In early January 2015, Nineteenth Amendment co-founders Amanda and Gemma sat down to record an interview. Their comments were so candid and insightful, we thought we’d share with all of you. Read the transcript below and join the conversation? Why do you do what you do #forfashion?
So let’s talk about Nineteenth Amendment: what inspired the business?
Amanda (A): I love fashion – it’s a part of me. I grew up in the industry – I was in the factory and showroom, and on the runway before I learned to speak. And I saw, over the years, that things weren’t working. The emergence of fast fashion, which brought efficiencies to the traditional manufacturing model, ended up hurting independent designers.
Having trained as a designer at Parsons, I started my own career behind the scenes at New York and London fashion weeks, and loved it…until I saw more and more emerging brands ultimately fail as outsourcing and fast fashion slowly began to destroy the industry I loved. So I set out to make a better place for fashion.
Why is fashion so important to you?
A: I was born into the fashion industry, and I was very shy growing up. Fashion was not only how I learned about the world, but also it was my voice. Fashion allowed me to express myself in ways I otherwise couldn’t.
Gemma (G): Amanda is a great example. Fashion is a universal language. Style is everyone’s unique accent. It allows us all express ourselves in a way nothing else does.
How do you view Nineteenth Amendment’s role?
G: For shoppers, we bring you access to the next big names in fashion. For designers, we help you grow a business in the smartest way possible. Overall, we are making fashion as smart and sustainable as possible with designer pre-sales that remove inventory risk and waste and give trendsetters a way to truly discover fashion before it is available anywhere else.
A: Nineteenth Amendment is THE place to shop unique, well made fashion from talented independent designers from around the world. We bring you into the atelier/studios of amazing designers and all you to shop their collections before production even begins. We’re making the entire fashion industry more inclusive, letting you decide the trends.
Where did the name Nineteenth Amendment come from?
G: An “amendment” is a change to an existing institution that no longer works. The Nineteenth Amendment in the US gave everyone the right to vote. We believe that each purchase is a vote for better fashion – aesthetically and efficiently.
How is Nineteenth Amendment involved in designers’ manufacturing processes?
A: By representing a number of designers, we can provide a constant stream of work to our partner manufacturers and ensure quality and timeliness to fulfillment of these designer pieces.
Our promise to designers is to provide a scalable, vetted, and quality assured manufacturing solution. We have digitized the production process for independent designers and micro manufacturers, allowing designers to secure the best rates, turn around time, and quality control possible.
Talk about your commitment to working with local manufacturing resources—why is that important?
G: We believe shopping can be more than just consumption. It’s creating. Creating yourself. Creating garments. Creating jobs. Creating great experiences between producers, suppliers, designers, and shoppers who pass a piece from one generation to the next. By producing in the US outside the traditional seasons, our designers can turn around quality designs, faster than you ever thought possible, and pay everyone involved in creating your garment a living wage.
What impact do you want to have on the fashion world?
G: The world is changing and we think the fashion world is too. We want to welcome the next generation of great fashion talent and allow our shoppers to help discover that talent and choose whose talent speaks the loudest.
A: We want to bring more diversity to the fashion world and give people more options for expressing their style, we want to give more brands a chance to exist and thrive. We want to make a better space for fashion.
What gets you excited about your work? Why does it matter?
G: We are making beautiful designs come to life and helping people make a living doing the things they love. Why wouldn’t you want to make the world more beautiful like that?
A: Knowing that what we do is giving everyone a means of expression, which is the ultimate form of freedom excites me. Giving shoppers wearable art, made by authentic, driven and talented designers, and made in an ethical way is what makes this pursuit worthwhile.
What was the first piece of great clothing you remember buying?
G: A black Dolce & Gabanna blazer with a black on black patterned shell that opened up to a beautiful flower lining. Beautifully constructed in Italy and lovingly purchased three seasons later at Filene’s Basement. But it is still my go-to black blazer. It was understated at a distance but so intricate in details and never goes out of fashion. This is what we look for in our designers and their designs.
A: A beaded and sequined printed red dress in London’s Camdentown. I bought it from a designer who had a single stall, with just a form and a sewing machine in it. The told me all about her creative process, what the piece meant, and gave me advice on how to style it. This was before I started sewing, when I was just painting, and at that point it made such sense that true fashion is as much of an artistic expression as her process was so similar to mine as I put a paint brush to a canvas. I always think of that designer, and what the dress meant to her and now means to me every time I wear it.
How would you describe your own personal style?
A: Depends on the day. A professor at Parsons once told me, “I envy women. They get to wake up in the morning, look into their closet and decide who they want to be that day.” I love to express myself each day. Form definitely triumphs over function. It’s all about the drama and how loudly I want to “speak” so I can never have enough unique statement pieces in my wardrobe.
What memory do you have that stands out most of an encounter with art or fashion that just stopped you in your tracks?
G: I think great fashion and great art evokes all your senses – not just sight. Its the experience you get when you are standing in front of a still life and you can smell the pear and reach out and touch its flesh. Or your are in front of a piece of clothing on a model and you are transported to the moment of this outfit and you just want to reach out and touch the beadwork or the fabric. It is fully encompassing for a few seconds and leaves you with a totally new memory of the experience.
So…why do you do what you do #forfashion?