Monthly Archives: April 2017

Handmade Shoes in Brooklyn – NicoNine

Meet Nicole Shwirtz. Nicole is an emerging fashion designer from Brooklyn who is about to launch her indie footwear line, NicoNine. She definitely embodies the high quality and unique style of Runway Passport designers. 

Check out her Kickstarter Campaign!

NIcole Shiwrtz Shoe Line


NicoNine is the footwear company I started that gives women more choices in footwear sizing. Shoes are available in half sizes, 5-13, and in narrow, regular and wide widths. My first design is now available on Kickstarter through the end of the month. All shoes are made by hand in Brooklyn.


I started learning to make shoes so I’d be able to wear ones that fit my narrow feet. 

On my journey, I found out a lot of women had foot problems or issues that prevented them from finding shoes they were happy with. 

I found out I wasn’t the only narrow-footed person out there! Not only that, there were a lot of wide-footed ladies too! And then there were ladies with larger feet and I heard how hard it was to find a size 13 shoe. I heard from women who wanted to wear flat or low-heeled shoes but couldn’t find ones that didn’t look orthopedic. I talked with women who wore size 8 regular shoes but enjoyed hunting for up and coming designers so as not to wear the same shoes as others. 

For all these reasons, I was inspired to launch NicoNine and give women more choices within the standardized sizing framework. 

It took me nearly 7 years to get to the point where I felt confident I had something to offer the marketplace, while also keeping true to my ideals. I wanted my brand to be affordable while supporting women and women-run businesses whenever possible and also manufacturing shoes in NYC.

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NicoNine’s ideal customer is a fashionable, modern woman who appreciates small-batch, quality workmanship and knowing that their shoes were made with love, by hand, in North America. 


The most exciting part is seeing my designs transform from a sketch or drawing to a 3 dimensional, real life product that hadn’t existed in the world. That will always blow my mind! The biggest challenge is finding good, reliable partners for all facets of production, while sticking to domestic manufacturing. 


My favorite item in my closet right now is an oversized charcoal wrap sweater that I got in Israel at an emerging designer’s shop. It’s been the perfect staple, especially since I’m 8 months pregnant and can’t find many cool wardrobe pieces for my bump these days! 



The biggest fashion mistake I ever made was probably my extra wide leg skater jeans back in high school in the 90s! 

Learn more about her shoes and help her make them so we car bring her onto Runway Passport!

Indie Designers are My Favorite to Work With.

Lauren Tanaka, co-founder of The Sales Concept, a consulting business for fashion designers loves the heart and passion of emerging designers. There is no time in a designer’s career where you get creations that are so personal and truly made from an individual’s vision.


3 Reasons Why I love working with Emerging Designers

Emerging designers are rare breed. Never in my life have I met such passionate, creative and hardworking individuals.

I always have loved the fashion design process, yet as my career evolved, I ended up working for corporate companies within merchandising in more of an analytical role.  I do recall however the crossroad I took in college when I chose the merchandising route as opposed to the design route.

Being a creative person myself, I always pictured a career in design. However, once immersed into the world of construction, textile science, and pattern making, I soon realized that this wasn’t for me.

As the co-founder of The Sales Concept, I actually get to be involved in both parts of the business which is my true passion. We help independent fashion designers and entrepreneurs grow their fashion business through private consulting and online training courses.

I truly love working with these creative souls and here are three main reasons:


1 – A designer who is emerging and hasn’t truly been discovered is something very special. Of course, the designer may not be as excited to not be a household name quite yet, but when you are first starting out in this crazy world of fashion, being an independent designer and being able to call all of your own shots is something one cannot take for granted.

Finding and working with the right emerging designer is like finding a diamond in the rough. These highly ambitious, hardworking and talented entrepreneurs are such an inspiration of what it means to go after your dreams and what you want for your career and life in general.

Through my consulting company The Sales Concept, my business partner and I are able to help emerging designers understand exactly who their core customer is and how they can create specific styles that are targeted to their individual customers and stores where they can sell their designs.

We help them to not only craft their story in order to connect and build relationships with buyers and customers but also the everyday processes that can be overwhelming.

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2 – An emerging designer still has full reign and say over what goes into their brand.
Before investors, before a ton of employees, CEO’s, directors, etc, they are able to truly convey their art and message to the world through their clothing.

When you work with larger companies or designers that have larger teams, it can often be difficult to navigate the politics of who is right/wrong in any given situation. Working with independent designers you can get a yes or no much easier. Emerging designers have more of a business attitude because they are a hustler and entrepreneur at heart.

3 – Design and quality product still is everything when it comes to this business.

One thing I’ve learned through this work is that product is everything. Having a great product that is unique, exciting and has a specific point of view is what buyers and consumers are looking for.  These designers have their own personality in their products in a way that you just don’t see with the larger brands.

If you find a piece by an emerging designer that you love, you really are buying an individual person’s vision. I love helping them grow and refine such a personal vision.
You cannot find this level of heart and drive anywhere else in the fashion world.


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