(NEW YORK) Earlier this week, FGI announced their newest batch of Rising Star candidates. Among the talent? Cali-bred designer Nellie Partow, who’s known as much for her hits on the catwalk as in the ring. We sat down with Partow to talk branding, boxing, and more. BY MARIA DENARDO
Congrats on your Rising Star nom! Who was the first person you called when you found out?
I called my dad, my biggest fan. He was really happy for me! He’ll be flying from California to attend the FGI event on January 24th.
If you win, where will you put the award?
I’m incredibly grateful and humbled by the FGI nomination. If I’m honored with the win, I would display the award next to my NY Daily News Golden Gloves boxing Championship title.
Background, please! Where did you grow up?
I grew up in California in Laguna Beach. I always knew I wanted to be in the design industry. I used to watch interviews with Yves Saint Laurent and Gianni Versace when I was younger. But I didn’t go to design school right away because I knew that if I made that decision, I wouldn’t go to business school after, so I enrolled in the San Francisco State University for business then I went to Parsons.
And after Parsons?
Right out of college, I landed a job at Calvin Klein. It was very nerveracking in the beginning. I started out on the design team and assisted for the knits and wovens. After that, I was able to work on sweaters at John Varvatos.
Did you experience a big learning curve when you launched your own brand?
It’s different coming onto a design team that has a very defined identity. With Calvin, you know exactly who that client is. Same with John. You know about the rock background. You know what music his client listens to. I had to really hone in on who I was as a designer and identify what made me stand out in the current market. It was definitely humble beginnings. My brand is self-financed; it grew organically. That’s where the business background really came into play.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being an emerging designer?
Knowing when to say no. In order to keep a level of luxury and quality that we want to continue, you can’t mass produce. Yet we’re a growing brand. The goal is to grow strategically rather than too quickly.
Where is your collection sold?
Saks, Harvey Nichols, and a slew of high-end boutiques in the U.S. and abroad. Our clients come from a wide age group. We have women in their late twenties to seventies. The line is for a woman who appreciates an easy, effortless way of dressing but still has well-crafted items in her wardrobe. She can entertain from season to season.
What brands are you in league with?
I can tell you who we’re sitting next to currently on the sales floor. We’re next to brands like The Row, Bruno Cucinelli, Stella McCartney, and Chloe.
OK, switching gears: How did you get into competitive boxing?
When I was 14 or 15, I was bored. I’d always been athletic, but I hated going to the gym. One day, I walked past this boxing gym and gave it a try. The trainer there owned Team USA. I worked out with him for a month. He came up to me and said, ‘You’re a fighter, and you have what it takes.’ It’s a quality you can’t teach. You either get hit and turn your head, or you get hit and you fight.
What do designers and boxers have in common?
The amount of prep, dedication, time, and effort it takes to train to fight is the exact amount of discipline it takes to design a collection.
What’s your record?
I’ve had about 30 bouts and lost two.
Do fashion and boxing ever collide?
When I fought at Madison Square Garden, I stepped into the ring and looked up, and saw this very chic, well-dressed crowd. It was my co-workers at John Varvatos and Calvin Klein! They even made posters.
What’s your typical workout regime?
When I was fighting, I’d train five to six days a week. I’d get up in the morning before going to Calvin Klein or John Varvatos and run three to five miles. After work, I’d go to the boxing gym until 11 p.m., sparring and getting ready for fights. It was a lot to juggle. When I started my own company, I gave up fighting to focus on the brand.
How many times have you watched Rocky?
Maybe once. I’m not the biggest fan.
What would your boxing nickname be?
The Storm Partow.
Who would you love to see in the ring?
John Varvatos would be a stealth fighter. I’d call him Smokin’ Varvatos. He’s a badass.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Other than beating people up and making clothes…?