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.

Collective Hub - - CONTENTS - WORDS SARAH OWEN & ROBIN TOR­RES

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?

NICKY SAYS…

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.

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