Capital Investment Advisors

#17 – Projecting Runway Vibes with Nancy Volpe Beringer

Nancy Volpe Beringer made history as the oldest designer to ever appear on the hit show Project Runway. At 64, she made it to the finale at New York Fashion Week, using her talent and can-do attitude to promote more sustainability and inclusivity in the fashion industry. You’re in a wheelchair? No problem. A prosthetic leg? Nancy’s got an idea to make your outfit glamorous and runway-ready. She eventually created “The Vault by Volpe Beringer”—the world’s first and only fully accessible designer luxury platform, offering adaptable options and complimentary consultations for the disabled community.

Nancy won the 2022 Fashion Group International (FGI) Rising Star award. She was named “Best in Philly Fashion Designer for Artsy Dresses” by Philadelphia Magazine for her viral red-carpet design for Grammy nominee and rapper Tierra Whack.

This incredible journey almost didn’t happen. At age 50, Nancy already had a successful career and financial security, but she was miserable. Sure, she’d grown up sewing, but she never dared to dream of becoming a fashion designer. Then, one day, BAM! It all became so clear. Despite the fear of starting over so late in the game, she went for it! No regrets, Nancy.

If fashion is your thing, you’ll love this episode. But hell, if you like the movie Rocky, you’ll enjoy it, too. Like the Italian Stallion, Nancy is a gritty underdog from the mean streets of Philadelphia. She’s never climbed into a boxing ring with Mr. T, as far as I know, but she is definitely a fighter. So, put up your dukes, turn up your volume, and get ready to be inspired.

Read The Full Transcript From This Episode

(click below to expand and read the full interview)

  • Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:00:01]:
    I asked myself, if I was young again, what would I want to learn? It was so crazy. It came to me immediately, and it was fashion design. I went for it. I took my life savings. I gave my resignation. And my executive director, he said, is this something you’ve always wanted to do? And I said, I’ve never even dared to dream of this. But I opened the door, and I’ve got to walk through it.Ryan Doolittle [00:00:25]:
    Nancy Volpe Behringer made history as the oldest designer to ever appear on the hit show Project Runway 64. She made it all the way to the finale using her talent and can do attitude to promote sustainability and inclusivity in the fashion industry. You’re in a wheelchair? No problem. A prosthetic leg. Nancy’s got an idea to make your outfit glamorous and Runway ready. She eventually created the vault by Volpe Barringer, the world’s first and only fully accessible designer luxury platform. Nancy won the 2022 Fashion Group International Rising Star award. She was named best in Philly fashion designer for artsy dresses by Philadelphia magazine for her viral red carpet design for Grammy nominee and rapper Tiara Wack.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:01:11]:
    Now, this incredible journey almost didnt happen. At age 50, Nancy already had a successful career and financial security, but she was miserable. Sure, shed grown up sewing, but she never dared to dream of one day becoming a fashion designer. It just didnt occur to her. Then one day, bam. It all became so clear. No regrets, Nancy. If fashion is your thing, youre gonna love this episode.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:01:37]:
    But hell, if you like the movie Rocky, youre gonna like this episode. Like the italian stallion, Nancy is a gritty underdog from the mean streets of Philadelphia. Shes never climbed into a boxing ring with Mister T, as far as I know, but she is definitely a fighter. So put up your dukes, turn up your volume, and get ready to be inspired. Do you ever wonder who youll be and what youll do after your career is over? Wouldnt it be nice to hear stories from people who figured it out who are thriving in retirement? Im Ryan Doolittle. After working with the retire sooner team for years and researching and writing about how they structure their lifestyles, I know theres more to be learned, so I’m going straight to the source and taking you with me. My mission with the happiest Retirees podcast is to inspire 1 million families to find happiness in retirement. I want to learn how to live an exceptional life from people who do it every day.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:02:35]:
    Let’s get started. Okay. So were you always interested in fashion? You just never thought you could do it?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:02:43]:
    Well, I took a sewing class when I was eleven or twelve just because we were kicked out of the house. Cause there were too many of us and we had to sign up for summer school. So I wasn’t raised in a family where it was like, oh, I want a new outfit. We go shopping. It just, you know, we didn’t do that. We had hand me downs, or I would sew an outfit. And that’s how I started to sew things for myself. Then once I graduated and got into the real world, my extent of fashion design was pretty limited.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:03:09]:
    And just so our listeners know, when you were 64 years old, you made history as the oldest designer ever on Project Runway. And you made it all the way to the finals, I think.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:03:20]:
    Yeah. So at 64, after three tries, I got on season 18 of Project Runway, which actually was this kind of weird fantasy of mine. When I was age 50, I saw the first show, and I became a super fan, and I watched it with my mother, and I was thinking, geez, if they had nurtured me, I had a sew around the house, I sewed my clothes. I could have been a fashion designer, and I could have been on that show. Now, that’s pretty silly at age 50 to think that, but it was planted. And so when I walked away from my career and went to fashion school, it went from here to here. And then when I graduated, it was like, okay, Project Runway, here I come. Fortunately, I didn’t get on the first time because I really didn’t have the experience, but I prepared.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:04:02]:
