May 02, 2017
Nicole Warne walks elegantly into the studio for her #legend photo shoot. The young entrepreneur, better known to her 1.7 million Instagram followers as Gary Pepper Girl, is in Hong Kong for 48 hours. She speaks softly but confidently, and with disarming candour; she is not a woman that needs to be liked, but a woman aware of who she is. What sets Warne apart from her peers is the powerful combination of humility, resolve and intelligence that is on display, and a mind that any Fortune 500 company would itch to throw money at.
Your motto is “The glass is always half full”. How do you stay positive?
It’s been really important over the past few years to find work-life balance. I make it a priority to surround myself with positive people. I think you become a product of your environment. I love seeing my high school friends because they keep me grounded. You don’t lose sight of who you are and what you stand for. I find, to keep pursuing Gary Pepper Girl, Nicole Warne has to be happy as well.
You started as a retailer, with the vintage clothing brand Gary Pepper Girl, which took off as you started modelling your own clothes. What was the transition to influencer like?
It was strange because it was never in my business plan. I just modelled to cut costs. I think people have a lot of misconceptions about influencers, thinking they always want to be in front of the camera. For me, it wasn’t like that. The way I started was so organic. It still feels strange and it’s much harder than running the store. There’s a formula for running a store, it’s business skills and marketing. I feel a bit conflicted using those skills on myself because I truly believe that it shouldn’t matter what you look like or what you wear or who you’re hanging out with. It should be about your work ethic, your morals, your values and what you stand for. I hope there’s more depth to what we’re doing.
You’re a vegetarian and don’t condone wearing fur. What are your thoughts on sustainability and fashion?
I think it’s a great conversation to be having but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be. My hope is that Millennials, with their unparalleled access to information, will be more conscious and ask where their clothes come from, who’s making them and how many hours went into each piece.
What inspires your personal style?
Honestly, the women I meet and the cities I’ve been too. I love going to Tokyo and interpreting that theatrical style. I love the minimal aesthetic in Paris and how the women carry themselves. They don’t really wear make-up because they’re just glowing from within. I love the women in New York because they’re some of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and they dress very sleek.
How do you keep your business skills sharp?
I think you have to be a very curious person to run a business. You can’t become content with what you’re doing because you won’t evolve and you won’t survive in a competitive market. Never become complacent.
Your parents were entrepreneurs as well. How has that affected you?
They had this attitude of, “What’s the worst that can happen?” When I first started, I was fearless but now I’m a bit more cautious.
Who are the other Instagrammers and bloggers that you admire?
I don’t compare myself to other influencers. I think it’s important for us to support each other. A lot of us started around the same time, so I’ve known these girls for six or seven years and we’ve grown a lot together.
What’s your self-care routine?
For a long time I felt guilty. I thought taking time for myself was being lazy or selfish. But I’ve found, to be successful in your business life, you have to be happy in your personal life. So I make sure to take at least 30 minutes each day for myself. Being disciplined with my personal life has made a huge change in me as a person. I’m careful about what I eat, my skincare routine and I exercise every day.
If you could wear only one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I do love a power suit, they’re so chic and sophisticated. I’ve only recently started wearing them. It’s a powerful message to see a woman in a suit because it’s quite masculine. I’ll say a black tuxedo suit, Saint Laurent if I can afford it.
You’re a NET-A-PORTER style ambassador. How does that relationship work?
It’s an organic relationship about embodying the NET-A-PORTER woman. To me, that’s a self-made, intelligent, sophisticated woman that isn’t worried about what people think, and she can be quite indulgent. We partner around key moments but we don’t dictate anything to each other. I believe in their brand. They’re one of the most luxurious names in e-commerce.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you?
I think there’s a misconception of what you value as a person if you’re an influencer. I value time with my friends and family and, honestly, I don’t have a huge wardrobe. I just don’t need that many things and I recycle a lot of my pieces. I appreciate beautiful things but I appreciate the experiences you have with the people around you.
Who is your legend?
I’ve always loved Audrey Hepburn for her grace and poise. I’d love to go through life as sophisticated and stylish as Lauren Hutton has. Victoria Beckham is a recent one for me. I really respect her as a self-made woman and I fell in love with the quality of her clothing. Cate Blanchett, I think she really embodies everything I aspire to be as woman. She’s gracious, kind, warm, sincere and intelligent.
Photography / Olivia Tsang
Styling / Jolene Lin
Producer / Gordon Lam
Make-up / Evelyn Ho
Hair / Derek Li
Fashion / NET-A-PORTER
Watches and jewellery / Cartier
Handbags and shoes / Roger Vivier