Since her bridal gown appeared on the cover of Brides magazine last year — having won the Brides Magazine's Operation Dream Wedding Dress competition — and appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, Rock-born, Miami-based designer Nandi Chin Fernandez' phone has been ringing off the hook, with ladies from all over the US and Caribbean requesting her bridal services and style tips from her Nandi Chin designs. Nandi sat with SO over red wine recently to talk fashion and more.
What are you sipping today?
Trivento Malbec Reserve.
What kind of day are you having?
I'm having a good day. It's been a little nostalgic because I haven't been home in three years. Had lunch and did a little shopping for the new house.
What's your ideal relaxation spot?
Oh, I have so many, but I love Italy. I lived in Florence for a while and for me, that is the ideal relaxation spot.
What's your latest obsession?
Shopping for my new house.
Do you primarily do bridal designs?
I primarily do wedding designs but I also do ready-to-wear, and I want to get into swimwear eventually and also accessories. But right now my main focus is bridal and evening wear.
What steered you in the direction of the fashion industry?
Well, when I was 11 years old my mother used to take me to a fabric store in Manor Park. She would make me pick my own fabric. I would draw my designs and she would sew them for me, and I believe that was where it all started for me.
What was the inspiration behind your winning gown?
The theme was Artful Romance, so I drew my inspiration from Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.
How has your professional life changed since the competition?
It has been such a blessing, words cannot describe. I've had a number of women contact me through the website (nandichindesigns.com) enquiring about the dress. Currently I am working on custom designs for three brides and I'm also working on my bridal collection to take to the stores. A lot of women have been enquiring as to where they can purchase the dress, so we're definitely working on getting them in the stores soon. I've also just entered another competition at Charleston Fashion Week in South Carolina. They usually have it annually, but for the first time they have an Emerging Bridal Designer competition. The results have not been released as yet but the winner gets to have their own fashion show. Basically, if I win I'd need to produce a collection in three months because the fashion show will have a number of top magazines and buyers.
How did you spend the $10,000 cash prize from the first competition?
I used it to set up my workshop at home. Got the company registered, got the website up and started on my collection.
What is your favourite fashion television programme?
Project Runway for sure. I love the challenges they get and I love to see how the designers react to it and take them on. Oh, and I love Anya. Not just because she's from the Caribbean, but I loved her personality as well.
Who is your favourite designer?
I love Oscar de la Renta, Giambattista Valli, Phillip Lim and Vera Wang.
Whose wedding dress was your all-time favourite?
I absolutely loved Dylan Lauren's wedding dress. She looked gorgeous in it.
Socialite or homebody?
I'm surely a social butterfly; my husband will tell you that. I love to go out and I travel a lot.
Share some of the places you've travelled to.
I've been to Milan, Paris, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Switzerland, Rome and Florence.
Flats or stilettos?
Can we do wedges? Because I'll probably fall in stilettos.
Jeans or LBD?
What turns you off?
Cigarettes and bad fashion.
In a sentence, who is Nandi Chin Fernandez?
Nandi is vivacious, spiritual, creative and determined.
What's your must-have accessory?
You have to have the shoes, the bag and the jewellery.
What's your style?
Elegant and sophisticated.
What's in your handbag?
My Marc Jacobs wallet, rosary, prayer book, perfume, glasses and iPhone.
What perfume are you spraying?
Fandi by Fendi.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Swearing and calling the Lord's name in vain drives me crazy.
Who does your hair?
Who does your nails?
I go to different salons in Miami, depending on how I feel on the day.
When you're not working, where's the best place to find you?
What's in your car stereo/on your iPod?
Kari Jobe, Rihanna and Maroon 5.
What's the best piece of advice you've received?
Always be forgiving.
What do you feel is your best character trait?
I am a very generous person. I will give the shirt off my back.
And your worst?
I am a bit of a hothead. Although my husband would tell you that I'm stubborn.
Who or what inspires you?
God. When I go to work, the first thing I do is pray. I ask Him to take over my hands and everything else. I attribute everything to Him. Art inspires me, as well.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on three wedding dresses. I'm also working on my first collection and I'm looking to be finished in time for fall/winter 2013.
And 10 years from now?
I'd love to have my collections in boutiques across the globe. I'd also love to have already had my ready-to-wear line and branched off into other areas as well.