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Nicky and Simone Zimmermann

Having just launched their first London store and a capsule collection of sunglasses with Cutler and Gross, sisters Nicky and Simone Zimmermann tell us about the path that has taken them from a market stall to become Australia's most successful brand in history. The unstoppable duo have stayed true to themselves and their vision along the way, sharing experiences of motherhood, sibling squabbles and an abundance of laughter.
Who is the ZIMMERMANN woman?
Nicky: The Zimmermann woman is feminine and likes to have fun with fashion. She loves to buy things that make her feel good and beautiful, and has an eye for something new and unexpected.
 
The partnership you have as sisters is not unlike the one Tony Gross and Graham Cutler share, though yours has the extra DNA similarity thrown in! Do you think working with family makes things easier or do you ever have any sibling squabbles?
Simone: We are pretty in tune with each other's thinking and so that helps in decision-making. But don't get me wrong—over the years we've had some amazing fights in the studio! But we're sisters, so we end up just laughing about it.
 
"Over the years we've had some amazing fights in the studio! But we're sisters, so we end up just laughing about it."
  
What were your creative dreams when you were younger, growing up in Australia? Did you always want to go into fashion?
Nicky: From the time I was a young girl I wanted to design and make clothes, and I always felt comfortable making things. I started out designing dresses and making them in my parents’ garage, and selling them to girls that lived in our area. I studied design at East Sydney and started Zimmermann straight out of college but I really didn't know anything about building a business that could sustain what I wanted to do creatively over time. So we just worked it out ourselves really.
 
You first laid out your dresses on a stall at Sydney’s infamous Paddington Markets. What was your vision at the time? Did you ever think back then that your designs would end up on runways in New York?
Nicky: I started in Ready-to-Wear and created really feminine dresses that women could wear out on a Saturday night. I didn’t think too far ahead back then – I was just having fun and working hard – I loved designing and I just followed the opportunities. I never had some huge vision of what a brand could look like, but I was always very ambitious.

 
 
There is a huge local fashion industry in Australia but many seem to find it difficult to crack the international market. What made you stand out as different?
Simone: I think we have just always done our own thing. Growing up in Australia, with our way of life, it really influenced Nicky as a designer and she has stayed very true to herself and her vision along the way. She has never been influenced by what people were doing elsewhere and I think there is something quite real and honest about what Nicky creates.
 
"I think we have just always done our own thing. Growing up in Australia, with our way of life, it really influenced Nicky as a designer and she has stayed very true to herself and her vision along the way."
 
What advice would you give other emerging Austalian brands who aspire to your level of success?
Simone: I think it’s that idea of staying true to yourself as a designer. Or at least working to find out what that is – the space that feels right to you. And there are a million other things that you need to be successful, not the least of which is a desire to work relentlessly.
 
You both have children yet have managed to launch Australia’s most successful fashion brand ever. How do you balance professional and family life?
Nicky: It’s not always easy – particularly with the travel we need to do from Australia. But we work it out and our kids have only ever known their mothers working hard and have always been around the business. Zimmermann is very much part of our kids as it is us in some ways.
 
Simone, you lived in London before coming home to start the label. What did you learn from your experience in the city?
Simone: Probably independence and how to live on little money!
 
You have just opened your first London store this summer. Why did you choose London and what attracted you to your new location on Bruton Street?
Nicky: Opening our first store in London has been something that Simone and I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. To see the store coming to life is just really exciting for us. We have spent a lot of time in London over the years and, like so many Australians, we have such a close bond with the city and have so many great friends here. I love Bruton Street and Mayfair (where our store is located) – it’s where I shop, so it just felt right.
 
"We have spent a lot of time in London over the years and, like so many Australians, we have such a close bond with the city and have so many great friends here."

 
Where are your favorite places to hang out, both in London and back home in Sydney?
Simone: In Sydney, I love to spend time at the beach in Bondi where I live, or outside of Sydney at Palm Beach – particularly in Summer.
Nicky: When we’re in London it’s usually work related so my days are pretty busy – but in the evening I love the back bar at The Connaught, where we often stay. I had lunch recently at Isabel which I loved. And I have lots of dinner favorites that I regularly visit – Scott’s, 34 and La Petite Maison.
 
Where are you happiest?
Nicky: Probably in the studio working on a collection in Sydney and at home with my family.
 
What are you most proud of?

Nicky: I’m pretty proud of my two kids! And I’m also proud of what we have been able to create with Zimmermann and to be able to build a life where I can do what I love for as long as I have. It hasn’t been easy as a designer based in Sydney so I feel really lucky.
 
"I’m pretty proud of my two kids! And I'm also proud of what we have been able to create with Zimmermann and to be able to build a life where I can do what I love for as long as I have."
 
And what has been you biggest disappointment?
Simone: I don’t know if we think about disappointments that much. Certainly nothing springs to mind. I think we’re very optimistic, much like the sorts of collections that Nicky creates, so that shapes how we think about things.
 
Who has been the biggest influence on your life?
Nicky: I’ve had lots of different influences that have impacted me in different ways and in different areas of my life. I’d say one person that stands out for me is my Nan, who lived with us growing up, and she was someone I spent a lot of time with. She taught me to laugh, amongst many other things.
 
What keeps you awake at night?
Nicky: Nothing. I sleep like I’m dead.
 
Where do you see yourselves in 10 years?
Simone: I think Nicky and I would both still like to be doing what we do now. In some ways, it would be nice if things could slow down at some point, maybe with some more time between seasons and collections – but it is what it is and we love it.
 
If you didn’t have a fashion label, what would you be doing instead?
Nicky: Maybe a florist.
Simone: Probably working in Nicky’s florist…
 
What attracted you to the Cutler and Gross brand and why did you choose to partner with us on a range of eyewear?
Nicky: I have always loved Cutler and Gross – the great styling, the understated presentation and the quality. So when the chance came up to collaborate on an eyewear capsule I jumped at the chance.
 
Why did you choose London, Miami, New York and LA as the cities to inspire your collaborative Cutler and Gross shades?
Simone: The cities are all places where we have recently opened new stores – so it felt like a nice way to celebrate that and to take something of those places and interpret it into the eyewear.
 
And finally… Shades indoors? Yes or no!
Simone: No.
Nicky: Why not? Each to their own.