision and passion a reality.

DID: What were you doing before launching Nona E. Rose? Why did you start your own company? What was your “aha!” moment?
RS: I had been working in the fashion industry for 3 years when I officially started Nona E. Rose, but it existed in my imagination for years prior. I studied apparel design in college and during my senior year, I realized that my favorite part of designing my senior thesis collection was accessorizing it. The leather & satin belts and headbands I made and shoes that I reupholstered inspired me more than the actual dresses. I loved how a simple leather piece could change the whole look or feel of an ensemble. From there Nona E Rose grew organically, making pieces for myself or friends, then my first collection, my first trunk show, …etc!

DID:  How do you manage all of your daily to-do’s? Have you adopted morning/evening rituals to help you get through the day? If so, which ones have had the greatest impact on your career?
RS: Getting started was the hardest part, especially since I’ve done this while maintaining a 9-5 job. When I began, I set aside Wednesday nights. I would never make plans on Wednesday and having that one whole evening per week made a huge difference. I make lists (lots of them). And try to get to the Garment District as much as I can. The design aspect of NER is a continuous process. If I see something that inspires me,  I start working with it even if it’s not for the current season so the collections evolve over time.

DID: Where do you get your motivation from? What drives your passion?
RS: To succeed in this industry, self-motivation is key. I have to attribute my ability to self-motivate to my dad. If he taught us one thing growing up it was that no one makes your success for you. You have to accomplish for yourself.  I’ve been very blessed with a wonderful education and amazing opportunities and I intend on making the most of both.

DID: How do you measure success?
RS: How I measure success changes daily. I used to set benchmarks, getting into a new store,  selling a certain amount of pieces. Now, I find that once you hit one mark, the next soon presents itself. For the moment, if I see a customer looking and feeling great in one of my pieces, I consider the project a success.

DID: Do you have a set office style? What advice for aspiring designers can you share about dressing for success in front of clients or buyers?
RS: Number one, always wear your work. You never know who you will run into, especially in New York! My style is very feminine, but casual and comfortable so my “office style” is usually a simple outfit with GREAT accessories.  Since I am a major part of the brand, I try to represent it well at all times.

Nona E. Rose

DID: If you could travel back in time and offer yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
RS: Trust your instincts and get started! I spent so much time and energy worrying if starting a business was worth it or the right decision or if people would want to even buy it! I wish I had jumped in earlier and channeled that energy toward the product.

DID: Name three skills that helped get you where you are today. Name one you’re working to improve.
RS: Self-motivation, genuine appreciation and determination. I’m working on trusting my own instincts. The fashion industry can be intimidating and you have to learn to stick your guns. If you think a style won’t work or piece won’t sell trust yourself first.

DID: How do you boost your confidence at/for work?
RS: I do a few things to keep on my game: I keep killer iPod playlists and Pandora stations for all occasions, celebrate great meetings, and I use lots of keepsakes as décor in my workspace. Whether its encouraging cards and thank you notes from customers, the first publication that interviewed me (Thistle and Clover Diaries), my first big check from a major department store, or pictures of my family and friends that have supported me along the way. I also have the biggest sweet tooth in Downtown Manhattan so I keep candy and chocolate around. Lots of it.

DID: If there is one thing you could change about the industry you’re in what would it be?
RS: I would open more lines of communication between designers, buyers and the press. I always tell people designing is the easy part. Getting in front of people to sell or write about your line is the real work!

DID: Where do you picture Nona E. Rose one year from now?
RS: I would love to start doing more one of a kind pieces including Bridal. I would also love to get into more stores across the country. New York buyers have been so receptive of NER. I was recently picked up by a boutique in Washington D.C. (my hometown!) and I would love to expand the line to cities like Chicago, Miami, and LA. 

DID: How important is networking in your line of work? How has it helped you build Nona E. Rose?
RS: Networking is so incredibly important. My advice is never to miss an opportunity.  I could not have made NER what it is today without talking to people about everything from what metal caster to use to what vendors at the Brooklyn Flea to visit. You never know who you will meet in New York and what they will tell you. Talk to everyone you can to get advice and in return help others out when you can!
DID: Yes, we couldn’t agree more. It’s really about giving first and foremost. People will be more receptive to you and your product when you approach them with open arms, resources and solutions. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us, Rachel!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. ERHLA LAPINSKY CANTOR permalink
    September 25, 2012 1:34 pm

    That’s my grandaughter!!!!!…from a proud grandma

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