Modern Fashion: Nancy Daniele Berman of Nandanie On The 5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today
An Interview With Candice Georgiadice
Many in the fashion industry have been making huge pivots in their business models. Many have turned away from the fast fashion trend. Many have been focusing on fashion that also makes a social impact. Many have turned to sustainable and ethical sourcing. Many have turned to hi tech manufacturing. Many have turned to subscription models. What are the other trends that we will see in the fashion industry? What does it take to lead a successful fashion brand today?
In our series called, “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand Today” we are talking to successful leaders of fashion brands who can talk about the Future of Fashion and the 5 things it takes to lead a successful fashion brand in our “new normal.”
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nancy Daniele Berman.
Nancy Daniele Berman is an entrepreneur with an expansive background in marketing, philanthropy, and hospitality.
After decades of work dedicated to helping others, she decided to make a bold move for herself and enter into the fashion industry — founding NANDANIE, a luxury tie brand that’s mission is to inspire confidence, build community, and embrace equality. As the founder, CEO, and creative director of NANDANIE, Berman artfully crafts collections of ties in the heart of New York City that are designed for women and worn by everyone.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory?”
Igrew up in Southfield, Mich., and my whole life, I wanted to study fashion. I was a creative child who loved to draw — especially fashion sketches — and whenever I went to Toys R Us, I always went straight to the art section. I went to New York for college, and, after graduation, I intended to stay in New York and work in fashion. But I ended up moving back to Michigan to be near my now ex-husband while he was in medical school, where I still live to date.
At the time, Michigan didn’t have many opportunities in the fashion industry, so I changed my career trajectory. I worked in marketing at Ford Motor Company and then, to satisfy my creativity energies, I started a cake business — Nancy’s Fancy Shmansy Cakes. There I made elegant, whimsical, and kosher personalized cakes. Now, I’m divorced, and my kids are getting older — they’re 20, 17 and 15 — so I finally decided to go back and do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is working in fashion.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
Earlier this year, my 17-year-old son finally got around to cleaning out his closet. It was long overdue. He grew five inches in the past year and outgrew almost all of his clothes. He brought me his ties that were now way too short on him. Occasionally, there is something in his closet that I will keep for myself and wear, and when I saw his ties, I thought about the ties that I owned in the 90s. I put one on and it fit me perfectly; I loved the look. And, right away, it made me wonder — why aren’t there ties for women? We wear suits, blazers, and scarves, but why not ties? I started to do research, and I couldn’t find any ties that were made specifically for women. So, I created a design for ties that were pre-knotted and easy to put right over your head, like a necklace. The ties have a more modern twist, and they’re made with luxury fabrics. And that’s where the brand NANDANIE began.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Well, my current career is completely new; my online store isn’t even available until Sept. 1 — that’s how new I am. So, I’m excited for the interesting stories I know will come after my store launches. Starting in September, Flying Solo, a fashion retail space in SoHo, is going to start selling the NANDAINE brand, and we’ll also be featured during New York Fashion Week on Sept. 10. I’ve already started flying to NYC about once a week in preparation. So, I can guarantee, I’m going to have some really interesting stories to tell after September.
But there is one interesting thing that happened after I announced I was starting NANDANIE that I wasn’t necessarily expecting — how excited every friend of mine in the LGBTQ+ community was about my new business. So many people reached out to me and asked, “When can I get a tie?” Although I had women in mind when designing my ties, I quickly realized that I was creating something for a much broader audience — for the fluid society we live in. NANDANIE is a brand that will have ties for everyone to wear. In my mind, I can picture Harry Styles, Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Saldana and Janelle Monáe wearing NANDANIE ties. These will be pieces to hold on to for generations.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Confidence and courage: At times it feels quite audacious to take this leap into a new career in my late 40s. I’m asked quite often, “Are you scared? Do you ever think ‘What was I thinking, taking this leap?’” To which I answer that I don’t have time to be scared; I’m too busy moving forward. But every few days, I do have brief pauses where I ask myself, “What made you feel like you can do this?” And it goes back to confidence. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what anyone tells you. You need to make it happen, and you need to believe in what you are doing. If someone told you that a play about Alexander Hamilton with rap music was going to be a hit, who would have believed it? You would’ve told Lin-Manuel Miranda, “That’s never going to happen; that’s crazy.” But it did happen, and it was a monumental success. The same thing can happen to you once you put yourself out there. You need to cheer yourself on. For me, I had a traumatic period in my life during the breakup of my marriage, but, I decided, from that point forward, I needed to move ahead with the determination to live my life to its absolute fullest and follow my gut instinct.
- Empathy: I believe in a work culture and society that is infused with empathy, which is how I came up with the idea for NANDANIE’s logo of intertwined elephants. An elephant is the strongest mammal in the world — but they are also surprisingly gentle and demonstrate compassion towards others. While the individual characteristics of elephants are great on their own, they are better together and are known to develop strong bonds between their family members and friends. Elephants can’t give each other hugs, but they do intertwine their trunks together to offer comfort. That’s why I picked this logo of two elephants, intertwined together — creating a harmonious tie. I really believe that, whenever you wear a NANDANIE tie, you represent the ties between being empathetic to the world around you and the ability to make positive changes through your boldness, individuality, and vitality. Similarly, to the bond elephants have with each other, NANDANIE is fueled through unity, family, and friendships.
