You know we love a good fashion moment here at In The Groove, and Pauline Nakios has been designing and creating them for twenty years. Lilla P, her fashion line, started off with perfect t-shirts, which you know we’re always on the look for. Read on for a look into Pauline’s style inspiration and shop Lilla P for yourself.
name, age, where do you live?
Pauline Sokol Nakios, 47, NYC
Give us an overview of your career.
I was born into a retail family! My grandfather started a furniture store in Charleston, SC in 1921 and it was in my family until they closed a few years ago. I always had an affinity for clothing and fashion and worked in retail throughout college. I graduated in the midst of a recession, so finding a job in my field (commercial design) was difficult. Therefore, I started working in retail at Tootsies in Atlanta, GA. I then went to work for an ad specialty company that developed into Alternative Apparel which led me to launch Lilla P in 1998. Life threw me a curve ball and I got back into retail and began working at Hermes in Atlanta which is where I met my now husband and business partner. I moved to NY in 2001 when Thomas and I got engaged and decided to give Lilla P my all. After a few years, Thomas left his career in finance to join me full time. We have been dedicated to growing the business together ever since. Thomas is still very much involved but has followed his passion for real estate development and is currently working on projects in South Carolina.
Tell us about what you are doing now.
I am still completely involved in Lilla P on a day to day basis. We have grown a great deal over the years but I am still very much hands on. I have a wonderful team and together, we continue to grow the brand.
You launched Lilla P in 1998. How did you get started? Did you always have the idea for this company?
I worked in retail through my college years when the fitted tee first came on the market. We went from the big oversized men’s tee to the shrunken baby doll tee. After my years in ad specialty, I had formed connections that led me to produce my own tee. I have always loved simplicity and superior quality and set out to create my idea of the perfect tee. I launched with one tee shirt style in 5 colors and one size.
What was the most challenging part of the launching your business?
I knew so little about how the wholesale industry worked and looking back, that was certainly a challenge but not one I could not figure out. I met wonderful people along the way that were kind enough to answer questions and guide me. The most challenging part for me was the production part. I would still say that it is one of the most challenging elements of the business today.
How would you describe the Lilla P woman?
The Lilla P woman knows quality and is always searching for the best- not necessarily the most expensive but quality she can see and feel. She can be any age and wants to feel good in her clothes. While we know we cannot be everything to everyone, we certainly do appeal to a broad range of women.
So much has changed in fashion in the last twenty years. How did you adapt to all of the changes, from social media to e-commerce?
It is amazing to look back and see how technology has shaped and changed us all. For my business, we launched our e-commerce in 2004 in a small way but that is all we really needed at the time- a presence. Brick and Mortar stores are still by largest channel but even they must embrace e-commerce and social media. These tools can be beneficial and drive sales but the effort and investment have to be there. We all must continue to evolve. After all, the only thing constant is change.
Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Much of my inspiration comes from my appreciation for simplicity.
Talk us through the process of starting a new collection, from the first sketch to the finished product.
We have a set design calendar each season. It is incredibly far in advance but that is the nature of the business. We start with analyzing the prior season- what worked, what did not work. We also look to our sales team and customer feedback to determine what the end user wants to see from us. We are always pulling new fabrics and prints and often, the season starts with these and builds from there. The designers sketch and we meet to go over styles and place styles into fabrications. We do have fabrics that we know we use every season and these tend to be our top sellers. The newness adds depth to the collection but it is the core fabrics and styles that generate the most business. The sales team will then meet with us and together we fine tune the styles making sure there is balance amongst the groups. Balance is a key element in ensuring a strong package for the sales team. From there, the technical team creates tech packs and the fits begin. We produce sales samples for the sales team and design continues fitting throughout the season as the sales team sells the product. We are always fitting and finalizing styles from several season in any given period. There is truly no clear time to stop and take a breath before the next season starts.
Style changes so much as we age. How would you describe your style now? How has it changed?
I would describe myself classic with a twist, I do like a bit of edge but certainly clean and sophisticated. I would say that as I entered my 40’s, I became more focused on what looked good on me rather that what was on trend. I like to be practical and that means a great deal of solid neutrals that can be worn over and over.
Who are some of your style icons?
I would have to say Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn and Gwyneth Paltrow
What’s your go-to outfit that you always feel good in?
A great pair of denim (here I do love to stay relative and on trend) currently I am loving the wide leg and a cashmere sweater or a black tee. The shoes can make all the difference and I do love a great shoe!
Culturally, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging?
We are so much more aware of what it takes to stay healthy and look our best. I think we will feel so much better in our bodies as we age that naturally, the conversation will change. Had I only known then what I know now!
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
Guilty, I need to make more time to read.
What’s your go-to hostess gift?
Do you have any seasonal traditions? Summer? Holidays?
We spend a great deal of the summer in South Carolina. I am from there originally, but the last couple of years, we have decided to set our own roots there. It has been magical in so many ways.
We love to go away at the end of the year with our two boys. The farther the better! We have traveled to wonderful places over the years and exposed them to different cultures in hopes that they will have an open mind to the world around them.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
What’s the last thing you bought online?
What would you put on your menopause registry?
I am not quite there so I don’t really know. Happy to take recommendations!
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
I would love to be able to be in more than one place at once. So many times, I am working and I would love to be able to be with my children, family and friends more often.
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Totally calm and even but don’t leave dishes in the sink!