Nicole Rae Styer BFA '05 (Crafts)

The vibrant, turquoise walls of 2005 Crafts alumna Nicole Rae Styer’s shop, N.R.S. (1822 East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia), are festooned with multi-hued party dresses, reconstructed vintage wear, jackets and accessories layered with ribbon, netting and stitched appliques. Everywhere you look are jewel-toned objects — buttons, lace and 3D paintings made of fabric.

At the center of this lively one-woman boutique is Nicole — effortlessly pretty with long blonde hair.

Drawing on influences from Alexander McQueen to Zac Posen to vintage fashion, Nicole began selling her work to shops during her years at the University of the Arts, attending and participating in shows on the weekends.

“I got more shops to carry my stuff,” Nicole explains, and over time, as the number of businesses carrying her work climbed to 50 nationwide, she outgrew her Fishtown apartment and studio — but not before a big break landed on her doorstep.

“I did New York Fashion Week,” Nicole says nonchalantly. “We got a call out of the blue — two weeks to prepare. We pulled 18 looks together in a ‘sweatshop’ in my apartment.”

By her side for the adventure was another UArts alumna, Alma de Luna BFA ’05 (Crafts). “She made dresses with me for fashion week in 2005 — I’d just graduated.”

Nicole opened her South Philadelphia boutique earlier this year and also has a store in Reading, Pa., her hometown. When asked about her fast start in the retail world, Nicole chalks it up to genetics: “Everyone in my family is a go-getter.”

That could be because her brother chef Lee Styer works just up the street at his restaurant, Fond.

If you want to meet Nicole and see her creations, you can find her near her shop’s sewing machine in Philadelphia. “I make it all here!” she says.

Nicole suggests you visit East Passyunk’s Second Saturdays, where she hosts trunk shows and local businesses open their doors with parties and special events.

Does she offer free advice to future entrepreneurs? “Yes!”

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