The interior of Nasty Gal's Santa Monica store
Photo: Courtesy of Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal. The brand name itself inspires a love-it-or-hate-it reaction. To many, it’s a kitschy online boutique that caters to the party girls of the world, those looking for the next cropped, cutout, fringed, or fuzzy thing to wear out on a Friday night. But to its founder and executive chairman, Sophia Amoruso, Nasty Gal is so much more than club clothes, and she’s setting off to prove it with the brand’s just-opened second store in Santa Monica, California.
“There are definitely things that we’ve become more known for, whether it was intentional or not, and that’s something we want to be really careful about because we’re not one style,” Amoruso told Style.com. “There are staples that I think every girl, including a ‘fashion nun’”—borrowing parlance from our Fall 2015 Trend Report—“would love, whether it’s a vintage caftan or a leather jacket or high-waisted jeans. Those aren’t things that are risqué or trends in any way—they’re perennial staples—and I think it was from selling those pieces, originally vintage, that they became a part of our playbook about what we buy and what we present to our customer.” Nasty Gal’s new 6,500-square-foot space designed by Rafael de Cárdenas will be the battleground where the fight for the new customer plays out. Nearly triple the size of Nasty Gal’s existing Melrose outpost, the Third Street Promenade spot, filled with neon accents and plenty of pastel pink design, has more product, more salesclerks, and more foot traffic outside. If Nasty Gal is going to compete in a larger demographic, this is the place it is going to happen.
Of course, rapid growth and jumping headfirst into new territories is something Nasty Gal has done so frequently it could almost be its signature. In eight years of business, the brand has gone from an online boutique to a place with its own in-house line of clothing, shoes, and denim; two stores; a best-selling book; and 1.5 million Instagram followers. For Amoruso, who grew the brand from an eBay store where she sold vintage finds into the business it is today—with revenue over $100 million in 2014—the strength that’s allowed for such rapid growth has been an open stream of communication with customers, often on social media and often done by Amoruso herself. Whether it’s on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, Amoruso posts daily and responds to those who send her messages. “It’s amazing how directly you can connect with people via social media. As someone who grew up in a world with brands that felt so far away from who you were and had so little understanding of who you were and spoke to you like you were a moron, we’re all celebrating that we’re not shopping from a place that is run by someone who has to do a bunch of research to figure out whether they’re supposed to say ‘cool’ or ‘rad,’” she laughed. “And people feel it when there’s someone real on the other end and when there isn’t, and I think we’re probably the best at that as far as brands go—and I don’t really say I’m the best at anything, but I can very comfortably say that.”
For all the successes that have come her way, Amoruso is still open to new ideas and to learning. She stepped down as CEO in January 2015, promoting former president Sheree Waterson to the role, and continues to keep an open mind to new opportunities. “A lot of brands, they launch Day One with a whole deck about ‘This is who we are and this is what we stand for.’ With us, it’s marinated over the better part of a decade, and it’s the very first time now that we’re actually putting those ideas on paper,” she began. “We have two stores; what happens when we have 20? There are no aggressive rollout plans, per se. There are no plans for any other businesses. We’ve established ourselves in a way that is still very new. Whether it’s the level of talent we can collaborate with or how exciting we can make a second book that I’m probably going to start working on pretty soon, there’s so much that we have done but there’s so much more to do. I’m all-in for Nasty Gal.”