Interview with Jordana Warmflash of NOVIS
New York City-native Jordana Warmflash is a master of color, and we love her uniquely artful line, NOVIS. PDV's Founder Catherine Smith caught up with the designer to learn more about her inspiration, how she manages all the component parts of her growing business (which she runs with her sister, Gillian), and her plans for the future of her exciting label.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR COLORFUL RESORT COLLECTION?
“The beautiful work of Art Deco ceramicist Clarice Cliff inspired the NOVIS Resort 2016 collection. Many of Clarice Cliff’s ceramics incorporated literal and abstract interpretations of landscapes, houses and other objects. I started exploring her work with Resort 2016, and carried over the inspiration to the Spring 2016 collection.”
TELL ME ABOUT LAUNCHING YOUR FIRST SEASON FOR NOVIS IN 2012.
“Launching NOVIS was both really exciting and really overwhelming! Actually executing my life-long dream of having my own line was (and remains!) indescribably gratifying, though you can also never know how complex a business this is until you actually jump in feet first. The variety of work and tasks to be done and decisions to be made on a daily basis is definitely a challenge. One of my favorite memories of our launch season was our first experience dressing a celebrity. Weeks after launching the collection, a small capsule of dresses and gowns, Brooke Shields wore one of our gowns to an event in New York City. 3 days later, I saw her on the street with one of her daughters in the West Village. My sister/business partner, Gillian, encouraged me to introduce myself. Normally I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing something like that, but given the timing, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t go through with it. So I did! I told Brooke that I had designed the gown she’d worn a few days earlier, and she could not have been more gracious or grateful I had said hello. (She also introduced me to her daughter as the designer of the “beautiful butterfly gown” – her daughter had really loved it!) It was a really amazing New York moment.”
WHO INSPIRES YOU EACH SEASON?
“The NOVIS woman inspires me each season – she’s the one who inspired me to found my own line in the first place. She is a woman on the go; she is audacious, cultured and happy, and loves the power and energy of color and prints. She is not one woman with one lifestyle or a particular background; she’s definitely more about a state of mind. The NOVIS woman – happily, excitingly – can be found around the world.”
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR EARLY EXPERIENCE WITH THE FASHION PRESS.
“My early experience with the fashion press was very exciting, in large part because it was a totally new experience – when you design for others, as I had prior to launching NOVIS, you really see only the design (and production) side of the business, not the press or marketing side. One of our first editorial mentions came in a WWD round-up of emerging designers. To be included in the company of other designers I respect so highly, and in such an important publication, was enormously exciting and validating.”
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST SALES SEASON FOR NOVIS. WHAT DID YOU FIND CHALLENGING? REWARDING?
“As a new brand at a designer price point, it can be challenging to convince a boutique with limited shelf space and other resources, or a larger store with an extremely strict bottom line to meet, to take a chance on you. You simply have no track record in terms of customers, retail success elsewhere, production quality or operational reliability, even though I was (and remain!) very confident in our product and the amazing team with which we execute. I am so grateful to the early accounts that took a chance on NOVIS. One of the most rewarding moments I’ve ever had was receiving our first order – I think I framed it!”
WHO HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR? DO YOU HAVE MENTORS?
“Where do I begin? I am constantly learning from those around me – anyone and everyone from my co-workers at my pre-NOVIS jobs to NOVIS’s amazing production teams (at our factories) to my incredible art director. There are so many moving parts in having your own business and everything from our long-term strategy down to the smallest administrative issue matters. I do have a few mentors – in the sales, development and business spaces – who have been such champions of the brand and integral to our success.”
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WINNING THE ECCO DOMANI FASHION FOUNDATION AWARD IN 2014. WHAT DID THAT EXPERIENCE MEAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
“Winning Ecco Domani was wonderful and humbling. Many designers whose talent and commercial success I greatly admire have won that award, and so I felt a great surge of confidence in joining their “club”. NOVIS as a brand instantly gained legitimacy and prestige that it may not have had before; winning certainly helped us from both a sales and a branding perspective.
It’s in this last area – legitimization – that all of the awards have impact for emerging designers. The cash awards (when available!) are very helpful on a practical level as well. That being said, we’re all in the business of designing clothing that sells, not the business of winning awards. Awards can’t sustain a brand if the product doesn’t continue to evolve or production or operations stumble.”
WHAT’S THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?
“Working with or hearing from our champions, whoever they are. There is nothing better than receiving an email from a client telling us how gorgeous and confident she felt wearing NOVIS and how many compliments she received on her dress, or hearing from an account that we had 100% sell-through a particular season, or knowing that friends of the brand are enthusiastically spreading the word about NOVIS because they have such faith in our product and our team.”
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACE IN YOUR BUSINESS? HOW HAVE THESE CHALLENGES EVOLVED SINCE YOU LAUNCHED THE LABEL?
“Management of resources – time, money and people – is, overall, the biggest challenge we face. There are only 24 hours in a day, so much capital available and four full-time members of our team, so figuring out how to most strategically and efficiently deploy our resources is a constant conversation at the office, especially as our business expands and our profile grows.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU AS A DESIGNER?
“The NOVIS woman (see above!) motivates me. My team at NOVIS motivates me. And my confidence in our potential as a brand motivates me. I could not be more proud of the distance we’ve traveled so far, and could not be more excited to travel the distance I still know we have to go.”
IF YOU COULD GIVE ONE PIECE OF ADVICE TO ASIPRING FASHION DESIGNERS AND FASHION STUDENTS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“It’s hard to limit myself to just one! Work for others, to learn the lay of the land. Seek out and find your champions, wherever they may be. Trust your gut. And – if you want to start your own brand – find a partner.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NOVIS?
“In the near term, more of the same! We are very committed to solidifying our brand messaging, perfecting our designs, refining operations and growing our accounts – in other words, shoring up what we have going on at the moment. Once we feel comfortable that we’ve aced this stage, we’ll move on to the next one.”