MPN’s Veronica Blum and Alex Snyder brokered the deal.
Unlike many in the fashion industry, “Project Runway” runner-up Nancy Volpe Beringer wants people to take her idea.
The Philadelphia designer’s goal is for other industry professionals to steal the business model of her luxury resale store, The Vault by Volpe Beringer, so that more stores will offer free adaptive redesign of their clothing for persons with disabilities.
Earlier this month, Volpe Beringer opened a pop-up store at 4347 Main St. in Manayunk. While she’s hoping to eventually receive funding to grow the business, she told the Business Journal that her current focus is on making the 1,700-square-foot space a permanent gig.
“It’s allowing our voices to be heard,” Volpe Beringer said. “We have a message we think is so important about inclusivity and sustainability and accessibility in fashion.”
Volpe Beringer has made these three things the tenets of her business. To promote sustainability, she resells luxury pieces and handmakes the clothes for her own collection, including a line of Eagles-inspired faux-fur outerwear, in her studio. To increase inclusivity and accessibility, she provides complimentary consultations for persons with disabilities to adapt the clothing to fit their needs. This service, she says, helps her “give a voice to the people who don’t have a voice in fashion.”
When looking for a location for the pop-up shop, Volpe Beringer knew she wanted the store to be as accessible as its clothing. The brick-and-mortar’s handicap accessibility made it a no-brainer for the designer, whose store also features mannequins in wheelchairs.
Volpe Beringer has been creating accessible clothing since her time on Season 18 of Bravo’s “Project Runway” in late 2019 and early 2020. She used models of diverse ages, genders, ethnicities and abilities in her final collection, and opened her runway show with a model who uses a wheelchair. The designer was a runner-up on the season with only three years of real-world fashion experience and was the oldest contestant to compete on the reality TV show at 64 years old.
Her secret weapon to success? “I was from Philly,” Volpe Beringer said, adding, “We’re gritty people.”
Volpe Beringer entered the fashion industry when she quit her corporate job to attend Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s three-year master’s program in fashion design. Upon graduation, the then-61-year-old launched her self-titled couture brand.
Her tenure on Project Runway ended in March 2020 right before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. After a fire at her apartment complex later that November, Volpe Beringer was inspired to resell the many luxury pieces she had collected over the years. In June 2021, she launched her e-commerce site to do just that.
It was only a few weeks ago that the designer decided to bring her work back in person. She signed the lease for the Manayunk store on Nov. 1, and it officially opened that weekend.
The pop-up, which is open through the end of December, also offers styling and hopes to add a consignment element eventually. The store is the top thing on Volpe Beringer’s mind at the moment, but after the holidays she said she wants to pursue funding opportunities to scale the business.
Volpe Beringer — who was given Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award for New Retail Concept this year — said her business needs more brand recognition to be able to grow. Among the many costs associated with owning a small business, however, marketing and advertising often fall to the bottom of the list. The designer and her team believe the pop-up could be the boost they need to expand.
“We believe in what we’re doing and [that we just need] to be patient,” Volpe Beringer said.