This Woman Started Her Own Fashion Brand After Struggling to Find the Perfect Date-Night Top
If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own fashion line but don’t know where to begin, look for inspiration from fellow creative ladies who took their ideas and transformed them into successful lines. There’s Anomalie, the custom wedding dress brand that makes bridal gowns that are affordable and luxurious. Birdies Slippers co-founders Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey hit on a brilliant idea for a stylish indoor slip-on that’s now beloved by Meghan Markle and Emmy Rossum. And Yvonne Niami, the founder of n:Philanthropy, combined her love for charitable causes with a celeb-worthy clothing company. In this week’s How to Quit Your Day Job, we spend time with Ramy Brook Sharp, the founder of Ramy Brook, a luxe fashion business that’s anything but basic. Here, Sharp shares how she evolved living room trunk shows into her own chic label.
Meet the Fashion Pro: Ramy Brook Sharp
As the mom to three kids, Ramy Brook Sharp started her business after struggling to find the perfect date-night top. Without a formal degree in fashion, Sharp discussed her dilemma and possible solutions with friends in the fashion industry, who then set her up with a patternmaker. She launched Ramy Brook in 2010, when she was in her 40s, out of her living room in New York City’s Upper East Side, then hosted trunk shows through friends and family.
Sharp got her big break when personal shoppers at Bergdorf Goodman would send customers to her apartment to pair her tops with the company’s attire. Within six months of launching, Sharp’s popular shirts were sold at major department stores, and they’re now sold in more than 250 boutiques, including the Ramy Brook flagship NYC Soho shop. Celebrities like Selena Gomez, Kristen Stewart, Mila Kunis, Jessica Alba, and Carrie Underwood are all devoted fans.
Brit + Co: What’s your morning routine?
Ramy Brook Sharp: My alarm goes off at 6:45am, and I attempt to wake my kids up. They need to leave the house by 7:30am, and it usually takes a few tries to get them out of bed. Once they are off to school, I go for my workout. Most days, I spin at SoulCycle, but I recently started doing the Attain and Catalyst classes at Tracy Anderson, and I love it. Then I shower, and it’s off to work.
B+C: What inspired you to start your company?
RBS: I sensed a white space in the market for the perfect top — a top that was sexy and paired nicely with my jeans and jewelry. I had a vision of what I was looking for and, despite searching everywhere, could not find it. I knew that if I was actively on the hunt for this particular style, other women were too. Ramy Brook was born out of a legitimate need, as I feel most successful businesses are. I launched Ramy Brook in 2010 with six tops and one dress. Within six months, we were in Bergdorf Goodman. My story is an example of believing in yourself and trusting your gut.
B+C: How do you challenge yourself as an entrepreneur?
RBS: I think that one of the reasons why Ramy Brook has been flourishing is that we are our customer. Everything we do rests on the authenticity that we were founded on. I am constantly asking myself and my team, and our consumers, what are the gaps in our wardrobes, and how do we fill them? What new fabrics, designs, and shapes do we crave? How is the fit? What can be improved? With this in mind, we have been introducing new categories to great success. We launched a cover-up collection this past resort season after hearing requests for beach wear from our customers. Many more new product assortments are in the pipeline and will be announced soon. Stay tuned!
B+C: Tell us about how your family and friends help support your business.
RBS: I am so thankful for all of the incredible support I received from my friends and family. I started Ramy Brook with a concept that I was confident in, but without a prior background in fashion. I was lucky that I had some friends who were well-connected in the industry and they quickly set me up with a patternmaker and a QuickBooks [business software] tutor. I knew that if I was going to properly launch a business, I had to understand all of the ins and outs, from the creative to the financial and everything in between. From there, I began selling the pieces at trunk shows. I have the best friends, and word of the line spread quickly throughout my extended network. The momentum that was built from the trunk shows in my friends’ homes allowed me to begin selling to wholesale. To this day, my friends come to every event, shop every season, and cheer every milestone. They are just the most supportive, wonderful group.
My family has also been instrumental in Ramy Brook’s growth. Ramy Brook’s headquarters were based in my apartment for the first few years, so my children and husband were immersed in the process. My husband is now our co-CEO. He is here each day, helping to build the business to its fullest potential. He is just the absolute greatest in every way, and I couldn’t ask for a better partner in business or in life.
B+C: What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
RBS: Run through walls. Stay the course and remain true to yourself. There will always be naysayers and those that express doubt, but with perseverance, drive, and determination, you can accomplish your dreams.
B+C: What do you love about your job?
RBS: It is a joy that I get to work with such a talented and dedicated group. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and Team Ramy Brook is next-level. We try to foster a very happy, fun, supportive culture in the office, and that positive energy touches all that we do.
In regard to my role, I have my hand in everything, but I get super-excited by the design process. I work closely with my design team on everything from initial sketches to fit to ensure that our garments are top-notch. I also love meeting with the store teams — from our flagship in NYC to the department stores — to gain valuable feedback on what is resonating with the customer. We take that firsthand data and apply the learnings to the next season’s collection.
B+C: Name two female heroes who you think should get a shout-out.
RBS: I have always admired Donna Karan and Diane Von Furstenberg. Both are exemplary talents that paved the way for women-owned businesses in the fashion industry. They introduced signature looks that defined their brand, from Karan’s sexy drape to Von Furstenberg’s wrap dress, and each line has never strayed from its DNA. Both women are truly inspiring.
On a more personal note, my mother. She got two masters degrees in her 60s and just published her first book at age 78. The book, The Sunny Side, is a compilation of all of her blog posts (yes, she has had a blog for three years!) and offers advice from someone who has lived through it all. She is unstoppable and is such a force of nature.
B+C: If you could tell aspiring creative women anything, what would it be?
RBS: Being creative is a gift that should be treasured and honed. Never give up. It is easier to throw in the towel than it is to keep pushing forward, but respect your vision. Ultimately, it will be that much more rewarding. Try not to take criticism too personally and understand it is just part of the creative process. Ideas will evolve and take different shapes.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column.
(Photos via Lauren Listor)
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