“The first show was amazing for us – we had good accounts in the beginning, ” says Mohammad. They included Villains on Haight Street, some Japanese stores and Fred Segal in Los Angeles. “What was different about us was that we had a colorful line, bright – sweaters mixed gray with red and yellow and were cut up. ‘Streetwear’ was different at the time.”But they didn’t have the money for production, particularly in limited quantities of 30 or 40 pieces. Both lacked credit histories in the United States, making it hard to get loans. “Friends and family were strong supporters – and still are,” Mohammed says. They found manufacturers by going through the phone book and taking them their samples.”Finding the right price point has been a struggle,” Mohammed says. “We don’t want to lose anyone, but stores are funny. We’ve had to learn a lot. We’re still learning. Our price point is a little bit higher [now].”
Nisa’s cute, unfussy separates show up frequently in teen fashion spreads, but they will also be featured in Womenswear Daily and Elle soon. Britney Spears recently turned up in one of their sweaters, with calico fabric accents, purchased at Fred Segal. “You can always identify a Nisa piece because there’s a little tweak,” Mohammed says.These days, they produce about 1,000 pieces a year that go to three wholesale accounts in Japan, and stores including Air Market and Yellow Rat Bastard in New York, and Therapy in San Francisco. They’ve gained a third partner, Ivy Chan (“she’s the glue that puts it all together”), a 1-year-old storefront in the Mission District, a sales representative and a space in the Bluebird showroom in Los Angeles’ Cooper Building.”It’s time to jump this year,” Sering says, noting that sales have increased steadily.
“Things are bubbling for us. We’re everywhere we want to be,” Mohammad adds. “We can’t afford to relax too much.”Their next goal is to show their 2005 spring line at Berlin’s Bread and Butter show, and then expand it to Europe. But even that will be on their own terms.”We take our babies to trade shows, do it family style,” Mohammed says, explaining that all three partners are married and have toddlers. “We say whenever you come into Nisa, you get pregnant,” she jokes.Deborah Hampton has been one of San Francisco fashion’s biggest names since she moved here in 1998 from New York. The former design director for Michael Kors brought her knowledge and familiarity with luxury fabrics and techniques to her own womenswear collections of modern yet classic separates.Hampton closed her sleek Hayes Valley boutique in 2002 to concentrate on her wholesale business – a move that allowed her to spend more time with her three children. Her goal is to produce collections that reflect San Francisco’s environment, consciousness and lifestyle, a topic on which she’s positively evangelical. She even admits to owning a polar fleece, something she never thought she would do.