Hello everyone. Today I have with me someone very special. He has received national and international attention after appearing on Project Runway and most recently, was the Winning Mentor of Project Runway: Under the Gunn. As a TV personality, he has enjoyed great success as a red carpet fashion expert and correspondent for E! Entertainment, Style Network,NBC and CNN International. He He has been a regular panelist on TV Guide Network’s Fashion Wrap for the Golden Globes, Grammys, SAG Awards, Primetime Emmys as well as a LIVE Red Carpet Correspondent for the Academy Awards. He’s the official Spokesperson at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising/FIDM. He has created his fashion label with partner, David Paul, and has also created his sportswear line NV Nick Verreos which is preparing to be shown on QVC Italy. Now here with his new book, “A Passion for Fashion“, my friend… Nick Verreos everybody!
Spencer: Nick! Thank you so much for being here. I have been so excited for this interview to be quite honest.
Nick: Hi Spencer! I am so happy to be with you and doing this “Sitting with Spencer” interview for Werrrk.com! I’m a big fan of the site. I’d like to think that I am my own inner Drag Queen! I just haven’t come up with her name yet!
Spencer: Well our fearless leader Chiffon Dior is a pro at drag names so I am sure we can hook you up. Stay tuned. So the last time I was with you, we were at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) for your book release party. I’m sure life has been crazy ever since the release. How are you?
Nick: Yes, the last time I saw you was at the “Worldwide” Launch Party for the release of my book “A Passion for Fashion” and I was so honored to have it take place at my Alma Mater, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising…FIDM. When the college approached me with this, I almost began to cry because I just kept thinking back many, many…many years ago (don’t even try and look it up!) when I was a young student of Fashion Design, I could not have ever imagined that I would have a book and, that the launch party would be at FIDM. I am so happy that since that launch, my book “A Passion for Fashion”, has done very well and in fact, that first week, it was one of the Top Selling Books in Fashion on Amazon!
Since then, I traveled to NYC to have an East Coast event for the book and because it was also NYFW, I got the chance to attend shows including the Season 15 “Project Runway” Finale. I know that the actual show has just begun airing on TV, but yes, the finale fashion show already occurred.
Other than that, on the fashion designing front we just recently had one of our gowns worn by Debbie Matenopoulos (Co-Anchor of the entertainment TV show “The Insider”) at the 2016 Primetime Emmy Awards and are working on some other gowns for future Awards Shows.
I am also working on my NV Nick Verreos sportswear line which I sell exclusively on various TV shopping channels, and I am preparing to fly to Milan Italy in November to show my latest Fall line on QVC Italy!
So, yes, you can say that I have been keeping a little busy!
Spencer: Wow! I’m exhausted for you. The gown you did for Debbie Matenopoulous was gorgeous. I still can’t get over the drape and color as mentioned in my last “A Haute Second with Spencer” article.. I can’t wait to hear about your time on QVC Italy that is so exciting!
So let’s get into your new book “A Passion for Fashion”. Tell me what made you want to write this book?
Nick: There were several reasons for writing “A Passion for Fashion”. In my many years of doing appearances and speaking engagements for high-school students wanting to get into the fashion world, I really only have about 30 minutes (at the most) to tell them “how I got to where I got”. Naturally, afterward, they all wanted to know more and had many other questions such as “How did you get started?”, “Do I really need to attend fashion school?”, “How can I be a successful designer?”, “I want to be a designer but I can’t draw”, “How do I get my dress on the red carpet?”, and so on. I began thinking that I would love to get it all down in a book–make it simple, easy-to-read and really tell young up-and-coming fashionistas and fashion designers the “dish” on the fashion world through my experiences.
At first, I wanted to write a book that was strictly about fashion sketching; almost like a “How-to”, showing how to learn the fundamentals of sketching–both technical and fashion illustration. As it turned out, this is not what my publisher really wanted so I decided to go another route. But in the end, I kind of got my wish because I did include an entire chapter on Fashion Sketching!
