Don’t waste so much time being afraid. Be kinder to yourself.”
Gita Omri Brown (Gita Omri) is a rising star in the fashion world and a young designer on an important mission to bring body positivity mainstream. She is taking her uplifting ideals to market by launching two new collections with a wide-range of sizes. Her goal is to bring fashion into an era of inclusiveness through high-quality designs made available for women of all shapes and sizes.
Omri is the creative director of two fashion forward concepts – Omri Essentials, a perennial line of high-quality, modern Sportswear for women of all sizes, compiled of every woman’s closet essentials. This collection is designed with functionality and fit in mind, and is intended to be mixed and matched with Gita Omri, a seasonal conceptual collection of luxury women’s wear.
Omri is no stranger to fashion. She made a splash onto the scene in 2012 as a student designer at the Art Institute in New York when she was selected for a show at Mercedes-Benz (New York) Fashion Week at Lincoln Center. There, she previewed an unforgettable Moto-themed line of women’s wear (celebrated as the most marketable collection of the show), blending the strength and speed of Motocross with the softness of women’s silhouettes.
Omri’s early success at New York Fashion Week positioned her for more high-profile opportunities, including studying at the prestigious fashion design program at Central Saint Martins in London. She also received invitations to participate in additional shows around the world, including Kenya Fashion Week and Vancouver Fashion Week. Now, Omri is settled in New York launching two new lines that reflect her body positivity values and dedication to high-quality, eco-friendly craftsmanship.
Where did the idea for Gita Omri come from?
I knew before I started school that I wanted to design under my own name. It took a lot of trial and error and self-exploration to get Gita Omri to what it is today, an inclusively sized brand rather than just another women’s wear line.
When I first applied to school I was asked “why fashion school?” I answered that there was no fashion for me, a plus size woman, and that needed to change. Somewhere along the way in my education it was made clear to me that there was no plus size in luxury and if I wanted to compete at that level I needed to design for size 0. So I complied.
After my third collection, which was a hot mess, I took a step back. I realized that my collection was no good because it had no substance behind it. It didn’t stand for anything. It was just another line of mediocre women’s clothing. And the worst part of it all, I still couldn’t wear any of my own designs! I decided to take a year to really figure out what it was I wanted to be, what I wanted my line to say.
Looking back at my youth, the hardest part wasn’t being ‘fat’, the hardest part was being made to feel that I was “less-than” because of it! Not being included, having to shop in the back of stores, on a hidden rack, four floors higher than the women’s wear floor. I knew the solution for me was not a plus size line, but rather an inclusive line. There have been a lot of advancements in the plus size market over the last five years. #plusisequal is the cry out. I agree, we are equal, but I also think separate but equal is not equal!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I work from home. My husband and I moved to a two bedroom in Harlem so I could set up a studio without having to pay two rents. Working from home can be extremely difficult if you aren’t disciplined. It’s very easy to get distracted by housework and home responsibilities. On days when you may be less motivated you have to fight the urge to nap or watch TV! This especially becomes harder when you tend to count all of your time as potential work time because your home is your office. I have learned that I need to make myself a “work day” as if I was going to work.
A typical day for me is as follows: My husband and I wake up around 7:30. One of us lets the dogs out of their crates in the living room and we have what we call “family cuddle time” until about 8. Depending on the day we take turns feeding and walking the pups, exercising, having breakfast, and getting ready for the day. Unless I have something specific scheduled I give myself until 10 a.m. to do housework. Whether it’s the dishes or a load of laundry, paying bills, or making a doctor’s appointment, getting something done on my to do list will eliminate the distraction later in the day when I am focusing on work.
By 10 a.m. anyone I may need to contact will already be at his or her desks and past that morning “settling in” time. I usually start by reviewing my notebook (yes I am old school, I write everything down!). I have to do lists, meeting notes, fitting notes, and design ideas. I decide what are my top to dos for the day and get started with those first. Lately I have been describing my to do list as the hydra, I accomplish one ‘to-do’ and three more pop up. Often I forget to have lunch and work straight through. At 6:45 p.m. my official workday is over and I go into ‘homework mode’. After picking up the pups and figuring out dinner I move to the couch. I’m still working but I allow myself to be distracted by other things. The TV is on, I catch up with my husband about his day, etc. Sometimes he will make me put away the computer all together and either have a drink, go out with the dogs, or just hang out. We try to be in bed by 11, (doesn’t usually work), where I do jigsaw puzzles on my phone until I fall asleep. This is pretty much my life. I take Friday mornings off to clean the house, and Sunday afternoons are family time. Other than that, I work!
How do you bring ideas to life?
One thing I feel I am really strong at is coming up with ideas. I love puzzles and problem solving. I have learned how to filter my ideas. I used to just run with anything that popped into my head, and sometimes I still do, but now I try to ask myself a few questions when I come up with an idea. 1. Is it relevant to what I’m doing now? (i.e. the business.) 2. How much attention will this idea demand and will it take me away from more important work? 3. Can it wait for now?
