STYLE & SUBSTANCE
Rising from a Sydney MARKET STALL to the BIG APPLE, the ZIMMERMANN sisters have WON over AMERICA – all the while staying TRUE to their ROOTS.
the Zimmermann sisters tell the story of taking their biz from a market stall to the Big Apple
The Zimmermann sisters are living proof Aussies can make it in the Big Apple. The duo, Nicky and Simone, has built serious global cachet since launching their label in 1991, most recently with their Spring 2018 show during New York Fashion Week and the opening of a 185-square-metre (2000-square-foot) store in the city’s Meatpacking District.
Today, each sister spearheads a specific part of the business (Nicky, design, and Simone, the day-to-day biz). At their new boutique, recent bestsellers include their painted heart folds dress (US$1600) and painted heart silk shirt (US$850). In a world of fast-fashion and social-media noise, how do they stand out from the crowd?
WE JUST FELL INTO WORKING TOGETHER.
I was at design school, making garments and selling them at Paddington Markets in Sydney. Simone had been working and living over in London. I had a few pages of editorial in Vogue, then I got a few wholesale orders. I really didn’t have much of an idea from a business point of view, so I made Simone come in and work it out!
IT WASN’T EASY BEING FROM SYDNEY WHEN WE STARTED
– mostly because no one really thought about Australia from a fashion point of view. But we’re proud of where we’re from, the things that make us different, and the way that growing up in Sydney has shaped the way we create. It’s always just been about trying to get better at what we do – little by little. We’ve been persistent and single-minded in wanting to bring an Australian fashion story to the rest of the world.
PEOPLE TOLD ME NOT TO WORK IN FASHION
– or with family. I’d tell myself to ignore them. [Simone and I] are pretty in tune with each other’s thinking, so that helps with decisionmaking. We have common values and goals, so that’s important. Don’t get me wrong – over the years we’ve had some amazing fights in the studio! But we’re sisters, so we end up laughing about it.
SIMONE SAYS… IT WAS ALWAYS IMPORTANT FOR US TO HAVE A BASE THAT WAS OUTSIDE SYDNEY,
more central to the larger global fashion centres. That has been New York for us for a long time. Moving [our show] to New York Fashion Week was just one part of that, but an important step. It’s also meant growing our team in New York, and opening another office in addition to our Sydney headquarters.
NEVER BE TOO COMFORTABLE OR CONTENT WITH WHERE YOU’RE AT.
For me, [our career] has been about persistence and perseverance. I can always see opportunities to get better as a designer, and there are so many things we still need to improve on. It’s a never-ending process.
NICKY SAYS… IN SOME WAYS, WE’VE BEEN LUCKY TO BE A BIT ISOLATED
as we started growing our brand. I’d also say that, for us, it’s been important to do it in our own way. It’s made it harder to be connected to what’s happening in fashion globally, but, in other ways, that isolation has helped us define the way we approach design and dressing. Our lifestyle and environment is unique.
WE TRY TO KEEP EGO OUT OF IT WHEREVER POSSIBLE.
We try to build a fairly simple culture around hard work, respect for each other and the brand. I think there’s something uniquely Australian about how we go about things, and certainly that has taken a bit of explaining to new people in the business, especially outside of Australia.
I’M EXPOSED TO THE MILLIONS OF IMAGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA, LIKE MOST PEOPLE.
I see things flying past and, in some way, that gives me an idea about how people are thinking about things; where they’re going and how they’re dressing. I wouldn’t say it’s something I focus on too much from a creative point of view. I tend to find inspiration from experiences. I often think back to my childhood, places I’ve been and people I’ve met, and that can sometimes spark an idea that can lead to a collection.
SIMONE SAYS… THE TWO OF US ARE PRETTY GROUNDED.
We both have young kids, so we don’t go out a lot. We just do what we have to do in the business and then, when we’re at home, we try to be there and focused on our families. I’d say the hardest bit is the travel. Being based in Sydney, we have to travel a lot, and that means our kids can’t always be with us. But I think we do okay.
WE LEARNT ABOUT BUSINESS STRATEGY AS WE WENT ALONG.
Being a designer from Australia, there haven’t been a lot of people in the industry locally that we’ve been able to talk to about some of the challenges we’ve faced as we’ve grown our brand, so we’ve never had great mentors. But we’ve learnt lots of little things from many people over the years, and you take those lessons and adapt them to your own situation. We try to be observant and take lots of things in; we try to be flexible and open to change and then be thoughtful about how we go about growing our brand.
THE DREAM FOR ME IS JUST TO BE ABLE TO KEEP DOING WHAT I’M DOING.
Designing and working to create collections is all I’ve ever wanted to do, so I just feel very privileged to be able to do that. We’d like to see our brand continue to grow into a global one – but most important for us is to be enjoying what we’re doing.