When I started my clothing line, NIKOLAKI, I tried desperately to find advice about the industry and nobody wanted to really help me. So, I decided that if I ever write a book, I will not be those people; I will tell it like it is and give the advice, secrets and “this is what you need to do” help. I’m also tired of famous designers (I’m not naming names!) telling stories of how they just started with $100 in their dining room! PUHLEEASE!!! Stop it with the lies. These are PR story, puff pieces that sound good but are not helpful for a struggling young designer. I want to give my perspective and tell the truth. #JustSaying
Spencer: I loved the sketching techniques, honestly I still can’t draw a face to save my life so I will admit I was studying that part pretty hard. The honesty of “A Passion for Fashion” is one of the reasons why I enjoyed your book so much, because it was very real. Many people aspire to be a famous fashion designer which is a great aspiration to have. But you can’t graduate one day and be Donatella Versace the next. You touch a lot on this subject in your book about how it’s important to realize you have to start low in order to end up high. The very first time I met you, you told me to “get the coffee” going forward into the industry. Now, you are giving that same advice in your book. Tell me about your “get the coffee” initiative.
Nick: Thank you for the compliments on the book, and I am so glad you loved the sketching techniques! I spent so many weeks and months on all those sketches and tried to describe the process in a simple and straight forward approach. I taught at FIDM in two different departments, specific courses which involved Technical Sketching so I wanted to somehow combine all of my “Nick Tips and Tricks” of learning how to do flat/technical sketches but also do it so a young aspiring fashion designer hopeful could comprehend.
Now, yes, “Get the coffee”. First of all, I cannot believe you remember me telling you that the very first time we met; you have a great memory! You know, when I wrote the book–along with my partner David Paul–we really wanted to tie it all up in a neat “fashion bow” at the end, and finish with my Ten “Threads” of Advice and the “Getting the Coffee” is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE.
The whole birth of that nugget of advice began years ago. I was doing a lot of my speaking appearances at FIDM to high school students primarily and every single time, someone wanted ONE bit of advice on how to be successful in the fashion world. And frankly, in the beginning I was stuck. I would go on and on and ultimately, say something like “work hard!” (how typical!). So, I wanted to think of something that encompassed the essence of what I felt was essential to succeeding when starting out in the working world. And that’s how I figured out “Get the Coffee!” The funny thing is that when I did start giving that “Get the Coffee” advice at those FIDM speaking engagements, most of the young kids looked at me with a “what is he talking about?” look. But, every single time, the parents would approach me with a hug and a big “THANK YOU!” I asked “for what?” for the “Getting the Coffee” advice!
When I give that advice to aspiring fashion students or people wanting to begin a career in this industry, first and foremost I do mean getting the coffee. I got the coffee. I got it for like TEN YEARS! In essence, what this means is that you have to start low in order to go higher. Too many people want to go zero to sixty too quickly and you miss all the very important fundamentals one learns in the fashion industry by beginning at the bottom: getting the coffee, being an assistant, picking up fabric scraps off the floor, all of those menial tasks are important in learning the entirety of the business.
Getting the Coffee also means going above-and-beyond; do more than what you are asked of. I always give the example that if your boss asks you do something and you’re done, then turn to them and ask “What else would you like me to do?” instead of just turning away and thinking you’re actually done with your assignment. Finally, I have to say that every successful person I have met through my 20+ years working in the industry…has gotten the coffee. The ones who feel that they are “too good” to do so, do not last long. Trust me. So, yeah, GET THE COFFEE!!! Or tea! Or Red Bull! If it’s after work hours, get me my Dirty Martini too!
Spencer: I love that and I totally agree. No one is entitled to success, you have to start from the bottom and prove your worth. Earn your respect! Wow, you should have Trump read this chapter. Such a great philosophy to go by. Since dressing my favorite celebrities for the red carpet is basically my dream, one of my favorite chapters in your book was about just that. You know a thing or two about the Red Carpet having dressed celebrities such as Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria, and just recently you dressed Debbie Matenopoulos in Nikolaki for the Emmys. Nikolaki being the label you and David Paul have created together. Why is the red carpet such a big deal now a days?
Nick: Many so-called fashion and red carpet historians say that they can trace the beginnings of the “modern” red carpet to when Giorgio Armani dressed Richard Gere and Lauren Hutton in “American Gigolo” and then subsequently, at the 1990 Academy Awards when he dressed Michelle Pfeifer. Soon after, we got Joan Rivers and her “What are you wearing?” reporting. I’ve been very lucky to have high profile celebrities wear my NIKOLAKI designs, but it is a tough business, so I wanted to write a section about the Red Carpet in my book “A Passion for Fashion” to describe the history, how it has evolved and give tips through my own experience on how young up-and-coming designers can become part of the red carpet world.
