Ramy Brook Sharp wanted a sexy, fun, Saturday-night top to wear with jeans. She didn’t like what was in her closet, and nothing she saw in stores or online excited her. “So I decided to design one for myself,” says the founder of the eponymous label Ramy Brook.
Nine years later, Ramy Brook clothing can be purchased on its website, at its New York City flagship store, or in department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Bloomingdale’s. Celebrities including Jessica Alba, Cindy Crawford, and Halle Berry are all big fans. TFL spoke to Sharp on her second act, the growth of her brand, and the little shirt that could.
Now 50, Sharp started her business at 42, after spending years working at home as a mother. She had no formal design training and had never run a business. She’d never even worked retail. But she didn’t let any of those things stop her. “Yes, there are a lot of women in their 20s and 30s in fashion, but I never felt too old to learn new skills or to start my own business. In fact, I think being older worked to my advantage because I had less fear of failure. I was more worried about looking back on my life and being regretful if I didn’t try.”
Sharp’s goal as a designer is for women to feel sexy in her clothes regardless of their age or size. “Sexy is different for every woman,” she says.
When Sharp started, she was the company. Her roles included everything but the sewing. “I learned to sketch, I sourced my own fabrics, I hired a seamstress to make the clothes, and was my own salesperson. I even taught myself QuickBooks, so I could keep track of my expenses,” she says. “I didn’t have employees depending on me or my family’s bills to pay. I was able to learn through my mistakes without feeling the pressure of a timeline to succeed.”
She was also able to learn from other women she knew who’d worked in the fashion industry for decades and were willing to share their knowledge. Scoop owner Stefani Greenfield and jewelry designer Jennifer Miller were among Sharp’s supportive friends. Friends and family were also encouraging. Initially, Sharp sold her clothing line at house parties hosted her sisters and pals. These women also served as her advertising department. They would wear the clothes and spread the word about the new designer. To express her gratitude, she named styles after them. “One of my very first styles (and still a bestseller) is a silky, low-cut top call the Harriet. [It] is named after an unbelievable friend of mine. I am so glad that style became a classic and is still in the line today.”
Sharp’s goal as a designer is for women to feel sexy in her clothes regardless of their age or size. “Sexy is different for every woman,” she says. “I don’t like tight clothes, so I use a fabric that is universally flattering to all body types and allows movement. I love to wear cute shorts, but I know some women don’t like to show their knees, so I have longer skirt options. Personally, I feel sexy going braless, and many of my original designs were cut low and backless, but a lot of customers said they feel more comfortable wearing a bra, and I’ve listened to their comments and provided more bra-friendly options.”
Bold colors are a signature of the line, though Ramy Brook does offer beige and black basics. “For me, bright colors are about standing out, being happy, and having fun. Color can change your mood. When a woman walks into a room wearing orange or turquoise, she will get noticed,” Sharp says.
Getting noticed has been a good thing for Ramy Brook, which has grown organically and is ready to expand into outerwear and accessories. “I never had a grand vision,” Sharp says. “I just designed clothes that I wanted to wear, and women reacted positively.”
Shop Ramy Brook at ramybrook.com.