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Style Guru Nina May


 - Style Guru Nina May
Nina May, 34, founder of Nina & Lola

"I was always obsessed with fashion’, explains Nina May, creator of online fashion store nina&lola. "When I was little and growing up in Hamburg I used to create postcard-sized issues of 'Vogue' for my aunt who had her own fashion showroom. They were drawn in felt-tip pen and really rather good!"

This flare for fine frocks brought Nina to London to study Fashion Promotion at London College of Fashion in 1998, followed by a first job as a reporter for a TV news network. "Eventually I did the fashion and lifestyle shows and reported on luxury goods news but it was very, very stressful and eventually I had a total break-down."

She left TV land and started volunteering for Oxford Muse, an Oxford-based charitable think tank, interviewing designers for a muse-style book. It was here that she discovered her niche and the beginnings of a business idea: "Between TV and this project I met a lot of wonderful, inspiring and strong-minded designers who weren't getting the exposure they deserve because they weren't willing to play the schmoozing game and attend the opening of every envelope. I very much relate to that attitude."

Nina&lola is a genius idea - an online shopping paradise for super chic 30-somethings looking for something a bit different, whether it be hard to find labels, new design talent (she was first to stock William Tempest’s recent degree show), or handpicked vintage. "The basics were there: fashion, like-minded designers and vintage. nina&lola came together totally organically. My brother, a young art director, and I built the site together", explains Nina of her shoestring approach.

So who is Lola? Well, she is a showgirl, of sorts - a svelte mannequin purchased on Ebay! "We thought it would be funny to have Lola as the star of the site’ recalls Nina. ‘She's a very classy lady, so she ended up being photographed in random locations all over London. You can love her or hate her but it makes the site easy to recognize. It's my watermark."

Lola strutting her stylish stuff is clearly working. More and more designers are itching to be part of the site and orders are busier than ever, despite the downturn. People might not be shopping as much but when they do it’s for something special, which is nina&lola’s ‘raison d’être’, as Nina explains: "You have to go through a pile of things to find the golden nugget. People say nina&lola is very well edited, and I take that as a great compliment."

Nina&lola also represents new beginnings: "Even though it was never my childhood dream it's a project born out of a total break-down, which had the benefit of cleaning the slate for me. Corny as it sounds, happiness is much more important than climbing the corporate ladder."

Nina's CV
95-98 - Trainee in advertising, later assistant account executive at Gray Global, Germany 98-00 - BA(Hons) Fashion Promotion, London College of Fashion, specialized in visual communication and journalism 98-00 - Freelance PR for Bulletin International, a broadcast PR agency
00-05  - Producer, reporter and presenter at Bloomberg TV
05-06  - Volunteer for charitable think tank Oxford Muse, vintage buyer, freelance writer and reporter for various German media outlets
07- Owner of nina&lola, the online shop for independent designers and selected vintage
08 - Freelance PR manager for Greenfields Communications, sub-editor for a bilingual magazine



Alison Taylor
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