Take Ten: Kirsten Wolfe and Nanette Mervin
Long term friends, Nanette Mervin and Kirsten Wolfe, are the dynamic women behind the apparel company Ginger. Focusing on dresses produced in small batches that feature beautiful fabrics, the nascent brand sets out to support other busy women in their quest to look great without all the fuss. Nanette got her degree in fashion design from FIDM Los Angeles and has been working in the industry for 20 years. Kirsten is a merchandising and marketing veteran focusing on consumer goods and services. They both have a passion for classic forms, oversized jewelry, and - above all - helping people look good. Coupar Consulting catches up with the partners over coffee.
Given the competitive fashion landscape, how did Ginger get started?
Nanette Mervin: After spending my career designing for other companies, it felt like the right time to branch out. My own personal style has always been about simple and flattering shapes that I could dress up or down with accessories. I always want fashion to have my back and I can count on to make me feel and look great. Our classic dress evolved from a vintage dress I had found and loved that we shortened and modernized.
Kirsten Wolfe: I saw an opportunity in the line when I reconnected with Nan and saw what she was doing. The athleisure trend is still so strong with many women tending to wear yoga pants all day long – regardless of whether they went to the gym or not. We love our yoga pants too, but wanted another option for easy to throw on clothing but with an elevated style. The Ginger designs are exactly that and offer an easy transition from casual to polished. The dresses are great paired with jeans and flats to chase after the kids, or meet a friend for lunch after errands. Later in the day, switch to a chic pair of heels, add a great necklace, and head to a special evening event.
Dresses, particularly caftan style dresses, are prominently featured on your site - why did you choose to focus on them?
KW: Our mantra is “effortless style”. We believe that women want to look good and pulled together, but not have to spend excessive amounts of time getting ready. We design for women who are comfortable in their own skin, and are fond of the perfect accessory or a cool pair of shoes. Our dresses act as a canvas for the personality of the wearer, with a great deal of versatility.
NM: Kirsten and both have kids and most mornings, at least at my house, can be quite chaotic getting everyone out the door. I don’t have time for a fashion crisis or morning meltdown and love the simplicity of the dresses, either on their own or thrown over pants.
Favorite customer responses to your clothing?
NM: Last summer, we held a trunk show at the Battery in San Francisco. Toward the end of the day, a woman came by and purchased 3 dresses in about 5 minutes (all the same silhouette but in different patterns and materials). She wrote to us about two months ago, out of the blue, and raved about the dresses – she appreciated that she could throw them on yet feel very chic, pulled together and confident with just one piece of clothing.
KW: Trunk shows and fairs like the Renegade Fair are great as they give us direct contact with our clients. They tell us they wear our dresses for job interviews, travel, special events, and just day to day running around after the kids. We love their stories, and that the dresses make them feel attractive and confident.
Trend or timeless? What are your design influences?
NM: Always timeless. My two absolute favorite designers have been the same, Claire McCardell and Donna Karan. McCardell was an American designer from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. Her simple and gorgeous designs would be as relevant and stylish now as they were then. Donna Karan really understood women and what they wanted to wear. She created a core look of easy and interchangeable garments in delicious fabrics.
KW: One of my influences is the trend to minimalism and that people are buying less by being more deliberate in their choices. Honoring the less is more aesthetic, Gingers designs are incredibly versatile – the same dress looks very different through accessory choices and works so well for a variety of activities. I recently took 2 of our dresses traveling and rotated them with different styling. In addition to the dress, I had a pair of white jeans, a pair of shorts and some tops – I really didn’t need much more.
Will you fall collection look similar? What are Ginger’s plans for the future?
NM: We will continue with our small production runs, it really allows a dynamic reaction to our customers. We have a core line of our linen dresses that we offer year round as they are a slightly heavier weight and transition nicely from spring through fall. Our limited edition fabrics are offered until they sell out, then we move to the next season (so, don’t wait to buy if you see something you like!). In the fall, we have plans to launch 3 new dress silhouettes and a tunic or two. The samples are turning out great – I can’t wait to start wearing one myself!
We would like to continue to offer more styles in great fabrics. We would also like to increase the number of retailers who carry our line in the Bay Area and beyond.
Lastly, how can we see your collection?
KW: We reach our customer several different ways – our website is always a good first stop as you can find our entire collection. To try something on in person, visit one of the fabulous Bay Area retailers who carry our line and are experts at pairing the dress with a great piece of jewelry and offer great styling tips. Ginger will also be showing at the Renegade shows - LA in July, Chicago in September, and San Francisco in November.
Nanette Mervin and Kirsten Wolfe are co-owners of Ginger, a chic collection of dresses and tunics. Ginger is based in Berkeley and sells directly to the consumer through their website, social selling, and shows. Ginger is proud to be carried by several fine Bay Area retailers. To see their collection, please visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.