Amanda Curtis and Gemma Sole are fashion mavens, taking the New York startup community by storm. The pair co-founded Nineteenth Amendment, a marketplace for emerging designers, not long after meeting as students in Startup Institute’s full-time program. Psyched, as always, to shout our alumni’s accomplishments from the rooftops, we spoke with these women to learn more about how they’re inciting disruption in the fashion industry.
What is Nineteenth Amendment?
Amanda: Nineteenth Amendment is a high-fashion marketplace bringing freedom and empowerment to fashion. We connect an audience that craves cutting-edge fashion with up-and-coming designers from around the world. Our collections are offered at pre-sale prices and are produced by local manufacturers in the United States. We believe that each purchase is a vote for better fashion.
Can you share your founding story? How did you come up with this idea, and why do you think it is taking-off?
Amanda: I love fashion–it’s a part of me. I grew up in the industry. I was in the factory and showroom, and on the runway before I learned to speak. And I saw, over the years, that things weren’t working. The emergence of fast fashion, which brought efficiencies to the traditional manufacturing model, ended up hurting independent designers.
Having trained as a designer at Parsons, I started my own career behind the scenes at New York and London fashion weeks, and I loved it until I saw more and more emerging brands ultimately fail as outsourcing and fast fashion slowly began to destroy the industry I loved.
So, we started Nineteenth Amendment to create a better place for fashion, a place where the next big names in fashion can more easily bring their designs to market, and where tastemakers can discover cutting-edge fashions before they go mainstream. We’re making fashion as smart and sustainable as possible for everyone who loves it as much as we do.
Ultimately, we bring a new voice to the fashion industry: a voice of reason that tells us there is a way to get beautiful, couture-quality designs in the hands of consumers at accessible prices through innovative, local manufacturing and distribution.
Tell us a bit about your paths to becoming entrepreneurs. What were the big learning moments along the way?
Gemma: Inspired by an entrepreneur father, my goal has always been to create something great. I started a small business consulting service in Rochester, NY with a grant from the Kauffman Foundation, then went to work for a larger firm as a strategy consultant. But missed the creativity I felt running my own business, as well as the ability to make high level decisions that have an immediate impact.
Feeling the tug of entrepreneurship, I joined the startup community and learned how to do things faster and smarter. These experiences helped me realize that understanding what you want and sharing it with like-minded people is the first step to succeeding. Networks are invaluable. Time is precious. Relationships are critical.
What role did Startup Institute play in getting you to where you are today?
Gemma: Amanda and I met during the very first class of Startup Institute in 2012. We were both marketing students, and united by a deep desire to create something meaningful and awesome. Being a part of the startup community has been invaluable as we have started and grown our business. We are a lean team, but we are backed by an army of great minds to help us, whether as new employees or trusted advisors.
How would you describe company culture at Nineteenth Amendment?
Gemma: We are a group of A-level players and artists who, contrary to most fashion companies, love eating (especially $1 oysters). We have enormous respect for our designers as artists and visionaries, and consider fashion a language and an art, but we also have fun with it.
We want to make the world a more beautiful place, one garment at a time.
As you scale, what are the key things you will look for in new hires?
Gemma: We look for people who have enormous amounts of integrity, who are brave and willing to test ideas, and who can laugh at themselves. The fashion industry can be incredibly challenging, so it is important to us that new hires truly believe in the mission and vision of redefining fashion production and consumption. We also hope they like oysters… 🙂
Startup Institute provides immersive education for the innovation economy: giving people the skills, mindset, and network to get a job and thrive in a high-growth career. The core program opens new doors for our students through expert training, personalized mentorship, and by connecting them to the people and companies that will accelerate them in their careers.