Bow & Drape CEO Aubrie Pagano on Start-Up Life, Being a Boss & More | Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics
Got something to say? Bow & Drape’s customizable everything will gladly remove the cat from your tongue. They were such a hit the last time we hosted them, we just had to bring ’em back—and as a result, Pop-In@Nordstrom New Classics was bestowed with a line of exclusively designed, city-specific sweaters for your local pride needs (because everyone needs to know that You Sushi Seattle).
Image courtesy of Aubrie Pagano
We chatted up CEO Aubrie Pagano via email to find out how she went from the kid who developed her first clothing line in a sketchbook to the very tippity top of the style game.
The Thread: First things first, what’s the history behind the name Bow & Drape?
Pagano: To us, the name Bow & Drape evokes traditional dressmaking terms used to create custom, or bespoke, garments for centuries. We pay homage to that tradition in our name while heralding the new, 21st-century way to customize—it’s tech-forward, it’s affordable and it’s fun.
Where is your favorite place to ideate, design or brainstorm?
I love brainstorming and designing in new places. I actually can’t stand routine when it comes to creativity. I like places with lots of light—sunny cafes like Maman’s outdoor garden in NYC and rooftops anywhere I can find them. Openness. I think someone once told me green and white decorations help creativity, while red encourages focus. So avoid red rooms (and redrum).
In three words, how would you describe your Kickstarter experience?
Videographic. Amateur. Stressful.
What does it mean to you to be a lady boss (if anything)? Have you had to field any gender-based discrimination as a leader in an industry that remains male dominated?
I would like to think that people see me simply as a boss. I’d rather not be defined by gender roles but by the content of my work and the results I can bring to the table. But I also know that isn’t always the perception. It was really hard starting out. Most investors said no. Most investors are looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, and (duh) we look nothing alike. I can’t even begin to imagine how much harder it would be to break through for anyone less privileged than myself. But I persisted and was really scrappy and took every meeting—and I learned to focus on being me and letting my work and results lead the discussion. “You don’t believe I can do it? Well, we just 8x-ed over last year. Now you have to listen.”
Describe the ethos behind #fashiontech:
It’s utilizing technology as a core to your brand and customer journey. It’s beyond having an ecommerce website. Nowadays, technology is fashion. The two are incredibly linked because fashion knows the pulse of modern society in which technology has played a monumental role. Our entire seamless, elegant brand experience is facilitated through technology. That’s fashiontech.
What helped propel you the most through some of the more challenging aspects of building and launching a business?
Having focus and an incredibly dedicated team. When you start to have momentum as a business, there are a million ways you can go and lots of people calling for you. It’s focusing the team on the 10x opportunities that allows you to execute 100%. More importantly, there is no way to build an ambitious business alone, and I’ve relied heavily on my fantastic team to get through the hardest times. It’s not always wine and puns, unfortunately. The team works late and gives up precious weekends to get things done, and that’s what it takes.
If you had one piece of advice for the little girl whipping up her own line of fashionable somethings in a sketchbook somewhere out there, it would be:
Don’t listen to naysayers and keep chipping away at your dreams. Dreams don’t come true overnight, so keep at them with persistence and you’ll break ground soon enough. I feel like I’ve basically fallen upward my entire career by being incredibly persistent.
I hear you enjoy sewing party pants; best pair you’ve ever made:
Salvador Dali–inspired, high-waist wide legs. Picture proof:
For real, though, do you actually perform phantasmagoric parlor tricks? (If so, what’s your favorite one?)
I’m so happy someone read my entire LinkedIn profile! I’m sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but I don’t perform parlor tricks. I do, though, like to joke around a ton. Whether it’s putting silly made-up skills in my LinkedIn profile, playing pranks on my team or holding regular pun contests (complete with trophy wrestling belts) for our office, I am pretty serious about fun. I think Oscar Wilde said it best: “Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.”
What rad new things can we expect from Bow & Drape in the nearish future?
All the things, Mona. All the things. This year, we will be in lots more Nordstrom locations. We’ll also host customization shops, where customers can visit us, design an item and we’ll produce it for them the same day. So stay tuned for dates there! We are also partnering with Donald Robertson (the “Warhol of Instagram”) and Rachel Shechtman’s STORY to offer a customized T-shirt bar where customers can design apparel with Donald’s artwork.
On the pure product side, look out for lots more sparkles, new emojis and amazing textures like yarns and crochet for spring. I can’t reveal too much, but it’s a big year for us and we couldn’t be more pumped about it!