I definitely think that Red Carpet dressing has become a much bigger deal in the last five years because it has now turned into a real business as opposed to in the past when it was just time for a celeb photo-op. Actors hire stylists to style them, fashion conglomerates spend tens of thousands of dollars to fly a team of seamstresses, assistants and creative directors to Hollywood to be ready to provide whatever red carpet service is needed for the A-List actors. PR agencies are hired to make sure their client’s designs are put on the actors and then subsequently, be tweeted, Instagram’ed and Facebook’ed about. That’s really why it’s become a big deal: it’s now a huge money-making business. Not many people can afford a $10,000 gown, however if you are a big brand that also has perfumes, bags, shoes, etc., the mention of a Jennifer Lawrence, for example, wearing Dior can spark the interest of a woman who is watching the show to think “maybe the next time I go to Macy’s fragrance counter, I’m going to check out that Dior perfume”. It’s a cut-throat business and it’s become harder and harder for young designers to get their creations on top actresses at major Red Carpet events and this is unfortunate. With that being said, there are now so many so-called red carpet moments–other than a top awards show–where maybe, just maybe, a young up-and-coming actress can get to wear a young “no name” designer–even if, that designer has no beauty or fragrance contract to offer them.
Spencer: I think this is definitely an important chapter for people to read if they are considering going into this industry. It’s a tough business. But it is something we couldn’t do without. I think a lot of people appreciate the red carpet more than they care to admit which is why I love it.
As you may know, WERRRK.com is famous for running the world’s first ever online drag pageant. Within the “Miss WERRRK 2016” pageant, our girls have to put together lip-syncs, talent portions, and of course an evening gown alongside a Q&A. As someone who has followed pageants their whole life, what advice can you give our girls beginning this competition?
Nick: Yes, I do love a good pageant! My sister was a former “Miss Venezuela” contestant many, many years ago and I think to this day, I was “bitten by the beauty pageant bug”. In terms of fashion advice for an evening gown portion of a pageant, I would say that it all depends. The top international beauty pageants such as Miss Universe, Miss World, etc. have gotten much more fashion savvy in terms of the gowns contestants have been wearing, which to me is a good thing. A big turning point in beauty pageant evening gown competitions occurred at the “Miss Universe 2002” when “Miss Russia” wore a Gucci white Empire-line gown straight out of a Tom Ford-designed collection (there are still people who question its authenticity, however, thinking that it was a “knock-off”). I do love when beauty pageant contestants go more “hi-fashion”/runway/red carpet than “Pageant Betty Polyester Satin tacky”. Recently, we’ve seen some Elie Saab and Georges Chakra and Zuhair Murad couture worn by international beauty pageant contestants and every time I see it, I do yell “WERRRK!!!”
When it comes to the “Miss WERRRK 2016” online drag pageant, my advice would be to definitely try and go the more High Fashion Catwalk Diva route and look at the top Haute Couture collections for inspiration. You may not be able to afford a $50,000 Atelier Versace couture gown but someone can, at the very least, try and copy it or be “inspired” by it. On the other hand, going all out Pageant Betty would also be kind of fabulous, especially in this instance, but only if it’s done right. If a “Miss WERRRK 2016” contestant is going to do pageant campy, then go all the way and bring on the polyester iridescent taffeta and cheap Downtown L.A. Santee Alley sequins but make sure it’s over-the-top fab and the fit and construction is superb! With that said, I think what’s most important, especially for a drag pageant, is that each queen shows her individual identity and style in accordance to her “brand” or “character” and shows the world her total FAB-U-LOUS-NESS!
Nick: Ahhh, Thank You Spencer! It has been a blast! I am so humbled and honored to have done this interview and especially with you and your WERRRK.com readers! I hope that anyone–no matter what age–who reads my book “A Passion For Fashion” can come out of it a little more fashion enlightened and more prepared for the fashion world.
Once again, thank you for this opportunity and…I have one thing to say: YOU BETTER WERRRRK! And yes, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and check out my fun YouTube videos!
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Don’t forget to get yourself a copy of “A Passion for Fashion” now available on Amazon and major book stores
Spencer is a Designer, Event Planner, and Television Nerd in Los Angeles; not to be confused with his look-alike... Chris Pratt. When Spencer isn't talking about fashion, he spends most of his free time eating burgers, hoarding Funko Pop-Vinyls, and talking your ear off about Game of Thrones.