    And so when I got on at 64, I was the oldest ever by far, and probably had some of the least experience. But I had a lot of life experience. I made it to the finale and was one of the runner ups. Okay.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:04:15]:
    There’s so much I want to unpack there. So, first of all, when you’re 50 and you think that, oh, this has passed me by, and then you end up getting onto the finals almost 15 years later. It’s just amazing.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:04:26]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:04:27]:
    You presented the first ever zero waste. I don’t know if the whole show was zero waste or if that was your idea, but tell me a little bit about your sort of angle on your design.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:04:39]:
    So when I made it to the finale, my experience in Project Runway greatly impacted me when I got to design for the Paralympia Tatiana McFadden. So I knew it was important in my finale that I wanted to have inclusive representation. And I talked to the producers of having inclusive model selection and also just naturally inclined to sustainability. I wanted to do a zero waste collection.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:05:03]:
    The finale was at New York Fashion Week. And so you had models of all sizes, races, gender identities, and abilities?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:05:11]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:05:11]:
    Can you go a little bit into as far as the abilities category, what kind of abilities are we talking about that you were able to sort of cross over into and help?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:05:21]:
    Well, it’s called adaptive design, so it’s something I really wanted to do once I got through Project Runway. And with the finale, it was kind of random. I just said to the producers, because I knew we’d have different sizes, I said, but I’d also like to have different ages and also some disabilities. So I didn’t know what I would get. But I did know that one of the looks that I prepared paired two looks with a vision in mind. One was for a wheelchair user, which is designed a lot differently. So if I didn’t get a wheelchair user, one of my looks would not have been able to be used because I took a lot of fabric from the back where they would be sitting. I did a lot of things to adapt it so that it looked the same, but it functioned differently.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:06:03]:
    And then I had a vision for somebody with a prosthetic, and little did I know that she’d have a Swarovski crystal fabulous limb for me to select. And it was. Wow. It brought me to tears, actually, when she opened her case and showed it to me.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:06:17]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:06:17]:
    Every time you adapt a piece, it’s unique, because just as, like, a size, you go to the store, you can get it for different size. For a disabled body, they’re really unique, and so you have to approach it uniquely.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:06:29]:
    Is there a certain design, too, that so someone with a disability is able to put it on themselves? Is that part of the design and the forethought of it, or is it. It’s more just about the look.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:06:42]:
    So, like, an example is because I have a resale shop that came out of some tragedies after project run or challenges, take a Chanel jacket with somebody with fine, limited motor skills. So what I’ve done is I want it to look like I would wear it, which is the top button and lower button undone. But the two buttons here, what I did was I took the buttons off, sewed up the buttonholes, sewed the button on top so it looks like it’s still buttoned, but then I put Velcro underneath. Oh, so they could just pull it instead of having to button it. If there’s something with a feeding tube, you know, having access to it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:07:14]:
    Yes. So you designed things in a way where maybe you can’t tell that there’s some special reason. Something is a certain spot. It just still looks glamorous.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:07:24]:
    Right. And I adapted a piece from my vault for a little person that was taking something that was designed for me. It was one of my pieces. And normally, if you’re a little person and you cut off to hem, you’re losing a lot of the silhouettes. So you actually deconstruct it. It was a big bell ruffle. I took that apart, shortened it, then I put the ruffle back on. So you have to approach each one.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:07:48]:
    It’s almost like a puzzle.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:07:49]:
    Yeah. It’s like each piece is a very specific puzzle riddle, however you want to look at it. But at the end, it’s probably even more satisfying and rewarding for everybody, I would think.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:00]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:01]:
    Is your line called the vault by Volpe Behringer?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:04]:
    Well, I have two platforms. One for my original wearable art cuts and pieces. It’s Nancy Volpe Beringer.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:11]:
    Oh, okay.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:12]:
    And then I have an online platform that’s the vault by Volpe Beringer. And actually, that’s the only luxury retail site in the world that complementary adapts pieces for the disabled.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:24]:
    The only one in the entire world.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:26]:
    Entire world.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:26]:
    That’s amazing.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:27]:
