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.
“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.
“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.”
“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."
“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.”
“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!”
“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.”
“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."
"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.
“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.”
“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.”