MY LIGHT BULB MOMENT
Designer Nadine Merabi
Fashion designer nadine Merabi, 37, lives in Manchester with her husband, Frank.
THE launch of Facebook drove me to create clothes. When people started posting on social media pictures of nights out, you couldn’t wear the same outfit over and over — so I began altering my dresses, cutting them into new designs.
I was working in events at the time, organising bar launches and club nights, but in 2011, approaching 30, I realised I needed a career that didn’t revolve around nights out.
I decided to make dresses that were different from those in the shops, without a designer price tag, but I had no idea where to start — I didn’t even know how to thread a sewing machine. I spent two weeks on YouTube learning how to sew.
I’d made a few makeshift dresses when a friend mentioned a pop-up where you could hire rails. I made 20 designs, and they sold well.
People started ordering custom dresses, then Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent asked me to make a dress for the National Television Awards. Six months later, Selfridges asked to view my collection.
I didn’t have a collection, just a mishmash of items, but they placed a big order anyway. I was too embarrassed to admit that I was making the dresses on my bedroom floor, so I winged it and said I could deliver in three months.
I left thinking: ‘How on earth am I going to do this?’ I didn’t even have paper patterns; I cut freehand from an image in my mind.
Thankfully, another designer let me use her factory. I pulled my dresses apart to make patterns and found a company to grade the sizes. Somehow, I delivered on time.
My designs were selling well, but I was doing nothing online and was still running the business by myself. So, three years ago, I joined with a partner who does global marketing and online sales, and we hired staff using a £70,000 loan. That was paid back just two years later.
Now we mainly sell online, have a large team and our annual turnover is £1.5 million. Our dresses cost from £150 to £500 and are worn by celebrities such as Myleene Klass, Paris Hilton and Paloma Faith.
A few years ago, I saw a picture of Mel B wearing one of my jumpsuits — it was an ‘oh my God’ moment, as I grew up with the Spice Girls.
I still work stupid hours and have lots to learn. But organising events was great training, as it taught me what people really want to wear.
Daisy mini dress, £265, nadine merabi.com