Israel native Nili Lotan is a seasoned New York-based designer known for her crisp and utilitarian design aesthetic. Before launching her eponymous collection in 2003, Lotan worked as a senior design director for leading fashion companies including Ralph Lauren and Nautica. She has since gone on to collaborate with like-minded brands from J. Crew to goop. Last month, Lotan debuted Inspired By, a concept store that compliments the designer’s gallery-like store and studio hybrid in Tribeca.
You arrived in New York in 1980 – where were you before? What were you doing?
In July of 1980, I graduated from Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art in Israel after three years of fashion/textile studies. I moved to NYC the following month.
What was it like working for Ralph Lauren in the 90s?
The greatest thing about working for Ralph is understanding his clear, consistent, focused vision of his brand. I greatly admire that and I don’t think it has changed between then and now.
In what ways do you balance the design and functionality of your brand’s ethos?
To me, functionality means being practical with the purpose of being comfortable. My intention is that my designs will not only be beautiful and make women look and feel beautiful, but also serve women throughout their everyday lives and for their special occasions.
Tell us about the new concept store you recently opened in Tribeca. How do you select the non-Nili Lotan items? Will this be a permanent space for you?
Inspired By is a pop-up concept store located in the front of my studio and showroom space in Tribeca. It’s not a permanent store and will feature different concepts at different times. Each concept features my designs as well as a collection of vintage finds including art books, accessories and wares all curated by me for that season’s inspiration.
How do these items represent your brand more broadly?
At Inspired By, I share some of my mood boards, artists I love, books I admire, art I respect and jewelry I love and collect.
You’re also doing another Hamptons store this summer. Are you catering to the same customer?
My East Hampton store is in its third season – all of my Nili Lotan retail stores have a consistent vision, aesthetic and shopping experience.
How have the collaborations with J. Crew and goop impacted your business?
J. Crew has been a longtime supporter of the Nili Lotan brand and I love working with them. Goop is a newer collaboration and we all share very similar aesthetics. I believe these partnerships reach new audiences who appreciate my style and design philosophy.
Do you have any mentors in the fashion business? In what ways have they guided you?
Ralph Lauren is a mentor for me – he taught me the importance of keeping a clear and focused vision of your brand.
Nili Lotan is carried in retailers all over the world, but you’ve personally managed to stay relatively under the radar – was this intentional?
I chose to define my personal brand DNA and build a strong base to my business first. Now that the vision is clear and the brand is established and carried all over the world, it feels time for more exposure.