Ms. Amoruso If You're Nasty

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Sophia Amoruso, Founder of Nasty Gal | Elsewhere Magazine  

There's nothing more that I love than a great story about a woman making it on her own in the world - whether she is disrupting an industry or creating her own. There is a very specific pop culture phrase for this type of woman, often accompanied by a standard social media symbol - #GirlBoss. The woman we have to thank for this empowering nomenclature is Sophia Amoruso, the founder and former CEO of Nasty Gal.

Sophia started Nasty Gal as an eBay store, selling vintage finds to customers and doing all of the shipping/branding/administrative tasks on her own. I won't go too far into detail about Sophia's success story, because you can (and should!) read all about it in her book #GirlBoss.

Since then, Nasty Gal has become an e-commerce empire. With investors pumping money into the brand, and Sophia relinquishing CEO duties to Sheree Waterson of lululemon, it looked like things were only on the rise for Nasty Gal. Sophia would get to work on expanding her personal brand which now includes another bestselling book and a lauded podcast, and Nasty Gal could continue to grow as the darling of vintage-meets-contemporary fashion.

Let's just say things didn't turn out as planned. On Wednesday, November 9th, Nasty Gal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Did anyone see this coming?

It's difficult to say that any outlet or media source could have said with certainty that Nasty Gal would file for bankruptcy. However, in recent years, the e-commerce retailer has been dealt with a number of lawsuits regarding copyright infringement by the Hells Angels and Pamela Love. There were also numerous reports of issues with the company culture including alleged firings for illegal reasons, spurring many employees to quit the company.

What exactly does this mean for the future of Nasty Gal? What does it mean for OG #GirlBoss Sophia Amoruso?

In short, Nasty Gal will probably be fine. The company will replace some members of its board, perhaps even its CEO, and will continue to pivot until it finds the strategy that works best for the brand. It may not be the mecca of cool-girl fashion that it has been in the past, but undoubtedly Nasty Gal will be able to survive. The biggest changes that they need to make to move forward:

  1. Fix the company culture - Nobody wants to buy from a company that doesn't treat their employees well, and vice versa. Nasty Gal needs to become the place where cool millenials and strategic thinkers with a ton of experience want to work.
  2. Embrace originality - There's no reason why a giant retailer can't create its own original designs without taking large amounts of inspiration from other designers' current collections. There is nothing worse than a copycat in fashion.
  3. Go back to their vintage roots - Nasty Gal started as a way for cool girls to find vintage pieces that were beyond their reach. While the new contemporary direction of Nasty Gal is interesting, it's important that they don't forget what made them so successful in the first place. A recent release of a collection featuring vintage accessories from Gucci, Chanel and Prada shows that the current board is thinking in a new direction.

Sophia Amoruso is another story. There is word that she may also be stepping down from her current position as executive chair at Nasty Gal. I think that Sophia leaving the company would be a mistake. While she has a burgeoning career as a mentor, public speaker, author and podcast host, and she certainly doesn't need to run Nasty Gal to be successful, I don't know if the company can be quite as successful without her. Part of the Nasty Gal draw is that you are buying something that Sophia Amoruso would wear, something curated by the original cool girl. Sophia's celebrity means that she has become the brand personified, and to ask her to resign from her position at the company would not only be cruel (though we've seen it before in companies like American Apparel), but would be a bad business decision.

 

What do you think of Nasty Gal's recent decision to file for bankruptcy? Do you think the company will make a comeback? Let me know in the comments below.