NEW YORK, United States – For our second Spotlight of 2013, we turn to Nellie Partow’s namesake womenswear collection. With its clean silhouettes, rendered in sumptuous materials and injected with distinctly modern touches, the California-raised, Manhattan-based designer has garnered a loyal following since her 2008 launch.
Manifest in her sleek dresses, blouses, coats, suits and other easily combined pieces, Partow has a single-minded focus on luxury artisanship. A lot of brands make this claim, but in Partow’s case it’s actually backed-up by facts: all fabrications — including leathers, yarns and silks — are imported from Italy and assembled in New York. Then there are her striking, deep hues: “Colour is my first source of inspiration before I start any type of design,” Partow told BoF. “Each season starts with a colour story, followed by texture. I’m driven by the endless possibilities and technologies to create new textures.”
In only five seasons, Partow has built an impressive and unusual network of stockists in places as far-flung as Tulsa, Oklahoma and Beirut, Lebanon. “I think it’s important to build a foundation with smaller boutiques and really partner with them to get feedback in different regions, to really know what our client wants. We want to keep the brand quite exclusive, so we are quite strategic about where we want the line to be sold.” Interestingly, that translates into small, hand-picked stores in sixteen American states, including less expected corners of the Midwest and South. But while second-tier-city retail accounts bespeak her grassroots philosophy, Partow’s line is also carried at Saks Fifth Avenue stores across the US.
“What caught my eye was the very strong sense of tailoring and the sense of details and, at the same time, the femininity of the clothes, which is very much in the mix of fabrics,” said Joseph Boitano, group senior vice president and general merchandise manager of Saks Fifth Avenue.
Partow’s resume stands out for her unusual decision to get a business degree at San Francisco State University before enrolling at Parsons to study fashion design. “I always knew I wanted my own brand. My father is an entrepreneur and taught me early-on how important it was to understand the business aspect involved in any successful creative enterprise. Going to business school first is probably the most sound decision I’ve made in my career.”
After Parsons, Partow spent close to ten years designing for Calvin Klein and John Varvatos before launching her own business. “Calvin was one of my inspirations when I was growing up. What he built, how he created a company, influenced me in a very powerful way. I learned to understand the global marketplace from a designer’s point-of-view, while at John Varvatos I was very involved with production.”
For this month’s Spotlight, Partow has created a custom BoF logo that highlights the importance of texture and knitwear to her work. “The hand knits are a significant staple of the brand. It’s quite an intricate process, taking nearly 2-3 weeks to produce each individual piece.”
Partow’s vision for the future is similarly ambitious. “We are definitely building it to be a global luxury brand and will continue to push the possibilities in that market while maintaining our authenticity. I think you have to grow strategically, slowly and in a smart manner.”