Do you know what the Nineteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is? If not, it was the amendment that prohibited any United States citizen from not being able to vote due to their gender. It was ratified on August 18, 1920. Fast-forward to about 116 years later and Amanda Curtis and Gemma Sole are taking that amendment and engraving it into the (long-standing) fashion laws. They founded the company Nineteenth Amendment, which is a platform where you can purchase pre-sale designs from independent designers AKA changing the way people shop and ultimately, changing the face of fashion.
As a consumer, you would use Nineteenth Amendment to find unique and well-crafted clothing, that you can be sure is a piece of art and tied to a passionate designer. You can purchase these designs before they are made at pre-sale prices and rest assured, they are made within the USA (in under 4 weeks lead time).
As a designer, the platform provides talented independent designers the rare chance to cut out the middleman (production, inventory, etc.) and use their platform to sell their one-of-a-kind collections. Nineteenth Amendment designs are also exclusively sold on Macys.com.
I had the fortunate chance to meet with the founders, Amanda and Gemma to talk business, and my personal favorite, how they’re (so professionally) breaking the rules. If there’s one thing I love about these two, it’s that they are not shy from saying how they really feel, by no means are they downplaying their rebellion against the industry, and they are definitely proud to call themselves game changers.
How did this idea come to be?
AC: “Nineteenth Amendment was really both out of a collision of the fashion and tech work. I was working as a fashion designer and starting my own line and at the same time going to a tech incubator called StartUp Institute with Gemma. We were learning all about being lean and using different startup methodology; what we found was a total lack of efficiency in the fashion industry and a model that hadn’t changed in about 120 years. So we were learning about how to scale, go to market quicker, and do things at a faster pace, which is a newer concept in the fashion industry. Where normally, you need about six to eight months lead time and from there, we knew we wanted to introduce a better model.”
What is the largest crisis in the fashion industry?
AC: “Waste and not being as business-forward as they should be. Everyone is riding on the same boat and this old model is not sustainable. There hasn’t been an honest conversation in the fashion industry. Our partnership with Macy’s is an obvious indicator that people on a very high level are saying that something needs to change. It’s a conversation that needs to be had because it’s a system wide issue; it’s not just one retailer.”
GS: “And you look at these retailers like Primark that are creating things at such a cheap price and it should scare these other fast-fashion retailers. The amount of waste that comes from that needs to be reconsidered.”
Why do you think Nineteenth Amendment is important?
AC: “We are changing the game. At first it was a little intimidating, especially when we first set out to do this. But our undertaking was so huge, I can remember one of our advisors saying ‘I think this idea is brilliant, but I don’t think it will succeed.’ There was so much to get together, to create this whole eco system and reverse the model. Yet, we DID that. And now having these industry giants hop on board is a huge indicator, to me at least, that what we have can really be an industry changer.”
GS: “Also when you think about the model, it makes the most sense to do it this way. You don’t make what you’re not going to sell. We have 0 returns. So our customers aren’t throwing them away or returning them so waste is minimized. It’s great for the economy, it creates jobs, and it at least feeds our designers work on a constant basis and not only per season.”
AC: “And this is really about going back to what fashion used to be. When designers would come out with their trunk shows and it would be a really intimate experience. Your order was just for you, there was a clear lead time, it was made locally, and that would be it. We’re just using technology to do it.”
What are the core values of Nineteenth Amendment?
AC: “Art as design. Wearable art.”
GS: “We are not conspicuous consumption and not focused on flashy brand names because it really isn’t about the brand at this level for the designer. It is about the integrity of the design, the piece, and as a customer, you’re buying into the model. It returns back to the message behind our brand name, we want to give people a voice in putting your values where your wallet is and to match your aesthetic values as well. You say you want to look different and dress different, we offer designs that can make that happen.”
AC: “Curating your own closet and having art in the form of design. It gives the consumer an option and to be a part of something bigger. We want them to have a piece of art history in their closet. Definitely bringing to the forefront the integrity of design and changing the fashion industry, if we can change this, you change the world right down to the person who is sewing your shirt.”
What are some of the conditions when evaluating new designers?
AC: “They must be artistic and ready to commit to this long-term. We only accept 12% of applications so we truly believe and connect with our designers. We look at the construction of their designs and most importantly, they MUST have a hustler’s mentality. Ultimately, they have to be hungry, it’s drive combined with talent that really bring success.”
GS: “We look to see if they have something different, that they are an actual designer, a certain amount of social following, and that they’ve spent some time building their brand. Their product must be good. If your product is good—it reflects the amount of hustle you put around it. We hope all the designers we bring on have great designs but the rest is up to them. We feed you the PR and marketing plans, but it’s up to them to really put it to work.”
[Unfortunately, at this time Gemma Sole had to handle some business (#girlboss) and the rest of this interview was conducted with Amanda Curtis.]
What do you think all of your designers have in common?
AC: “They’re awesome, number one, ha. But they really are the next big things; they all have amazing stories and have perspective of what they want their brand to grow into. And of course, they’re all hustlers.”
What is your own definitions of success?
AC: “World domination! (I love it) Ultimately, truly bringing independent fashion into a bigger arena and creating a platform where you can truly find special pieces that are made with passion.”
What is your favorite part of running Nineteenth Amendment?
AC: “It’s great having a chance to impact the industry and see the overall effect of that. Meeting these designers who are just so creative and passionate about creating art; and getting a chance to sell beautiful products to these consumers who also love fashion and appreciate the craft in a world where fast fashion is dominating. The industry needs a revamp. It should be done better, it can be done better, and we’re willing to do that.”
What is the vision for the future?
AC: “We really want to be the platform that is what the major fashion houses used to be. Fashion has a reflection of art and what is going on in the world. We want this to be a catalyst in the industry to take more care in how we shop. We currently have 375 designers in 29 countries and we want to keep the global aspect growing while hopefully growing the economy. We definitely want to keep expanding.”
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
AC: “Hustle hard. Be true to your craft and values. Be smart.”
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from being entrepreneurs?
AC: “To speak up, say what you have to say and be bold.”
If you want to find out more (or drop some of that hard-earned ca$h) about Nineteenth Amendment, please visit their website at nineteenthamendment.com. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
All photos courtesy of Nineteenth Amendment.
ALERT: If there any places you’d like a charming, young jersey gal to visit or review, please feel free to email me at Francesca@coutureinthesuburbs.com.