Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 in November 2016. This may put the content of this article in question but we believe the lessons and tactics discussed here are still relevant and highly effective for fashion entrepreneurs.
You can read about what went wrong with Nasty Gal in this article.
“I’m gonna run it down to y’all
Tell Them anything you wanna now
I ain’t nothin but a nasty gal now hey hey”
Sang out Betty Davis, a funk singer and style icon of 1970s in her third album ‘Nasty Gal’ in 1975, and made a considerable name for herself and her band in the funk music industry.
In 2008, Sophia Amoruso, a Greek-born American in her early twenties, followed suit and made a name for herself with the same name label, but in fashion industry this time.
[I’d rather Sophia chose the 1982 Destiny’s Child Nasty Girl’s song:
“You’s a nasty (nasty) Trashy (nasty), Sleazy (nasty) Classless (nasty)
Nasty put some clothes on, I told ya, Don’t walk out your house without no clothes on, I told ya
Girl what ya thinkin’ bout lookin’ that to’ down, I told ya, These men don’t want no hot female that’s been around the block female, you nasty girl”]
Sophia reversed the traditional practice of starting a business: studying fashion designing and/or working for some famed designers first, creating a Brand (product or service), selling it at popular stores and malls, and finally using the Net and the social media on the Net as a marketing strategy.
Life Pointers That Could Apply to Any career Path:
Without any qualification, training or experience in selling, Sophia started her career in fashion designing by opening an eBay stores by the name ‘Nasty Gal Vintage’ first. Then she mastered the art of buying and selling vintage apparel, on the sly at times (she had manipulated ‘captcha, anti-spam method built into programs to test if the user is a machine or person), learning from the book ‘eBay Business for Dummies’. Her mastery of the art of selling on eBay is obvious in the deal she made with a Chanel jacket she bought at a Salvation Army store for $ 8, but sold it for more than $1,000. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasty_Gal).
Sophia reiterated the fact that sometimes it is good for anyone to be kicked out of their ‘comfort zone’ so that they go find a more meaningful life. After she had been seen off eBay auction platform, Sophia started her own retail website ShopNastyGal.com, making 60,000 friends on Myspace.
Sophia Amoruso’s marketing strategy seems simple but needs a lot of effort and patience. She did not just post the items for sale or auction, but had her cute friends and herself wear the vintage items she bought and, putting her photography skills to the test, she took photos of them; with a little photoshop tweaking & amature graphic designing, posted them on the site; received the orders; packed the parcels and then shipped them. Operating all by herself from her aunt’s cottage, while still being active full time on Myspace and then on FaceBook. It’s not hard for any of us who have gone through that phase to imagine how much demanding the task should have been for her.
In fact you can see the free spirit and the rebellious nature of Sophia in the Nasty Gal logo design which is a simple typographic treatment with a font that seems to be written by a graffiti artist with a spray can. One would expect a fashion logo design to be complex with an iconic element and bright bold colors.
Here are a few examples of fashion logos that fall under the category I am talking about:
Sophia, though a quiet and shy type, is fiercer than a mother leopardess when it comes to protecting her Brand. NastyGal.com domain originally belonged to a pornography site, and she had a tough time conviencing sellers, customers and neighbors that hers was a ‘decent’ online clothes store called ‘shopnastygal.com’, and finally determined to set the problems right for ever, she bought the domain, and since then it has been ‘nastygal.com’. In fact, she had the words written “No, It’s Not a Porn Site.” on the window of her first real store, a boutique, in Madison’s former store on Melrose in the Greater Boston metropolitan area in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA.
An eBay vintage shop scaled up to be a company that generated a $100 million annual revenue in 2012, up from mere $28,000 in 2011!
The INC Magazine named Nasty Gal the ‘Fastest Growing Retailer’ in 2012, just four years after its birth.
It dawned upon the Nasty Gal in 2012 that it was high time she had had her own fashion lines/collections, and with her first Nasty Gal Fall/Winter 2012 collection, she became the ‘true’ fashion designer, launching collections for every major fashion season all through the year.
As a lady’s walk is made more glamorous by the shoes she wears, Nasty Gal produced her own shoes with ‘Shoe Cult’ being her first-ever footwear collection in 2013. And then in 2014 three more collections of apparel were launched: Nasty Gal Denim Collection, Nasty GAl Swimwear and Nasty Gal Lingerie. In the same year, Nasty Gal joined hands with Minimale Animale on a swimwear line. Nasty Gal also joined fingers and lips with MAC Cosmetics on a collection of lipsticks and nail polish in 2014. And 2014 also saw Nasty Gal opening a boutique, her flagship store, displaying her own lines along with other international brands.
The second boutique, with a shoe salon & denim bar, was opened in March, 2015 in the former Mango boutique at 1254, 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California.
GIRLBOSS, a Unique Path to Success, by a Kick-A** Girl:
In 2014, Sophia Amoruso penned down all the experiences she has had in all these years — from her shop-lifting days in 2003 to opening an eBay store to owning the multimillion dollar Nasty Gal. She decided to give a helping hand to those women who find it near impossible to withstand the buffets the business world in general and the male business world in particular give the women folk. (Well, the tips and suggestions can be applied to the men entrepreneurs, too.) As she called her store Nasty Gal to showcase the women’s style, she named her book ‘GIRLBOSS’, after a Japanese 1970s movie ‘Girl Boss Guerilla’, about bad-ass girls, to show an ordinary woman how to become a Boss.
She says the book, the New York Times bestseller, is for those girl bosses out there who have big dreams and are willing to work hard to make them real. In an interview by Yelena Shuster for Elle (2014), Sophie the Nasty Gal, confessed she was a feminist, though it sounds heavy, and that it might be that ‘Girl Boss could be a new name for feminism’.
‘Girl Boss’ certainly is a tribute to her own self because, if we like to take rumors seriously, believing that there is no smoke without fire, the first item Sophia sold online was a book she stole!
Nasty Gal Knows How to Turn ‘Likes’ into Sales:
Sophia Amoruso built this Brand Image with constant presence on her social media channels — (Myspace) Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter & Instagram and her personal blog. Even to this day the business and social network pages are being updated five times a day, which proved more result oriented than spending large sums on advertising or losing a percentage of the price by offering discounts, including discounts for friend referrals.
By March 2015 Nasty Gal shows a record of 1.2 million fans on Facebook with Sophia Amoruso’s personal account showing 21K; 34, 270 followers on LinkedIn with Sophia’s personal followers: 14,132; 217K on Twitter with Sophie’s 53K followers; 1.7 million followers on Instagram with Sophie’s 268K followers, and over 6,200 subscribers on YouTube with over 2 million views in total.
Nasty Gal has been liked so much so that she is on Vanity Fair’s Best Dressed List. Inc. Magazine & Forbes Magazine included her in their “30 under 30”, Fortune Magazine had her in their “40 under 40”. Forbes called her “Fashion’s New phenom”, The New York Times said she was a “Cinderella of Tech”.
A Respite from Hard Labor:
In January, 2015, Sophia, the fashion doyenne and the Boss of Nasty Gal, stepped down as the CEO of Nasty Gal, but remained as executive chairperson, involving in creative and brand marketing.
Though it’s sad to see a competent CEO retire, I firmly believe that we all should learn when to hang on and when to let go! I would have loved to feature Sophia on the Startup Founder Series but felt that an informal article would be more relevant since it is more about the brand Nasty Gal.
All photos are copyright of Nasty Gal and Sophia Amoruso.