Nili Lotan: the breaker of fashion rules


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Nili Lotan does not organize fashion shows. She only tried one, years ago, after winning a magazine contest that paid the price. “I didn’t think it really contributed to my success,” the New York-based designer said, speaking to Vogue Business about her booming sexy-chic label of the same name.

Instead, she invested in retail early on, opening a store above her studio on Little Duane Street in Tribeca in 2006. “I opened a store with $ 20,000. This generated $ 25,000 in two months.

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In the noisy world of fashion, it is easy to imagine that famous brands are the most successful. Fashion shows and advertising budgets generate name recognition and social media discussions, and they are often seen as essential parts of building a fashion brand. However, Lotan’s Path suggests that there are clever ways to build a substantial fashion brand with tighter control over business strategy and spending.

Lotan, who expects his 12-year-old brand to generate $ 100 million in revenue in 2022, is an example of an entrepreneurial designer who has guided his eponymous brand out of instinct, often rejecting fashion industry standards. for marketing, production and brand positioning.

“She created her own journey,” says Daniella Vitale, former general manager of Barneys New York, who transported Nili Lotan to the retailer’s closure in 2020. While Barneys stocked most of the most famous fashion brands in world, Nili Lotan was her No.2 selling clothing brand after The Row, she says.

“She wasn’t interested in the fashion show, not interested in becoming a member of anything,” recalls Vitale, who is now Salvatore Ferragamo’s managing director for North America. “She didn’t care about the seasons. We had cashmere, leather, sheepskin 12 months a year and we sold it. She didn’t care about age. Her client is 65 and her client is 25. She had the guts to do it and a lot of designers don’t.

New York designer Nili Lotan.


Entrepreneurship and pricing

Lotan, 64, who grew up in Israel in a family of entrepreneurs (his father was a real estate developer), launched his brand in 2009 after working as chief designer for Ralph Lauren and Nautica. She began by offering six basic, raised pieces – three pants, a top and two jackets – made with fabric from a single Italian factory. The items were cut and sewn in New York and then piece dyed. This gave her a lot of flexibility with the colors she worked on, which made her designs difficult to copy.

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