Sophia Amoruso Might Be The Scrappiest Superwoman We Know

I met Sophia Amoruso almost a decade ago, when we were both hustling to get our businesses off the ground. She was the founder of Nasty Gal Vintage, and I, as one of the founders of this website, happened to be one of her biggest fans. As a dedicated vintage collector, wearer, and passer-onner, I simply liked the cut of her jib, the way she styled weird but wonderful thrift-store gems and gabbed thoughtfully about her products. I remember once, when I needed a dress for I-can't-even-remember-what event and was too overwhelmed to actually go out and find one. Without even asking, Sophia sent me the perfect tiered, black-silk number…just because she knew I needed it.
Today, when Sophia calls herself the founder and chief troublemaker at Nasty Gal, it's not just a shallow bit of CEO-as-guru branding. She's a real-deal, born disruptor. In less than 10 years, she's turned that very same eBay vintage shop into a bona fide, $100 million global brand, through pure sweat; social-media savvy; and an eye for the fashion-forward, subversively sexy clothing women want to wear. And, yeah, great customer service. Now, sitting atop a mini-retail empire of over 350 employees, Sophia has become that rarest of things: a CEO who truly inspires and a patron saint of badass #girlbosses everywhere. Ahead, her thoroughly inspiring take on the unlikely rise of her scrappy brand, and why she'll always be an upstart at heart.
001_SAmoruso655_OPENER_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
I’m reading my advance copy of #GIRLBOSS, which hits shelves on May 6, and I really, really love it! I texted you that one of the parts in the beginning, The Red String Theory, made me cry. It was so smart and moving. What’s the biggest objective for writing the book and what do you hope your fans will get out of it?
“Over the past year and a half, I’ve told the story of how Nasty Gal began and how I built what it is today. What I haven’t told is what I was doing (or blowing it at, for that matter!) before I launched the brand. There are so many things that I did prior to Nasty Gal that prepared me — I shoplifted, dumpster dove, and hitchhiked my way to a place where I learned through trial and error that only hard, honest work is sustainable. That’s a crazy story, and it needed to be told in my voice — few women who aren’t pedigreed with Ivy League MBAs are speaking to girls, and it’s important that the rest of us can pow-wow, share ideas, and make amazing shit happen, too.”
Mania Mania Necklace, Nasty Gal Bomber, Moschino Vintage Dress, Charlotte Olympia Shoes.
002_SAmoruso571_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
We met when we were both starting businesses and buying most of our clothes at the Salvation Army. The early days were pretty tough, but I kind of miss them sometimes. Is there any aspect of a young business at the beginning that you miss? And, by the way, I still shop at the Salvation Army.
“When I look back on the early days, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for that time in my life. It was hard, but fun, and there was something new to learn every day. Quite honestly, I’m so glad that I can say that I feel the same today, but the lessons are very different. I’m dreaming up big ideas rather than executing small ones — but without the meticulous hands-on work I did in the early days, we wouldn’t have a brand today.”
003_SAmoruso585_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
I've been a huge fan of Nasty Gal since Day One, and the thing I love most about the brand is the voice. It's not just stuff to wear but a state of mind for women who aspire to be like you. The confidence and the clothes go hand in hand. What do you think has been the most important part of your strategy and approach that's allowed that to thrive?
“It’s incredibly important for us to be consistent — from our photography to our design to our copywriting, every small choice is an opportunity to either strengthen our brand or fall flat. I’m so fortunate to have an incredible team around me who not only sustain the voice that I incubated over so many years, but who can truly evolve it."
004_SAmoruso558_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
Social media is an amazing tool for smart women like you with a strong point of view to share a more intimate side of the brand and the culture around it. It can be such a powerful tool, and your approach is one of the best examples of being real with customers and inviting them into your world. Yet, why is it that so many fashion brands still fail to have an authentic presence online?
“For one, it works to our advantage that Nasty Gal was born on social media. We’ve been having a 24-hour-a-day nonstop party with our girl for eight years and never once stopped to create a social ‘strategy.’ It’s in our DNA. Secondly, who we say we are and who we are happen to be one and the same. This generation is savvy — if your company is run by an old white guy that you mask with a 'cool' social media account, people know it.”
005_SAmoruso1022_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
I know you're moving into makeup and maybe home, as well. What's next for Nasty Gal, and where do you hope it will be in 10 years?
“Next up is #GIRLBOSS, my forthcoming book, and I couldn’t be more excited. Beyond that, we’re building a global fashion destination, a network of retail stores, an un-fuck-with-able content strategy, and more. As you said, Nasty Gal is more than the sum of our parts, and I want to see how large that sum can be!”
006_SAmoruso550_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
You relocated your life and your business to Los Angeles a few years ago. How does L.A. enhance your lifestyle and how you run Nasty Gal?
“I like to say that L.A. gave me legs in more ways than one. The weather completely changed how I dressed when we relocated the business from Northern California! But, on a more serious note, L.A. has been an incredible place to run the business. There’s been a mass pilgrimage of friends from S.F. and talent from NYC, which is helping to expand the community of creatives here. I love being able to drive home with the windows down, alone for once, rather than combating someone else’s psychic garbage on a city sidewalk. I don’t miss that about San Francisco at all.”
007_SAmoruso596_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
You're the face of Nasty Gal and very much in demand when it comes to being a public spokesperson for reaching millennial woman and succeeding in a really crowded fashion space. How do you prep for speaking engagements, etc.?
“Every speaking engagement is different, but the best thing I’ve learned is to keep my cool. I always check out the room I’m speaking in beforehand so I feel comfortable when I walk in, day of. It’s easy to feel nervous at first, but I make it a point to be myself regardless of who I’m speaking to."
008_SAmoruso127_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
Given you're in the public eye so much, do you have any beauty or skin-care obsessions to share?
"Beauty-wise, I’m a bit of a schizophrenic! Lately it’s been Kate Somerville moisturizer. I love Chanel’s Vitalumiere foundation and have been wearing it for years. But mostly, I just pick at my face and get upset with myself for doing so, then pick it some more. I’m awful.”
Nasty Gal Crop Top, Tibi Skirt, ManiaMania Necklace, Gorgana Cuff, Shoe Cult Booties, Nasty Gal Rings.
009_SAmoruso638_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
But, seriously, sometimes it’s our flaws and our mistakes and setbacks that actually advance us the most in life and alter our perspective. What do you think were the most important mistakes you’ve learned from?
“Everyone else’s! No, seriously — I watched my parents go through bankruptcy. #GIRLBOSS details what that was like, but the best mistakes are the ones you let other people make, that you get to learn from.”
0010_SAmoruso331_FFPhotographed by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
Who's provided the most inspiration for you along the way, as you've built your business? What advice can you share with other Superwomen and #Girlbosses in training?
“In #GIRLBOSS, I talk a lot about being your own idol — that when you look up, you keep yourself down. I prefer competing with myself rather than others. And, I do my best work in a vacuum. My dad said at dinner the other night something that I really loved — he said, ‘Hope is not a strategy,’ which is so true. The best things happen with not only hope, but ingenuity, self-awareness, and a lot of elbow grease. That’s when the real magic happens.”

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