Meet entrepreneur, author and fashion historian Nancy Flaherty. Using her knowledge for fashion couture she recently debuted her book French Flair:10 Essential Pieces for Style And The History That Makes Them So Iconic. Flaherty presents ten key items that women should have in their closet from the little black dress to the ideal scarf to the fitted blazer.
As the founder and CEO of Hidden Gems with Grace, Flaherty curates shopping and fashion experiences in Paris and other cities that offer Parisian panache. Also, just last month, Flaherty was appointed the Atlanta regional director of Fashion Group International (FGI). With a mission to support women in the fashion industry, FGI offers timely information on national and global fashion trends.
Flaherty had been fixated on fashion and style her entire life. When she was in middle school she learned to sew and make clothes. “One of the first pieces of clothing I made was a denim wrap skirt with red and white rick rack trim. I wore it forever,” she recalls. At drama class in high school she always assisted with the costumes for school plays and musicals. Early on one of her style icons was Princess Diana. “I wore ruffled shirts, suits with matching tights and hats. If I couldn’t find them in the store or it was out of my budget, I made it.”
As much as she loved fashion, she didn’t embrace it as a career until later on when she started working with a French luxury lifestyle magazine after her youngest child started college. “I had a completely different path in my educational years. I studied math and science,” she shares. “But I always shopped for that perfect ensemble I saw on someone else, and worked at a retail store while in college.”
Her parents were keen on her getting a reliable well paying job. “But I wish someone had suggested the fashion industry to me when I was planning for my future,” says Flaherty. “Luckily I’ve had an opportunity to recreate myself during this second chapter of my life. I like to call it the next chapter or new beginning.”
Jeryl Brunner: How did you get into the Fashion industry?
Nancy Flaherty: My first job was writing and editing for, [the French publication], Captendance magazine. I covered things in the United States that my French publisher thought would be interesting. I wrote in English, and they translated for our print magazine. We also had an online English version of the publication. I always enjoyed covering Paris fashion week, especially Couture week in January or July.
Brunner: What inspired you to launch your own company.
Flaherty: My Paris editor at Captendance and I really loved following and writing about the small businesses in the fashion industry that needed to be promoted. We wanted to start an online magazine that wrote about shopping in Paris from an insider’s perspective and spotlight the lovely shops and shop owners that are not on the tourist maps or in guide books.
As I began to discover new places and continued to write about them, I was continually asked for advice on Paris: where to stay, eat and mostly where to shop. I started a tour company that takes people on five day curated shopping trips in Paris exploring the city I love and living like a Parisian, shopping all of my favorite boutiques. I wrote my book, French Flair 10 Essential Items For Style And The History That Makes Them So Iconic, when I couldn’t travel to Paris, during the first quarter of 2021.
Brunner: Can you talk about your passion for Paris and what you offer your clients?
Flaherty: I have always loved the romance of Paris—the bustling city lifestyle, and iconic landmarks of the city of light. I fell in love with Paris and the more I learned about the city and the fashion history that resides there. When I travel I love to hunt for special purchases that stand out. My rule is that if I can get it at home I don’t buy it. When I bring my clients to Paris I show them neighborhoods and introduce them to the boutique owners that over the years have become my friends. My clients, in turn, are treated like friends in the shops we visit together.
Brunner: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Flaherty: Since I began my career as a journalist I was continually asked to write pieces about must-have items or multiple ways to style one piece of clothing. I knew there were essential pieces to the Parisian woman’s wardrobe and had been keeping a notebook about what I thought were the perfect items. In my book I delve into the history behind each iconic item and why it is so necessary to the wardrobe of anyone looking to exude Parisian style. Each chapter explores one iconic item and the history behind the piece. For example, I have one chapter all about the Trench Coat: writing about the trench coat, styling it, finding versions of it from low price points to high, and then explaining the history of the trench coat are all in my book.
Brunner: So many people have a passion and want to create their own business but don’t have the confidence or courage or resources. What would advise?
Flaherty: Seek the advice of a business coach or well established mentor who can answer questions and help you make decisions. I have made a few bad choices along the way, but always learn from them. You have to have passion to continue the job even on days when you don’t feel 100 percent confident. It also helps to have friends to call on to encourage your every step, and talk you through tough decisions.