Road to Success

Fashion designer gives SoCal street cred to Paris Fashion Week

Doni Nahmias is an outside-the-box thinker. Be it designing a tangle-free surf strap or giving mens fashion an elegantly casual look, Mr. Nahmias has long been driven by a desire to turn dreams into reality.

As with many creative souls, bringing those ideas to market is where the Santa Barbara native needed a helping hand. While attending Santa Barbara City College as a business major in 2014, Mr. Nahmias participated in the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s New Venture Challenge.

After winning the competition with his design for a retractable surfboard leash he called a Releash, Mr. Nahmias placed as a finalist the following year for a fashionable T-shirt concept called Fortune Designs, where every tee came packaged with a message of fortune.

During a recent visit to SBCC, Mr. Nahmias told the Newspress that winning the New Venture Challenge more than just validated his ideas.

“What the New Venture Challenge really helped me with was my confidence,” he explained. “I had to give presentations and speak in front of different groups of people, so it really helped me with my communication skills. That is really important in something like fashion because it’s all about networking.”

Thanks to those networking skills, Mr. Nahmias, 24, took his latest project, a designer men’s fashion line called Save Them Now, to Paris Fashion Week in January. The international exposure his label received a the event now has him negotiating with boutiques in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom about carrying his line.

“I was doing a shoot in Los Angeles and one of the models put me in contact with a showroom that took me on board for Paris,” Mr. Nahmias said. “I wan’t expecting to do something like that so fast, but it all happened through a connection I made and it turned out to be an amazing opportunity.

“It was an amazing experience — I met a lot of people and made some really awesome connections.”

It was about a year ago that Fortune Designs gave way to Save Them Now. The name reflects a message of non-conformity. The intention is to save people from conforming through the brand, which seeks to express individualism. The luxury menswear label comes with a grunge rock edge. It uses high-quality fabrics sourced from around the world for an array of handmade garments that draws heavily on a street-style aesthetic.

“I love the whole grunge rock look, but at the same time, I’ve always had a love for high-end fashion, so I wanted to merge the two,” said Mr. Nahmias, who works out of his downtown Los Angeles studio. “Every piece of clothing I make is like an art piece because of the materials I’m using and how it’s made. Every piece is handmade and unique.”

The garments, which range from $80 for T-shirts to $2,400 for jackets are available at www.savethemnow.co.

It was during elementary school in Santa Barbara that Mr. Nahmias’ fascination with fashion began.

“Even back then, I was drawn to designer jeans and things,” he said. “When I got to high school, I started getting interested in the higher-end men’s contemporary fashions. It was then that I knew I wanted to create my own stuff.”

In 2011, Mr. Nahmias enrolled in SBCC and in addition to starring on the school’s basketball team, he pursued an associates degree in business. It was during one of his classes that he was introduced to the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

“I have always been interested in business and I wanted to make my own fashion, so I figured I would do everything I can to make that happen,” Mr. Nahmias said. “I thought going to business school would be a good start.”

The Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and its programs like the New Venture Challenge have been supporting local students and their business ideas since its inception in 2007. Established through a permanent endowment from James D. Scheinfeld, former Foundation for Santa Barbara City College chairman and board member, the center is a hub for entrepreneurial development not just at SBCC but in the greater Santa Barbara community.

Along with offering both associate’s degrees and certificate courses of achievement in business administration with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, the center has a Rapid Launch Intensive that features a trio of classes that helps students take their business concept from idea to market. The New Venture Challenge is a new business plan and pitch competition that promotes youth entrepreneurship across Santa Barbara County.

“It is a challenge for students to go from their academic pursuits and into the workplace and being successful,” said Julie Samson, executive director of the Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “That’s why in our entrepreneurship program at SBCC, we give students hands-on experience at being an entrepreneur while they’re still in the academic program.

“One example of that is our Enterprise Launch Program, where students launch products for service in a single semester. They go through the entire process of doing market validation, creating prototypes and obtaining sales and purchase orders. After the course, students are then supported by the Small Business Development Center. That program bridges nicely with the New Venture Challenge, which is a two-tiered pitch competition open to both college and high school students.”

The opportunities offered through the center have proved a valuable foundation for a number of local entrepreneurs, Mr. Nahmias included.

“One of the things that the New Venture Challenge showed me is that when an opportunity comes along, you have to grab it,” Mr. Nahmias said. “When the Paris show came along, I had no money. I was really bootstrapping it. But I scraped up all the money I had and was able to pay the showroom fee and buy my flight. Being a part of an opportunity like that has paid for itself already.”

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