In Mykonos, naturally.
When it comes to *pinch me* moments, getting invited to Mykonos with Net-a-Porter and Zimmermann ranks pretty high for us. Even if it’s just about 36 hours, and even if it takes three flights to get there, and the first flight is delayed three hours and you find yourself crying in line at Heathrow begging anyone who will listen to just please get you there, you know those 36 hours will be unforgettable, and unimaginably great. And you know what? They were. From cruising on a yacht with Cov-alum Nicky Zimmermann and her sister/business partner Simone, not to mention Nicole Warne, Pandora Sykes, and Charlotte Groeneveld, to dancing barefoot with Gabrielle Hackworthy (Fashion Director at Porter) at Spilia and eating fresh sea urchin literally straight out of the ocean (it was all on our Snapchat, hopefully you experienced it with us?), it was a weekend to remember to say the least. All of this feasting and carrying on was in honor of Zimmermann’s 10 years on Net-a-Porter (officially “10 Years of Good Times with Net-a-porter and Zimmermann”). And to really make the event special, they created a capsule collection that’s exclusive to Net-a-Porter, which all guests in attendance wore. We took about 20 minutes out of our party-yacht-eat-party cycle (it’s a tough job we do, folks) to sit down with Nicky and Simone and chat about their brand, how to make working with your sibling...well, work, and the importance of social media.
How their roles in the company differ:
Simone: We have very different roles; Nicky is the creative director. She’s on everything that comes out of the business from a creative point of view. And my role is COO, so I am the do-er—the organizer of things. I manage production, human resources, and wholesale.
Nicky: As kids we had a vague plan [that we wanted to work together]. I went to design school, and finished when I was 21 and then decided I wanted to start my own business. I did it for a few years and then Simone came back from the UK, she’d been working over there, and at that point I was like, ‘Ok, I really need some help.’
How to make working with family work:
Nicky: For us, I think it was partly how we were brought up—apart from working in separate departments which is one suggestion. To have two creative people as sisters I think would be really difficult, and probably wouldn’t work out well for your business. We think the same in terms of our morals and what we want to do, and I think that really helps. We always know. We’ll just look at each other and know, ‘We’ll do this.’ It’s like a core values thing. If we have a fight, it will be over, ‘Where did you get your lunch because it looks better than mine! Why didn’t you get me my lunch!’ That will be our fight and we’ll laugh and everyone in the office will be like, ‘Ahh!’ And then it’ll be done [laughs].
How to grow from a local brand to a global one:
Nicky: Our growth has definitely been organic, I did start at Paddington markets in Australia. I started sewing the garments in my parent’s garage, driving into Paddington markets and selling them, and it grew from there. When Simone came in, we started opening stores, and it evolved...
Simone: It wasn’t something that happened over night. We’ve been working at it for quite a while. But we always had the idea that we’d be bigger than Australia—we always wanted to move outside Australia. But, things changed over time. The internet became something. Businesses went online. All of those things came together around the same time that we were growing, wo we were able to work with those as a great vehicle.
And harnessing social media:
Nicky: Instagram is an amazing visual tool for us to really connect with our customer what we think is beautiful. Now I think it’s absolutely essential [to grow a brand]. I think it gives you an opinion, a point of view. It connects you with the people you want to relate to and you want to relate what you’re doing to them. You’re giving them some kind of visual understanding of what you’re about. I think it’s just the right tool.
Simone: How we look as a brand also just happens to really fit what people are using instagram for. People are going out on holidays and shooting themselves on holidays and it fits exactly with the clothes we design. All of that marries together really well to paint a really wonderful picture for us.
And about that Net-a-Porter capsule…:
Nicky: We’ve done quite a few capsule collections with Net-a-Porter, and it was a very mutual discussion with our buyer. And she was like, ‘We’ve been working together for ten years.’ So I said, ‘Yes, great. Let’s do something!’ We want to do something fun that really represented us as a brand. As a brand, we always talk about how people wear our garments to things that are fun or memorable or when they’re having a good time. So we came up with this idea for “10 Years of Good Times with Net-a-Porter and Zimmermann.” And in terms of designing the collection, it was so easy because it is just fun and pretty, what we do best!
About the growing fashion scene in Australia:
Nicky: I think [the awareness of Australian fashion] has a lot to do with people being much more aware of what Australia is. It’s not just about the weird, kooky animals. They’re definitely there. But, it is really an amazing cosmopolitan and beautiful lifestyle and I think people are so well traveled, obviously, they’re looking at everything now. And I think there’s a huge interest in our lifestyle. It helps design tremendously.
Simone: It allows Australian brands to stay true to themselves as opposed to trying to be something else.
Nicky: With Australian designers, we’ve always talked about having authenticity and having a clear point of view that isn’t the same as fashion in New York. So you need to be confident in what you are even when it’s completely different from what you’re used to seeing. We found that now that works in our favor. Young people are actually looking for something unique and different, something to compliment what is already there, which is all definitely helping other Australian brands get into the market.
Any more advice for emerging brands?
Nicky: We always laugh that we haven’t really received that much advice. We’ve had funny advice when we began people would say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t get into the fashion business.’ And the second one we’d hear is, ‘Whatever you do, don’t work with your family.’ We ignored both pieces of advice, [laughs]. We don’t want to ignore people and, of course, we’ve come across some great things since then. But, for us, it gave us that thing of always having our own path and direction for our business. And for me, advice for people wanting to have a brand is to be true to yourself, have your own direction, do what you love, and stick to it.
Simone: Exactly right. And on top of that is just know that it does take hard work so you have to be prepared for that.
Nicky: See, Simone is the practical one. She’s like, ‘You gotta work hard.’
Simone: Yes, but it helps if you love what you’re doing and you’re staying true to it, then the other part isn’t a hard thing to do. It just means it’s a lot of work. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad.