Imagery courtesy of Nina Means

Show up as yourself. You are where you are for a reason. Trust it. 

–Nina Means

Nina Means at the ACC Fashion Incubator Grand Opening in Austin, Texas

What was the defining moment in your past that set you on the career path you ended up following?  

I did my plan B career first. I worked in public health in Washington, DC in international health and then later on a grant with Avon Foundation for Women with George Washington University Cancer Institute to address breast cancer outcome disparities in underserved communities. As I was working in this space, I had this epiphany that I should pursue my passion before I got too comfortable in my career. If I was horrible at being a fashion designer, then I could always come back to public health. Luckily, I never had to. I believe, when you pursue where you are supposed to be, your destiny will embrace you. It is not because it lacks difficulty, but despite the challenges, you find joy in your journey. For the first time in my career, I found joy in my journey. 

What makes you unique in your industry?

There have been a number of fashion incubators launched across the country in a variety of contexts, but what makes the Austin Community College Fashion Incubator special is the use of technology to create product in an industry that has had a bad reputation for generating too much waste. ACC is partnering with the City of Austin and Gerber Technology to build this industry locally. We are training designers to work more sustainably as they build their brands. It is an exciting time. 

What is one way you hope to impact your community in the future, either personally or professionally? 

By successfully implementing this new program, I am energized by the potential impact. It will change the way fashion reaches all of us. As an advocate for local designers, I am so passionate about making sure they have the tools to build a thriving business from Central Texas. Designers need to effectively reach future customers who have the expectation of participating in an industry that is cleaner than ever. They must do this while also delivering an amazing product. We are in such a conflicted space regarding sustainability in fashion. We want the best price, but we also want to save the planet. We have to do everything we can to make the world beautiful while keeping the beauty we have. 

If you could sit down with any woman in the world–either from history or who is currently living–who would that be and what would you discuss with her?

So, Michelle Obama is on my vision board (yes, I have one of those). The image I have is of her and her daughters serving a meal at a soup kitchen. If I could speak with her about anything, I would speak with her about balance. I am struck by her ability to be a respected force but also to be so compassionate. That is a difficult one to master. Still on balance, I would pick her brain about supporting family, investing in the needs of your career, and knowing when to yield without completely sacrificing your ambitions. It is no easy feat. Yet, her life seems to illustrate this beautifully. As a mom and wife, for me, this is constantly front of mind. 

Connect with Nina Means at the ACC Fashion Incubator, at NinaMeans.com, on LinkedIn, on Facebook and on Instagram @ninameansusa and @accfashionincubator. 

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Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.