A Prime woman in power has a lot of responsibility – that includes her head-to-toe presentation. So, who’s in her closet? One of the most delightful and accomplished women that you will ever meet, Nina McLemore of Nina McLemore LLC, house of fashion. She designs fashion specifically for women over 50, created to make us look alluring and beautiful, and certainly not our calendar age! The fabrics and colors that she selects are so special. You will understand why women like Hillary Clinton wear “Nina’s.” I have known Nina for 20+ years and have worn her clothes since she began producing them. You are in for a real treat! Here’s an exclusive opportunity to get to know this wonderful person and her beautiful creations.
PW: Nina, thank you so much for your time. Our readers will be thrilled to learn more about your incredible life! You’ve had so many accomplishments, especially recently. Tell PrimeWomen about the motivation to return to university and earn your MBA later in life.
NM: First, I would not consider 50 later in life! It may be the middle, but not later! I have always loved learning and spent one weekend thinking about what was really important to me. I realized that I was not learning – and so decided that what I really wanted to do was understand how to finance business. I thought I had a good understanding of how to create, grow, and manage businesses, but did not know how to finance them.
PW: Those of us who know you realize that you are an over-achiever. But, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was quite a goal to set for yourself after the age of 50. How did you get ready to tackle this challenge? How much time did it take out of your life?
NM: It did not take time “out” of my life, it added to my life. I had spent years sitting behind a desk, on airplanes, and working hard, but had not kept active. For 3 months, I exercised 2 hours a day with aerobic and strength training. I felt better than I could ever remember feeling. While I have not kept that up, (I have been so busy again I had not done much exercise) I am now taking at least 2 days a week to jog and get back in shape. The trip up Mt. Kilimanjaro, while it is not technically difficult, it is at a very high altitude. At 19,340 feet, there is half the oxygen of sea level and taking a step is difficult. The lesson I learned after 5 days on the mountain was: “You can get through anything if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and breathe very deeply.”
PW: Great advice! Okay, let’s see, there is a wonderful line that Robert Browning wrote to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “…grow old along with me, the best is yet to be…” You are a perfect example of someone who was successful in early life, and even more so in later life. You started Nina McLemore LLC, a fashion house with wonderful designs and fabrics for women in our age and income brackets. Your clothes make us look great! You began this when many of our friends were retiring and starting to take life easy? How big of a decision was this for you to make?
NM: If you are a positive person, you almost always underestimate the difficulty of an idea or project – and I did in this case. I thought the business would be much easier to build and I did not count on the multiple complications of not only designing 4 new collections a year and financing an inventory business, but also building a unique channel of distribution and starting a business by myself with no other staff. There were days that if I had known how difficult this business was going to be, that I am not sure I would have done it. In the end, I’m glad I carried on, but would have done a few things differently. The big reward is the clients that we provide clothes for. They are smart, interesting, engaged in building businesses, or changing the world. Those are not the women that the international or young designers want to dress. They want the ultra rich fashion-driven or very young women. We dress the women who matter!
PW: That’s a lot to take on – and you got married again! How do you and Don balance the professional and the personal? Does he still practice law while you are out conquering the world of fashion? When do you see one another?
NM: “The best is yet to be,” is definitely the case here. We are both so aware of how lucky we were to have found one another and to be so compatible. We adore one another and are completely supportive of one another. My husband, Don Baker, is an international anti-trust and international jurisdiction lawyer practicing in Washington and the apparel business is in New York. He has just celebrated his 80th birthday and is completely engaged in his profession. We spend the weekends together in Washington, DC or in one of the cities where we have stores when he travels with me. Some weekends, of course, we are not together.
PW: Each time I see you, you always look fabulous, but you must live on an airplane. How do you take care of yourself and your health?
NM: I am very lucky in that my parents were 90 and 97 and in good health until their deaths. Both had amazing energy and I have inherited that energy! In addition, the Mt Kilimanjaro lesson was very valuable. I eat only healthy high protein food and vegetables, watch my health, don’t get enough sleep, and am now exercising 2 days a week working towards 5 days a week.
PW: You are also very passionate about issues effecting women and girls. What organizations are you sponsoring with your time and treasure these days?
NM: The Foundation of the New York Women’s Forum, which provides scholarships for women who are going back to college as adults, is one great cause. I am also on the board of the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York – where better to start than with young girls? While the Red Cross is an international organization with many missions, the truth is that most care giving, recovery from disasters, and support of our military is given by the women in the family, so the support of the Red Cross is important. We support many charities all over the U.S. and several of them focus on Abused Women and Children, particularly the Naples Shelter for Abused Women.
PW: Do you think that you will ever retire?
NM: No, there is too much that needs to be done in the world and in our own communities. Growing up in a small town, as the daughter of the florist, you knew the celebrations and sorrow in everyone’s life and that has always stayed with me.
PW: It is always fun to visit with you, and I want to direct our readers to a recent article that the Wall Street Journal did on Nina and to a recent program on Inside Edition that was devoted to you. Congratulations on such terrific publicity! You deserve all great things, Nina. You are a terrific role model and you have worked so hard in your life and in your career.