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Industry Voices: Fashion with Nick Verreos

People often forget that fashion is a business, but the two integral parts—design and business—go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. While the business of fashion might often be complicated, tedious and some would certainly argue not sexy, it is necessary.

My journey with fashion began way back as a little boy growing up in Caracas, Venezuela, and later moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. I spent my youth sketching fashions, but it wasn’t my first career choice. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, but something different was calling to me.

After my graduation, I followed my personal policy of having no regrets, or—as I like to say—“No should’ve would’ve could’ve, just do it!” and decided to turn my hobby into a career path. Continuing my education at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, I enrolled as a fashion-design student and, over the years, developed an outline for success in the fashion industry.

Adhering to my “Ten Threads of Advice” has led to extraordinary opportunities. My success has been built through perseverance, abstaining from regret, remaining nice (but not too nice), giving 110 percent, learning from failure, studying fashion history, valuing my mentors, learning the business, remaining humble and, finally, ensuring my fiery passion for fashion design remains lit. After graduating from FIDM, my 15-year career path in the Los Angeles garment industry that has followed includes nearly every position, from design assistant to patternmaker for many different design companies, but there were many more opportunities that would come my way.

A short time before Sept. 11, my partner, David Paul, and I launched our fashion line, Nikolaki. Shortly thereafter, we joined a new, scrappy Southern California design group named C.L.A.D., the Coalition of Los Angeles Designers, and participated in its first-ever fashion show.

Besides our model’s outfit of Nikolaki hook-and-eye jeans and logo top, we styled her with a faux-hawk hairstyle and wrapped her hips in a hand-painted U.S.A. flag scarf as homage to what had just happened in New York City. A week later, as we raced from one cutter/grader/manufacturer to another in downtown L.A., an image on the newsstand caught my attention: It was our model in that Nikolaki outfit from the C.L.A.D. show. The image was on the cover of the latest edition of the California Apparel News, and with that I quietly murmured, “Ladies and gentlemen…we have arrived!”

Years have passed since that time, yet hard work and determination continue to produce extraordinary opportunities. I competed on and was later hired as a consulting producer for “Project Runway,” launched my sportswear line NV Nick Verreos, became co-chair of fashion design at FIDM, and dressed some of entertainment’s elite, including Katy Perry, Heidi Klum, Beyoncé and Carrie Underwood.

Since this column coincides with MAGIC, I thought I would speak a little about my experience with industry trade shows. While the shows can be a great boost to any business, they are also quite an investment in time, energy and money.

My advice to any young, up-and-coming business is to attend the event before actually attempting to invest in a booth. Walk the floor and network with other companies, see what you like and dislike, and decide what will work for your company. Gather as much information as possible to help your business succeed before laying out funds that might not end up serving your needs.

Once you decide to showcase your company, it is a great way to not only achieve new customers but also to meet fellow businesses that will help you grow. But, always understand that it is a relationship between you and the client.

Just because someone wants to place an order doesn’t mean it is the right store or customer for your company. I learned in my years showing our line at trade shows that writing the order is only the beginning. You must return back to your business and begin cultivating that relationship with each and every client that placed an order. Just as with personal relationships, some will succeed and some will fail miserably. It is the hard work you put into each partnership that will lead to success!