NEW YORK -- You know her by the sunglasses she always has with her. You know her from TV, and you might know her from the tabloids, too, but Nicole Richie isn't convinced any of it works for or against her when it comes to building her design career.
She guided aspiring designers on the fashion competition show "Fashion Star," and says she sees success in the fashion business as either potentially intense and fleeting, or broad-based and sustained. It's up to the work you do -- and doing it consistently, she says.
"You're only as good as your last season," she says.
Richie, it seems, is banking on a big fall season. That's when her limited-edition collection for Macy's contemporary department debuts, and she also stars in the ads.
Richie, 30, isn't an industry novice. She's gained recognition for her lines Winter Kate and House of Harlow, but the Nicole Richie for Impulse collaboration, best described as contemporary clothes styled with Richie's bohemian flair, is her greatest exposure yet. The clothes, including maxi dresses, asymmetrical skirts, cropped tops and fitted jackets in an array of jewel tones and prints, will be in 100 stores and available online starting Wednesday, Sept. 12.
She hasn't taken the task lightly.
"Well, my main focus just with everything that I design is to really get to know the customer, and I spend a lot of time doing that," she says. "I'm traveling all year just with various appearances that I do for Winter Kate and House of Harlow, and the reason that I do these appearances is because I really get to come face-to-face with my customer, and as I'm watching them in the store I can see what pieces they're wearing, I can see what they're drawn to, what people's favorite pieces are and people are always wanting to tell me a story of how they got that ring or that bracelet, or how they wear their tops or their sunglasses. That's something that I pay attention to and that I really take into consideration whenever I'm designing the next collection."
However, she doesn't do the hard sell. She likes to see women make their look their own instead of doling out advice or drawing attention to how she's worn a certain style before. "It's such an honor any time I'm driving down the street or I'm at school and I see your everyday woman just wearing a piece from my collection, that's something that's so special," she says. "You know it's something that it really touches me in a way that nothing else has before because they went out and they bought that piece and I'm extremely grateful. Quietly grateful."
Meeting Richie, one gets the feeling that although she grew up in the spotlight as the daughter of Lionel Richie and co-starred with Paris Hilton in the reality show "The Simple Life," she doesn't mind working behind the scenes. Her celebrity and family connections have opened some doors, but Richie says she wants to work for the glory.
"It's important to always be a student on some level," she says. "It's important to always keep your ear to the ground and constantly be surrounding yourself with people that inspire you and people that have a good work ethic and I don't think you should ever hit a place where you feel that there is nothing left to learn."
Getting glammed up is part of her job, but Richie, who has two young children, Harlow and Sparrow, says she's not always picture-perfect. She carries the big round sunglasses she's famous for as well as bobby pins wherever she goes for a quick transformation. (Richie says she's a master at a quick hair braid.)
"There are often times that I do look a hot mess and I guess I probably should work on making myself a little more put together at all times. It's a work in progress."
Not on this day. Her hair is just-right wavy, and she's wearing a peacock feather-print dress from the Impulse line. "I would say that jewel tones and intricate prints are the main focus of this collection but I also worked with faux-leathers and lace," she says.
Her fall shopping list includes leather pants. Yes, she says, more women than you might think can pull off leather pants.
Of course, they'll need boots, she says.
She'll also replenish her pullover sweaters, including the colorblocked one from her collection. "I love a good pullover but I think that every girl wants to be able to put on a pullover but not look so sloppy. This pullover, it's actually pretty cropped and still very structured but extremely comfortable at the same time and I worked a lot with colorblocking just to give it a little bit of a punch."
It also looks nice with leather pants, she says with a smile.
She won't build her wardrobe around trends, because there might not be enough room for her favorite things, Richie says.
"I never get rid of something because it's old. I wear things with holes in them like all the time. But I do like to get rid of things just to kind of keep my closet fresh. But most of the time I'm donating. I'm not just throwing clothes away. But I'm a Virgo; I'm pretty organized so I like to keep my closet pretty clean."