You all know I’m a basics girl at heart. There’s nothing I love more than a perfectly cut blazer, a killer pair of skinny jeans, or a beautifully tailored silk top. My new favorite source for pretty silk basics? Cami NYC, a line of silk camisoles inspired by ladylike lingerie but refined enough for everyday wear. I was so excited to sit down with founder Samantha Steen and pick her brain about what it’s like to launch a fashion label in New York. That’s definitely a pipe dream of mine so it’s pretty cool to see someone just a couple years older making her dreams come true!
{Samantha in the High Top cami in sea foam}
Name: Samantha Steen
Age: 27
Title: Founder/CEO, Cami NYC
What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to launch your own line?
I always loved designing but I never knew I wanted to pursue it as a career. I worked for a bunch of different designers and have had so many amazing mentors working as part of small teams within the industry. I found this missing gap in the marketplace because I was looking for a cami that I could wear from day to night that was reminiscent of lingerie. I looked everywhere — boutiques, department stores, online — asking sales girls if they had what I was describing. And every time they’d say, “We don’t have that, but I really wish we did.” So one day I just sewed a piece of lace onto a cami and every girl at work stopped and asked where I got it. So I started making them in a bunch of colors and soft launched the website in August of last year. We sold 30% of our inventory in the first week. I was expecting that first production run to last me the year and now I’m on my twenty-ninth run in eleven months. Crazy!
That’s such an incredible benchmark! What’s your design process like?
Every time I have an idea, I sketch it out. I went to school for fine arts with a focus on painting. I always see women in the street or a design in a store and think, “That top would be perfect if it just had this or that.” With the High Top cami, I had seen that cut before but thought it would be amazing with a sheer panel. I go through my sketches and decide what’s most relatable to every girl out there and pick our color palette from what our team wants to be wearing that season. For spring and summer, it was pastels, sorbet colors, and neons. For fall, I can’t get enough of burgundy, charcoal, and navy. Once we have the design and the color palette, we’ll go to our pattern maker, our manufacturer, and then into production.
What does a typical day look like in your world?
One day I’ll be in back-to-back meetings and the team will be back at the office doing customer service and shipping. Other days I’m meeting with bloggers, editors, and stylists or running to the garment district to meet with printmakers or to look at new laces and silks. Since we launched, we’ve generated a strong celebrity following so we’re constantly tracking who’s wearing what. I’m always researching new fabrications and trying to come up with more comfortable, flattering fits. 
I love getting to wear a bunch of different hats on any given day. What’s the most and least fun part of your job?
The least fun is logistical stuff like dealing with international shipping. The most fun? Everything is fun to me. I like getting my hands dirty and I like the more glamorous side. I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What’s one pinch me moment you’ve had so far?
Getting praise from our celebrity customers is pretty surreal. Cameron Diaz, Hillary Duff, Rose Byrne, Shakira are all fans of the brand! It’s always fun to scroll through Instagram and see a familiar face in something I designed.
Those are some pretty huge names! How would you describe your target customer?
Every girl is the Cami girl! A twenty-something will wear it with printed jeans, a thirty-something will tuck one into a pencil skirt, my mom wears them layered under a blazer. 
It’s cool that you’ve designed a little something for everyone. What’s inspiring you right now?
I get so inspired just seeing women all over Manhattan. I think we’re all very fortunate to live in a city where there are such design opportunities. I love how people’s style changes from uptown to downtown — the women shopping at Bergdorfs are so different from what you see in Meatpacking. I love that juxtaposition and knowing Cami can be styled to work in any look.
When will you know you’ve made it?
I have moments every day where I’m like, this is it. On Friday, we found a picture of Shakira wearing Cami. We get notes from customers saying they appreciate our customer service. There are different aspects of feeling like I’ve built a successful business and I’ve surrounded myself with an awesome team who keeps that business growing. Everything from selling my first cami to seeing Shakira wearing hers to having a top tier editor praising the product… It all makes me so excited to keep going and to gradually expand the collection.
What’s next for Cami NYC?
We’re looking into a showroom where girls will be able to come in, try everything on, and place an order in the space instead of taking it home with them that day. It would be amazing to have a space for small events, sales appointments, and getting to see girls try on Cami for the first time!
Keep up with Cami NYC:
Facebook  //  Instagram  //  Pinterest  //  Twitter
P.S. Know an inspiring working woman in New York who’d be a good fit for Design Darling? Shoot me an email!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. I’ve been looking for something exactly like that high top cami and I love that it comes in a nice range of colors. Thank you so much for introducing Samantha and her line. Enjoyed this!