- Awareness: When starting the NANDANIE brand, I wanted to make sure I avoided costly mistakes to create a luxury product. That’s why it’s so important to do your research, figure out what you don’t know and seek out others who can help you. Surround yourself with other creative and experienced individuals who can support you and offer you the wisdom that came from their experiences.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
NANDANIE is the first and only company that has reimagined how a tie is constructed and worn, and it’s meant for anyone to wear. I’ve walked into so many meetings where there are 10 men, and they look like they’re in uniform with their white shirts, suits and ties. And, while I love that I can walk in wearing a dress, sometimes, I want to wear a tie too and feel like I’m on more equal footing. With NANDANIE ties, I want women who have been scared to walk into a boardroom to, instead, come to the table, sit back, cross their legs and no longer feel intimidated. I want women to have the confidence to go into a meeting with men and know they are equal in intelligence, experience and now in dress. There is something powerful about putting on a tie, and I want to empower others to feel they are capable of achieving success and contentment. I look forward to seeing so many brilliant, bold and capable women wearing NANDANIE ties. I’m hoping to shake up the fashion world a little.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is by former first lady Betty Ford — “Being lady-like does not require silence.” I grew up with a significant divide between adults and children. As I child, I was intimidated by many adults, and wasn’t brought up to be assertive and speak my mind. At times, I believe that hindered my ability to express myself and stand up for myself. As an adult, I grew into my own and found my voice. After going through a difficult divorce, I was thrust into a court system where I had to find courage and strength that I never knew existed within me. I raised my three kids to all have strong voices and to advocate for what they believe in and what they know to be right. They are all strong-minded, outspoken, empathetic, and outstanding people. And, really, that’s what NANDANIE represents too — all of those attributes.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?
This is one of the areas of life where I’m especially grateful to be a woman. Fashion for the everyday man has been evolving at a snail’s pace. You look around any boardroom or on wall street or at a wedding, and men have very limited choices of style. On the contrary, women’s fashion has become bolder and edgier. Women have endless possibilities when getting dressed in the morning. And as more and more women are having an equal seat at the table — from Wall Street to Washington, women can still look feminine while wearing a suit and tie. I am excited to watch women’s fashion evolve as their careers progress. I believe the fashion industry will be tied to the progression in women taking more roles in politics, business, and in all leadership positions.
My favorite book to read to my daughter, Grace, as a young girl was “Grace For President” by Kelly DiPucchio. It’s my favorite book, and it’s about this girl who looks at the list of presidents and asks, “Where are the women?” As adults, we’ve gotten used to this, but it’s unfathomable when a young girl first realizes there hasn’t been a female president in the United States. So, I look forward to seeing a NANDANIE tie on the first female president.
Can you share how your brand is helping to bring goodness to the world?
My brand helps women feel more confident — and, in turn, I hope this will get more women into leadership roles. My goal with NANDANIE is to also create a world where leaders are both strong and empathetic — as represented by the two elephants in my logo tied together.
On a practical level, NANDANIE ties require a small amount of fabric to elevate any outfit and, therefore, creates less waste in the world. They take up less space in a closet — yet they make an entire outfit. NANDANIE believes in a more sustainable wardrobe. Men’s ties have been timeless; the origin of the tie can be traced back to the 17th century and men are still wearing ties. And when women start wearing ties, I don’t expect them to ever put away their ties either. When you eliminate the trend factor and produce timeless pieces with ethical practices, you demonstrate to the world that a small change can have a large impact.
Can you share with our readers about the ethical standards you use when you choose where to source materials?
Fashion in one of the most polluting industries on earth; it’s truly a travesty. But NANDANIE is committed to eliminating waste. I have sourced material from luxury brands that have excess material. I am also committed to not purchasing material in bulk or creating excess waste. I recently attended the Luxe packaging expo and learned about the latest materials used in packaging to make every part recyclable and reusable — eliminating plastic and even replacing fabric ribbons with paper ones for tying a ribbon on a box. The entire process for me — not just the product but the packaging and everything else that goes into running the business — is going to be considered with a mindset of sustainability.
Fast fashion has an advantage, that it is affordable for most people, but it also has the drawback that it does not last very long and is therefore not very sustainable. What are your thoughts about this? How does your company address this question?
Sure, it’s great that you can go into a store and, for $50, buy three items — but, unfortunately, the clothing just isn’t going to last. I believe we need to shift from fast fashion. It’s very much an American philosophy of buying and shopping and buying and shopping and creating all of this waste. People’s closets are so much fuller than our grandparent’s, who would buy quality over quantity.
But, with NANDANIE ties, they are designed to be worn for many years. They are not meant to be a fad, but an addition to your wardrobe that can be worn in 2022, 2032 and 2042. I know that everybody wants to have new things — so that’s why I wanted to create a product where you can take something small and completely change an outfit you already own. When I go out, people always come up to me and say, “Oh my god! I love your tie!” I can be wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and I’ll add a tie, and it’ll completely change my outfit. The ties are also being produced in the United States. Paying workers fairly is of utmost important to me, and I will always hold NANDANIE to the highest standards of ethical practices.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Lead a Successful Fashion Brand”. Please share a story or example for each.
- Undeterrable drive: It has always been my dream to work in fashion — ever since I was a young girl, sketching clothing in my notebooks during middle school. This dream got derailed for a time, but now, at 48 years old, I have decided that I am starting the next chapter in my life. I’m excited and optimistic about the positive impacts NANDANIE will bring to fashion. It’s only because of my unwavering drive and determination that I have conceived NANDANIE — and the same is true for you and your dreams if you have that drive.