It’s hard not to fall instantly in love with designer Nellie Partow. One click on this up and coming California native’s eponymous website and you are confronted with a host of images; all of them looks that capture the very essence of a very well-dressed, modern, edgy urban woman. Partow, who has been on the New York fashion scene now for about four years, may not yet have the billboard-scale name recognition that comes with years in an industry devoted to the next best thing, but such adoration is not likely too far off. In her collections, she manages to tease out the best of what is modern, make a slight nod to the trends in classic and luxurious fabrications, and still really and truly capture the essence of how modern women want to dress right now. Her aesthetic seems to meld the modern minimalism of Calvin Klein (where she used to work, more on that in a minute), with the rich, luxurious textures in the vein of Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan (the latter for whom she also has worked). To this, she adds just a dash of Alexander Wang / Proenza Schouler- type edginess that melds seamlessly with her simple yet elegant designs.
Nellie Partow’s Education
Partow undertook her early training at the University of San Francisco where she studied business, later moving on to New York’s storied Parsons School of Design to study fashion. During her time at Parsons, Partow accepted an offer to work at Donna Karan, under the tutelage of some of the design houses’ most experienced senior designers. After graduation, she went on to work for Calvin Klein and John Varvatos. As previously noted, the influence of all three of these designers made a lasting impression on the budding designer, and elements from all three can be identified in her work to this day. Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Partow’s work is her affinity for the luxe. In all of her collections, Partow sources fabrics from European mills, and has her pieces produced in their entirety in New York City’s legendary garment district.
In a recent interview with Style.com, Partow stated that she likes to mix “strength with femininity”. This has never been more apparent than in her recent work with her Spring 2014 collection. For New York Fashion Week’s Spring 2014 collections, Partow showed bold pops of colour added to her usual luxe fabrications and elegant simplicity, resulting in a collection that is incredibly wearable going into the new season. Partow has often stated that she starts every new collection with colour as a first source of inspiration, and for spring, that colour story includes pops of fuchsia, deep jewel-like teal, and more adventurously (albeit still with her signature subtle sophistication), snake print. As it always does, texture also plays a role in the collection, and for spring we see Partow take a turn to the more languid fluidity of draped silks and chiffon, juxtaposed with denser pieces like an artisan-crafted crochet jacket that was hand-woven by no less than four artisan weavers.
Partow’s business degree has served her well thus far in her career, even at this early stage. In interviews, it is clear that she is a designer with a clear vision for her brand; this is a woman with a plan. She recently told the London publication The Business of Fashion that she always knew having here own brand was in the cards.
“My father is an entrepreneur and taught me early-on how important it is to understand the business aspect involved in any successful creative enterprise.”
Where You Can Find Her Work
As for the brand itself, her vision is similarly concise. Partow has put a lot of her focus into cultivating relationships with smaller boutiques, really working with them individually to get a feel for what works in their particular area. She admits to being quite choosy as to which boutiques she chooses to work with, citing the desire to maintain a degree of exclusivity to her brand. This philosophy has served her well. So well in fact, that she has caught the eye of a larger retailer with a similar reputation; Saks fifth Avenue.
Partow Herself is a powerhouse of a woman. In addition to her sterling academic credentials and impressive track record at Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and John Varvatos, she is an award-winning competitive boxer. She started boxing at the age of 14 out of boredom, and soon found that she had a natural ability for the ring. She soon found herself training with the Team USA boxing coach, who happened to work at her local gym, and she then began to fight competitively. She carried on her boxing training through her time at Parsons, sometimes staying at the gym until 11 at night after a long day designing. She has won 30 bouts out of the 32 she has boxed, including the NYC Daily News Golden Gloves title, which she fought for in Madison Square Garden amidst a packed house; a house including her co-workers from John Varvatos and Calvin Klein. It is this fighting spirit that ensures we are sure to see a whole lot more from Nellie Partow in the future.