An Interview with Fashion Designer and Stylist Amanda Valentine

In contrast to some of my other bitches, Amanda and I have only been friends for about a year. We have approximately one million friends in common, so I could never figure out how we didn't cross paths. But then I met her (and made her be my friend) and got it - Amanda is the hardest working person in Nashville.

As a female business owner, a perfectionist, and a workaholic - I get it. And I appreciate how honest Amanda is in this interview. Other things I appreciate about Amanda:  how much she loves being a Gemini, how often she refers to being a Gemini, Trash Cat, the pictures her husband takes of her while she's not looking, and her encouragement to buy, and wear, all the crazy shit I find at thrift stores. Meet today's bitch, Amanda Valentine!

What do you make and what is the name of your business?

I make clothes and my business is Amanda Valentine (formerly Valentine Valentine - the name of my Danish ancestor that came to America in 1863). I figured it was time to streamline, so I recently re-launched as Amanda Valentine.

AV:  Please note that my brother with the devil horns is now a rock star, I’m in a dress-up dress and my brother who still has his tie on is a doctor.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I’m the youngest of 5 children and grew up in the 80's, so my mother made a lot of of our clothes growing up. She would take us to the fabric store where we would pick out fabric, buttons and the pattern and she would custom design for us! For some reason I took a huge interest in it…

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

When I was in 5th grade I finally said to my mother, “Why don’t I try to make it this time?” Something about her old Bernina machine was calling my name… I can’t explain it. Reality is I’d been creating costumes since I was 2. It was always in my bones.

What was your path that lead you to where you are now?

Ah, a long and windy one. After taking after-school sewing lessons in junior high and high school, I knew what I would study in college. After college, my brother suggested I move to LA with him to scope out the fashion scene out there. That’s when I discovered wardrobe styling and absolutely fell in love with the “industry”.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I started selling my designs on Etsy right out of college. I went through apprenticing stylists, opening vintage shops, playing in rock bands, managing boutiques and always came back to my true love:  Fashion Design. It wasn’t until I was on Project Runway that I really got the guts to go into business for myself.

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

"Work smarter, not harder." Tim Gunn told me that time and time again after visiting me in the workroom on Project Runway absolutely pulling out my hair over-designing and over-thinking.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

I am a CLASSIC creative. Taxes, trademarks, sales goals and projections do not come naturally to me. I’m also a GIANT introvert, so interacting with people and “selling myself” is like pulling teeth. But all those things are CRUCIAL to building a business.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

I spent years believing that if I worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, success and respect would surely follow; that if I said yes to every opportunity that came along, I was doing the right thing.  I listened to “business experts” and acted on advice that wasn’t right for me. “Trust your gut” doesn’t just apply to creative decisions. I’ve learned that my design intuition does translate into business intuition as well. No one understands my brand vision better than I do.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

Trying to be too many things to too many people will only exhaust you. Stay laser focused and PULL BACK. Do fewer things great, rather than doing everything half-assed.

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

I would go to yoga and meditate. Also, running is where I get my BEST ideas.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made?

My health. I was a ball of anxiety and depression just a few months ago. I’m still learning to take care of myself WHILE running a business by myself.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) related to what you make?

Selling the same dress to a 70 year old woman and a 20 year old woman. Selling the same dress to a size 16 and a size 2. I’m obsessed with all women, and never want to exclude anyone.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Instagram. I’m a junkie. Pretty pictures! Ahhhhh!

Where do you go when you need inspiration for your work?

I drive with my windows down and blast Frank Zappa. I meditate (I practice Transcendental Meditation - and highly recommend it). I go to museums. I play darts and drink beers with my husband.

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Play darts and drink beers with my husband. I call him the “5 minute business consultant.” He’s extremely creative, but he’s a Capricorn (I’m nearly an opposite Gemini), so his perspective always feels fresh, but practical.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

Knowing when to “turn off”. Can someone tell me when that is???

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I love reading great books and seeing great art, but let’s not pretend I don’t LOVE all The Real Housewives… Atlanta is my favorite. And pizza. Always pizza.

All photos courtesy of Amanda Valentine

P.S. Meet last week's bitch:  Senior Policy Advisor, Lauren Agee!

P.P.S. Full list of My Bitches here.

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