I keep track of my ideas in my notebook and see how I can fit them in as I go.
If I decide to run with an idea, the first thing I do is research. For example, I love how luxury retailers include a small sample of their newest fragrance in their packaging. I thought, great — lets do a Gita Omri fragrance. Seems simple enough, and the margins are great, so why not? I did all the fun work, picked out a name, designed a logo etc. I then went to a trade show for fragrances and beauty products. I made connections asked many questions and found out there is no way at my level I am I getting this done! The minimums and logistics and expenses to create such a small simple thing are insane. So I decided to put a pin in it. One day, sure, but now I have more important things to focus on and smarter ways to spend money. Other ideas have gone the other way and have turned out to be great additions.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Although hopefully not a trend, I think body positivity is exciting. It’s so wonderful to see women and men for that matter finding peace and pride with their bodies. I believe body positivity is as delicate a statement as feminism. It has empowerment and strength as its principal objective but if not careful it can become another way of shaming women. I try to make it clear through interviews and social media that my take on body positivity is that it is whatever you want it to be. If you are happy in a larger body great, if you want to change something about your body, great. Body positivity is not just an excuse to stay over weight. Body positivity is for every size and every shape. And more than anything, if you don’t feel body positive 100% of the time that’s ok, no one does!
Also I’m very excited about scrunchies being ok again! I have definitely seen a lot less breakage in my hair! I’m going to keep this trend going as long as I can.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
LISTS! I make lists for everything. I make little squares on my lists that I get to check off. Once I do, my brain files that thing away as complete and I no longer think or worry about it.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t waste so much time being afraid. And be kinder to yourself.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Most people believe they want the straightforward truth, but when faced with it they feel attacked regardless of the manner or tone in which the truth was spoken.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I ask a million questions, even silly ones, and when you don’t know what to ask; ask, “What kinds of questions should I be asking about this?”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am hyper vigilant about the finances.
My biggest fear is mismanaging or running out of money. Growing up I never had to learn how to handle money. If I wanted something or needed it I got it, if I got in trouble my family would bail me out. Money was a dirty word in our house and you didn’t ask questions. It took a long time for me to figure out how to manage my own finances and now I’m a little over zealous with the company. Luckily I have an amazing accountant who doesn’t mind if I check in with him ALL the time to make sure I am on track.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I actually tried to launch Gita Omri in 2014. At least that’s what I thought I was doing. At the time I knew nothing about the business side of starting a fashion company and I didn’t really care either. I just wanted to design and be creative. I partnered up with an old mentor of mine thinking he would deal with the business and I would be the creative one.
We put together a business plan and showed it to my family. Both of us believed they would just give us the cash and we would run with it. That didn’t happen. When it was clear that it wouldn’t be so easy my partner disappeared and left me to figure out the collection, which was already underway, as well as the business side, which I knew nothing about. I was extremely naïve and I learned some very expensive lessons, but I learned them. I knew if I really wanted to do this I needed to learn. I needed to embrace the business side and transform myself into an entrepreneur. I put designing to one side and started reading anything I could find on starting a fashion business. I listened to podcasts, watched webinars, and went to seminars and conferences. I started going to tradeshows to make connections and ask my questions. I signed up for online courses through Fashion Brain Academy, and more. I knew I needed to have a complete understanding of what I was getting into before I could decide if this is the path I was going to pursue. It was a pleasant surprise to discover I absolutely loved the business side and being an entrepreneur.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers? (this should be an actual idea for a business, not business advice)
I think there should be a movie Rolette app. With so much content out there it becomes nearly impossible to pick a movie. We can spend up to an hour just trying to pick something. There should be an app that will decide for you. You can set it to pick from a genre or actor or director whatever, and then it will make a selection for you. You can then mark it as watched or not and if watched it will take it out of rotation for a year or so.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)
It didn’t cost $100, and my husband just laughed at me and called me a nerd, but I am quite excited about my new swingline stapler. I don’t know why but for years I didn’t invest in a good stapler and relied on small junky school ones. It was always a struggle and now I have a big sturdy stapler that works like a dream.
I also found the best dog coats from Dogo.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
TaskRabbit.com. I used to waste plenty of time doing pick-ups and drop offs from fabric suppliers to the factory, from the factory to the studio etc. This app is amazing, I can better utilize my time and hire someone to do the errand work.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Although not a business book, without this book I don’t think I would have become an entrepreneur, and Gita Omri would definitely not have taken shape as it has. This book is a lesson on how to live your life. I live my life by the lessons of this book as best I can.
a. Live with your eyes and heart open.
b. Don’t ignore the signs from the universe, or god, whichever works for you.
c. Trust in yourself and your decisions.
d. Don’t be so distracted by the ultimate goal that you miss the journey or lose your purpose.
That’s what I took away from this book. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.
What is your favorite quote?
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
― Henry Ford
- Find your unique brand voice through first-hand experiences and needs you observe in the marketplace.
- Transform failures into success by understanding both the business and creative side of a business.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.