    Well, what happened was after Project Runaway, which, you know, made it to the finale, so I was a winner in my eyes, and I was all set. I had something in Nova Scotia. I was really wanted to do an adaptive line, and Monday, we were shelter in place, so the world.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:43]:
    Oh, because of COVID Yes.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:45]:
    The world changed for everyone.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:46]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:08:47]:
    And then that same year, there was a. Where I was renting and where my studio was where I lived. There was an electrical fire in the basement, and we were all displaced, so I had to get all my things out of there. No electricity, using a freight elevator. And so nobody was making money. And I’m like, how am I going to do an adaptive line? No, I thought I would just start selling off a lot of things I collected over the year.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:09:09]:
    Oh, my gosh.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:09:09]:
    But I said I’d do my own platform because I would make more money that way. And then a couple days later, I woke up and I said, why am I waiting to be an adaptive designer? And I start researching it, and that’s when I found out it doesn’t exist. So there’s plenty of luxury resale sites, but none that will complimentary adapt it. And I wanted everyone or anyone to be able to have access to it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:09:31]:
    Okay. I’m so inspired by your story and so many different parts of it. But you had mentioned that part of you being inspired was being inspired by your son’s drive. You wanna tell me a little bit about that?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:09:46]:
    Wasn’t actually so I could say I was inspired by my son’s. But it was actually, I was envious of my sons. I had this, you know, where I said, as a single parent, I work three, four jobs. I was in a position where I finally had a very secure job. I got a promotion that I had tried twice for. I was set in my eyes, and I was where, you know, I could only dream to be financially secure. And I was miserable. I was absolutely miserable, because everything else I did, I was always creating.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:10:17]:
    I didn’t understand that there was always this artistic person inside me that would come out through her creative programs. Even if a creative spreadsheet, it didn’t matter. So one night, I’m not sleeping, and I’m thinking of my son. So one is very successful president, you know, in the finance world. So I had that business side, fortunately, and then the artistic side. My son had graduated from Berkeley College of Music. Well, that’s great. But he’s not making money.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:10:41]:
    So he starts teaching himself through online courses, videography and photography. And I went, wow. Like, that is so cool. And this is where my life changed. I asked myself, if I was young again, what would I want to learn? And it was so crazy. It came to me immediately.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:10:59]:
    Really? It just popped right into your head.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:11:01]:
    I think, because I was always, up to that point, always surviving, raising kids, starting as a single parent, you’re just in the survival mode. And I think it’s the first time I allowed myself to really answer that question. And it was fashion design. And I started immediately googling it. And then I went, wait a minute. I started looking at interior design programs, thinking, well, that’s more practical at my age. And then I said, well, wait, you’re just goofing around. Let’s start looking at fashion design.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:11:26]:
    And I found programs. And the next week, I was in New York touring fit parsons. I didn’t even know about Drexel at that point. It was in my backyard, and I went for it. I took my life savings, gave my resignation, and my executive director, who knows how hard it is to get this job, he said, is this something you’ve always wanted to do? And I said, I’ve never even dared to dream of this. But I opened the door, and I’ve got to walk through it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:11:54]:
    Do you think that maybe this dream was repressed? Maybe it was there, and you didn’t even it had. You were in survival mode. Yeah. Okay.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:12:02]:
    Yeah. I mean, and again, I achieved things. I was, you know, I got the promotion. I was employee of the year. I went as a teacher with future business leaders. We were advisor chapter. So I was always, you know, reaching for the stars. But all throughout my life, I felt there was something else that I was supposed to, meant to do to make a bigger difference.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:12:21]:
    But I didn’t know what it was, but it had to. I mean, how did it just pop up? It was so fast.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:12:27]:
    It’s like some door unlocked, and then it was there. It was red. That’s what I want type of thing.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:12:31]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:12:32]:
    Yeah. On this show, we talk a lot about people that retire and how they’ve done it in a happy way. Your story is a little different because you’re not really retired, but you have had such a life change, and in a way, that’s what a retirement is. Even though now you’re successful and still working, do you consider yourself, like, a happy retiree?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:12:53]:
    I can’t relate to the word retire.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:12:55]:
    Yeah, it is a weird word. We need a new word in the vocabulary, but that’s the one we got.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:13:00]:
    I think we do now more than ever, because I can’t. I’m slowing down a lot. When I retired, left my job and took my life savings and went to school, I was working 60, 70, 80 hours a week going to school, and when I got out, so my retirement, I mean, my profession and all those jobs, I think, prepared me for retirement. So I thought I’d have the better. So I had the energy to do this next part of my journey.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:13:27]:
    Right. And you had mentioned something earlier, and here on the retire sooner network, we talk a lot about how the money part is really only the first step, because some people think once they’ve got to that point, the rest will just take care of itself. But in your case, I mean, you had the money and you were miserable. Once you’re set, you need to figure out who you want to be and what you want to do.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:13:51]:
    Well, I think the other thing that’s important, because I still get messages. With this life we have of streaming shows, people still watch Project Runway for the first time. So I actually, right after I get off here, I’ve got a FaceTime with a father and an eight year old who’s Altiku, who’s a project Runway fanatic. And they want. They were coming to New York, wanted to see if they could see me. It didn’t work out, so I’m gonna do a FaceTime oh, my gosh, that’s amazing. So that still happens. But when I always wanna caution people when I say, you know, I got to do this dream, I don’t know why me, but I was always very conservative with my money because I think having it, being in that survival mode, even when I got out of high school and had my first job, I wanted to give my own apartment.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:14:35]:
    I started, I was making like maybe $100 a week, and I put a savings bond a week away. So when I was ready to move on, I had something accumulated to take this big risk, and I also have benefits that I carry through, and I have a pension.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:14:54]:
    Oh, that’s great.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:14:55]:
    Okay, so I know, and I have a husband now. I think I was the ultimate bait and switch, because when I started where I became this, I was in this successful position. So that’s important. But I think I always lived my life that no matter what, if I have to take care of myself financially, I was gonna be okay. I can live on peanut butter and jelly and, you know, ease and don’t need a lot. So I of contributed money to my 401. I saved, I didn’t use all my vacation or sick days, so I had money that I got when I left. So it sounds easy that, oh, I quit my job and went to school, but even when I was at school, I’m working those like 60, 70, 80 hours a week, going to school.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:15:40]:
    When I got the opportunity to be a grad assistant that would pay for some of my tuition and give me a stipend, I’m like, how am I going to find those extra hours? I did because I knew that financially it was the right decision to do that.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:15:52]:
    So you had this sort of cushion when you basically said, I’m going to quote unquote retire now, meaning, I’m going to go keep working really, really hard. But actually, it’s something that I want to do.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:16:05]:
    Yes. Yeah. It was the first time I loved school. I mean, I thrived when I.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:16:10]:
    It was the first time ever.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:16:11]:
    Yes. Everything again, I did school. Cause, you know, it was a way, a means to an end, to support my kids or just, you know, graduate from high school. But here I thrived. Like, when I took my first class, I’m like, this is where I belong. It’s like I found my home and it all, everything made sense to me.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:16:29]:
    It’s. I mean, that old adage of, if you find what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life type of thing. I’m sure you do still work very hard, but it probably feels really good.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:16:39]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:16:40]:
    You live in Philadelphia, right?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:16:42]:
    Just outside of Philly. Yeah. So I still consider. I’m, like a Philadelphia fashion designer. I’m, you know, I’m in the Philly fashion community.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:16:50]:
    And did you grow up in Philadelphia?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:16:52]:
    I was born in Philadelphia, but I grew up in Pennsylvania and Levittown, so. Grew up in where, you know, the father went off to work and the mother and all the kids. It was very traditional upbringing. Then when I was going to Drexel, at that time, before then, I had recently married, and my. I sold my house, and my husband said, if you ever want to live in Philly, in the city, now’s the time. I’m like, oh, cool. So he sold his house, and we moved into an apartment. That was amazing.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:17:22]:
    Talk about an inspiration. I could sit on my couch, and I saw the rocky steps, you know, at the art museum.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:17:27]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:17:28]:
    And when I’m at my sewing machine. So then I rented the apartment next door for my studio, and I would sit at my sewing machine, and I could see the rocky steps.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:17:36]:
    Oh, amazing.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:17:37]:
    So that was cool.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:17:39]:
    Yeah. I was just watching. There’s a situation comedy on ABC called Abbott elementary that takes place in Philadelphia, and there’s a funny joke. Someone who wasn’t from Philly made the mistake of saying that Rocky was a fictional character. And even though he is right, but everyone got like, those are fighting words. Cause we consider real, you know?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:18:00]:
    Well, I consider being from Philly my secret weapon on Project Runway, because. Because the judges, they didn’t get me until the end, when they saw all the pieces from each challenge, and everybody saw what I did together. They even said to me, we underestimated you. Which was so funny, because the Eagles, the previous year, had just won the Super bowl, and they were the underdogs, and Rocky’s the underdog. And I watch, and I’m selling at my machine, looking at the, you know, one of the most famous movie set sites that people come visit, and I’m like, yeah, but I’m from Philly. You don’t know what that means. We’re used to being underdogs. We’re gritty and don’t.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:18:37]:
    Don’t exactly.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:18:38]:
    We get it done. We get it done.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:18:41]:
    Yeah. Philly’s never the favorite, the favored side, right? Yeah. But you were named best in Philly. Fashion designer for artsy dresses by Philadelphia magazine.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:18:53]:
    This is crazy. So, my first year after graduating, one of the questions I would get asked most frequently when I was at Drexel was, well, what do you want to do when you graduate? And I think it was because it’s such a hard program. And I think the question really was, well, what’s this old person going to do now? And where a lot of my classmates could go off and work for someone to get more experience at 61, I just had to jump right into it. And so when I was asked that question at Drexel, I didn’t answer it because I’m too goal oriented, and I would become then too focused. And I just said, I just want to make a difference. I want to be a relevant designer. That’s all I said, I want to be a relevant designer. So as soon as I graduated, I got to work with a women’s refugee program in mentoring and teaching some skills, sewing skills.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:19:44]:
    And then I had my first sale at a boutique called Joan Shepp, which is the iconic fashion store in Philadelphia. They buy off the Paris Runway. When we were in students, we were told to go look at the window. And I actually started doing some consulting. I actually designed some of the windows. And then I would see some of my pieces in there that would be styled with some pieces off the Runway. And as you know, in any retail shop, the Christmas window is, like, the big deal. And Joan Schiffs windows were the big deal in the city.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:20:15]:
    And my graduate collection was her Christmas window.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:20:19]:
    Oh, my God.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:20:20]:
    So all during that time, this is happening. And then one of the pieces that I also was trying to do a lot of give back to the community. So I did a lot of charity, like fashion shows, women organized against rape, people with substance abuse disorder, suicide prevention. And for one of the events, I made a series of garments, and one was this multicolored coat that ended up in Joan’s store for sale. And Tiara Wack, who’s a very big name in the rap world, saw it and bought it. And I was, like, so excited. I’m like, oh, my gosh. I didn’t know enough about her.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:20:56]:
    I found out, and she was excited that the designers were reaching out, and it wasn’t an inexpensive piece. And I said, well, next one’s on me. I’ll make you something. Come see me in my studio. And a couple weeks later, she was nominated for a Grammy.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:21:10]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:21:10]:
    And came to my studio. So I made the dressed to go underneath the coat. She wore it on the red carpet. It went viral that night. Next day, it was in the New York Times as one of the five most intriguing looks. And so then I was named, got this fashion design award from Philly Mag that same year.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:21:30]:
    So was it a surprise to you when you just opened the New York Times and there it is. Or how does that.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:21:35]:
    So what happened was, I’m making it, and I don’t have it finished being altered. But then all of a sudden, I get an email that she’s going out to LA. Well, I don’t even know which shoes. It’s not done. And I’m like, I don’t know a lot about the fashion industry and the red carpet, but I know that they can end up with options and stylists. So I said to my husband, I said, I gotta go to LA. He said, of course you do. He says, of course you do.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:21:56]:
    So I took it on the plane, I’m finishing it, and I got a place in the same hotel. And so she came with her entourage and the stylist, and I was able to finish the garment knowing what the shoes were. We go to get dropped off, and it’s raining out. So the only thing I’m trying to do is make sure her coat’s not getting wet. So we pull up, she’s got her hair and makeup person. I have one of my big coats on. My hair is a mess because, like, who cares? It was about tiara getting ready. So I’m like, oh, I gotta.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:22:26]:
    I threw my coat in the car because I didn’t wanna be fighting her look. And I go. And I’m actually. I actually stepped onto the red carpet. Her agent’s there. And they walk off. So I turn around to go back in the car, and there’s no car because of security. They drove right off.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:22:42]:
    My phone was in my coat, and I didn’t have any of their names. And I’m like, what am I gonna do? I’m stuck on the red carpet. And fortunately, one of her managers had went to park the car and said, what are you doing here? We drove out of the secured area, hanging out this hair. Make a person. We’re hanging out at a bar watching the red carpet events. And then, I think it was entertainment tonight flashes back to her look. And then we’re in the car, and then all of a sudden, I get a call from the owner. The major networks in Philadelphia, they tracked me down.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:23:15]:
    Cause it was getting so much publicity, and I’m on the side of the road in the rain, getting a live interview for their 11:00 feed. It was like a fantasy come true. And then, so the next morning, I’m gonna fly home and open it up. And I’m like, I said, I get goosebumps when I get excited. I have goosebumps thinking about it. And there it was.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:23:36]:
    Still there.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:23:37]:
    Yeah. Yeah. You know what? That’s the thing about all this. To find the joy and keep the joy.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:23:42]:
    Exactly. Well, it seems like you have kept the joy if you’re still getting chills about it now.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:23:46]:

    Ryan Doolittle [00:23:47]:
    I mean, just to think about that. So being on the red carpet is any fashion designer’s dream, I would think. But then here you are being stuck on the red carpet, which is a whole different, which is hysterical. Yeah. And maybe a good title for your book. So I think, keep that in mind. Stuck on the red carpet looking like.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:24:06]:
    A, like I said, my hair was all, I mean, I looked a mess, but I didn’t care. Then someone, they got a picture of me. So I actually have a souvenir of me on the red carpet.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:24:15]:
    Oh, my gosh. How have you been so brave to be able to take that leap at that stage in life, to say, I’m going for it, and then such a short time later, you’re already consulting at the number one store in Philadelphia, and then you become their Christmas designer. How were you so brave and how’d you get it to pay off so.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:24:36]:
    So well, you know, I get asked a lot of questions. So I think back, and I was a very shy child socially. I was the middle of five girls relatives forgot there was a Nancy kind of thing. I was so quiet in the background.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:24:49]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:24:50]:
    But what I didn’t mention was when I took that sewing class at age eleven or something, we had to take two classes, you know, just for the summer program. And there was theater and arts and crafts and sports things I took sewing. The other classes shy little girl took was public speaking, which is like, really strange. But I must always enjoy doing something and challenging myself, something that makes you scared. So I take jobs that I don’t know how to do, and I get excited about figuring it out. I’m not afraid what I don’t know. Like, I remember my one boss said, one of my strengths is not what I bring to the table, but what I take away from the table. I’m not afraid to say I don’t know or what do you think? And so I ask a lot of questions and then I can come up with my own way to go about it.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:25:40]:
    So I don’t look that as a weakness. When I don’t know how to do something or don’t understand it, I look at it as an opportunity and an exciting opportunity.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:25:48]:
    I want to start living that way, Nancy, you know, just to relate to this. I struggle sometimes with getting into a rut of. This is what I know. This is what I’m gonna do. And whenever I read about how to break out of that, it’s always saying, you gotta just. You gotta take chances and do things that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s how you grow. It seems like you kind of inherently know that.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:26:10]:
    Yeah. And what was, again, the other thing that was interesting, that my husband has been so helpful. Cause I don’t always listen to him. But when I did the touring of, like, fit and Parsons, I remember coming home, meeting him at a bar. So excited. Cause I found a one year fashion design program for an associate’s degree at Parsons. I was so excited, and I came, and I’m like, oh, my God. I found this program.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:26:34]:
    This or that. And he has many names for me, but this time he said, calm down, fireball. And again, one of the second best pieces of advice. He says, I thought, you’re doing this for the love of learning. Why are you rushing the learning? I’m like, whoa. And then what’s funny is I ended up with a three years master’s program, which he never saw me for the next three years. I don’t know how much he appreciated his own advice, but that was a really good piece of advice. Even the vault by Volpe Barringer, where I say, I’m the only one in the world that offers adaptive options.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:27:08]:
    Do I know how to do all those? No, I don’t. But if somebody contacts me, I’ll figure it out. So I’m not afraid to say that.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:27:19]:
    You know, well, and it’s such a great attitude, because ultimately, no one cares if you know how to do it now. They just care that you’ll figure it out. Yeah, right.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:27:29]:
    But the thing about fashion that I find that’s important about fashion, it empowers you. I never look at a trend when I design something. I just find fabric that intrigues me. See what it wants to be, and I create something. And if it makes you feel better, if it makes you feel empowered. My very first sale after high school at Joan Shaps was a piece that I had worked on a lot during my co op. She tried it on. It was like a Dior type skirt and a very lot of hand, like, couture bustier, a lot of handwork on it.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:28:02]:
    And she came out of the dressing room and started twirling around and started to cry. And she said, I’ve never felt more beautiful in my life.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:28:10]:
    Oh, my gosh.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:28:11]:
    And then I’m like, that’s why fashion’s powerful for those people that are disabled that might not even, just not even to buy, but to be able to try on a chanel jacket with somebody who cares about how it looks or fits, that you can walk into a room like this. Shy Nancy can walk into a room and feel comfortable. My sister was making fun of how I looked. I just visited her at the garden, came back, and she’s like, you. I was like, that’s the beauty of being a fashion designer. I can dress however I want and just say, you know, but it’s you. And I welcome people to wear what you know, you want a good fit, but to wear what makes them feel good and express their individuality. I mean, when I grew up, you know, going to school, if you didn’t wear, you know, when the minis were out, and then the minis, if you didn’t wear what was in style, you were on the outside looking in.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:29:02]:
    And fashion and clothes can help you express who you are, empower you. And I think that’s really the importance of, you know, we have to remember the importance of fashion.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:12]:
    Yeah. You know, when you put it that way, it really does seem like an important way of expression that some people might value more than just the threads of the clothes.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:29:22]:
    Right. Yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:22]:
    If you could give listeners something to learn from you or to spark something inside of them from your story, what would you say that would be?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:29:30]:
    I guess one thing that I didn’t realize. I lived my life according to this philosophy, but I heard Elaine Welteroth, one of the judges, when she was promoting our season, and she wrote a book, and she was talking about this contestant, me, and she said she’s fearless, and she said, make fear your friend.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:49]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:29:50]:
    And I didn’t realize. I’ve been doing that all along, making fear my friend. And if you think of it that way, that could be really powerful. And surround yourself with positive people. It’s amazing how one person can tear you down or tear your world down. And so I really do try to keep positive energy in the universe, and what I give out, I think that’s really important. And be kind. People try to push you down instead of lifting you up.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:30:21]:
    If you help lift somebody up, you can go along with them. So I really think kindness is really important. By making fear my friend, it’s given me a lot of excitement.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:30:33]:
    You put that so much better than I did. That’s what I was trying to, to get out earlier was, do you seem really good at making fear your friend?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:30:41]:
    And I didn’t realize it that little eleven year old who took that public speaking class. You have to understand, that eleven year old took in public speaking. When I talk about being shy, when I went back to school the first time as a single parent, so say I was, like, maybe 30, and I was in an english class, and we had to write a composition, and we were in small groups, and the professor said, okay, did anybody read something really funny? And my group volunteered me to read it. Now I’m 30, and I have had a successful business career before I got married and became a parent. And here I am sitting. I have to read my composition. I’m sitting down, and my hands are shaking, and my voice is quivering. I’m so nervous.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:31:23]:
    And so I took that. And then when I had the opportunities, I led workshops. I became a keynote speaker last year for a major corporation. I was their motivational speaker for their pride celebration. So by putting myself and not letting fear stop me, I think it’s the journey that, again. And when I said on Project Runway, my life prepared me to be successful on that show, and the criticism I welcomed. So when I’m at school, at Drexel, we get all these critiques. So I could handle that on Project Runway, I would look out, and even if I was in the bottom and getting criticized, and I would be excited, I’m like, I’m on the Runway.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:32:02]:
    I’m on Project Runway. So bring it on. It’s okay, right? You know, it’s okay.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:07]:
    I mean, in a way, you came on at a better age than all the people who were younger, because you could actually appreciate it, and you were, like, ready. I mean, I don’t want to speak for the other contestants, but, well, the.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:32:19]:
    Thing is, and people just say, you could do. Age is just a number. But I don’t want to paint this picture of, like, oh, just go for your dream. It’s easy no matter what your age is. Yeah, it’s work, but it keeps keeping your mind sharp.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:37]:
    So you’re saying that the limitations would come more on the physical end, sure. But mentally, you have less limitations. Cause you have more knowledge and more.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:32:46]:
    Well, I probably have. Yeah, less. And I have more advantages than some.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:49]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:32:50]:
    Yeah, I have more advantages because of my journey. And again, the things that I’ve had to survive and thrive with the challenges, again, they led me to where I am. And again, in my age, when you say, make fear your friend, when they say to, it’s a piece of fashion, it’s like, what’s the big deal? You know, when you’ve had to deal with other life things. It’s no big deal. When you get down to it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:33:18]:
    Who were the judges at the time on Project Runway?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:33:21]:
    Brandon Maxwell, Elaine Welteroth, Nina Garcia. Christian Siriano was our mentor, who was like, it’s the most successful project Runway along, and Carly Kloss was the host.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:33:34]:
    Oh, okay. Tell me what it was like working with these people, these kind of legends.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:33:38]:
    When you get judged on tv, it looks like you’re standing there for five minutes. Yeah, it’s hours. The one thing, though, which I’m surprised they, you know. Cause it’s a reality. You had to take a psychological test, and it wasn’t to make sure you’re sane. I think it’s to make sure they had enough crazy personalities together to make it a fun show to get drama.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:33:56]:
    Out of the plot. Right. Yeah.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:33:58]:
    But when we would go in the confessionals and they would show you thumbnails of a Runway, you know, and it might have been, like, two weeks prior, and they’d ask you, well, do you think they should have won or he should have gone home, or. What did you think of that? What I did was I’d go down each one. I said, well, that’s enough for me to decide. I’m not the judge. I said, but, oh, I love how you have that gray and black contrast in which you’re wearing Ryan or, I love the sleeves on that. Oh, I thought the silhouette on this one. And I would just go down, and I’d find something positive to say about each one, and I wouldn’t put people down or their designs. It doesn’t matter if I would wear it.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:34:36]:
    It was their expression of their fashion. People don’t want to wear what I have. You go in a room, we all look different. That’s not right or wrong. So I didn’t. I just want to do it. So I guess my fashion spoke for itself. Even when we made the final four, two of the contestants said to me, when we, you know, we’re all on a high.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:34:54]:
    And the two of them said, we thought they were just keeping you for your story, you know, being the old person.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:34:59]:

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:34:59]:
    And they said, but you deserve to be here. So even though my contestants underestimated me, but I believed in myself, and that’s all that mattered.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:35:07]:
    That sort of started out as an insult, but it turned into a compliment. Well, and I just for the record, I just want to say you complimented what I was wearing, which is not always something that happens for me. So thank you.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:35:20]:
    You’re welcome.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:35:22]:
    As we wind down here, I did want to ask. We talk a lot about core pursuits, which are hobbies on steroids, things you’re really passionate about other than what you do for your main passion with fashion passion. Is there anything in your life that you’re passionate about that you do as well?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:35:41]:
    Well, I’m trying to get back into playing golf.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:35:44]:
    Oh, okay.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:35:44]:
    I met my husband on, comma, the dating website.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:35:48]:
    Really? Wow.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:35:49]:
    And then once I started school and all that, I haven’t played that much, so I’m really, I need more exercise, so I’m trying to play more golf. And then the joy, you hear it from everybody, but the joy of being, finding time and the joy of being a grandparent again because of the pandemic, that again turned into a positive. My granddaughter was six weeks premature. I went in that safety pod, and so I got to stay with her. And then when we went into the rental after the fire and they were in Philly and there were problems there, they stayed with me a lot. So I see my granddaughter usually at least one night overnight, sometimes two, most weeks of the year. And now I have two other ones. So for me, it’s making time.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:36:32]:
    And, you know, every day you’re reading another headline of somebody who has passed, and I’m in that age group now. And I’m like, okay, I just heard something on a, it was a tv show or whatever, and it was, you have more years behind you than you do ahead of you, so you’ve got to make them worth, live your life. And so being a grandparent and trying to take care of my health got ignored a lot. So trying to take care of my health, keeping my voice alive.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:37:03]:
    Do you want to tell people where they can find you, if they want to buy from you or just read about you, any of that?

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:37:09]:
    So I have two websites and two Instagram platforms, and it’s, or I have most of my followers on Nancy Volby Beringer on Instagram. And then I have and on Instagram, thevaultbyvoltbebarringer. And I have to say, as much as social media can be a very negative place, it has helped me get through the pandemic and the isolation when I’m feeling isolated and I need inspiration to get through another week or a down day because we all have them, your messages and you contacting me makes a difference. So if it’s not just me reaching out to other people and taking a moment to let them know you’re thinking about them.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:37:53]:
    This is so inspiring for people who are thinking about getting out of their career that maybe they don’t love my.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:38:01]:
    Husband, who’s like my number one fan. He says you have to realize you can’t look at your value as how much money you’re bringing in. It’s. But how much you’re inspiring other people and sharing your story, and that’s. You can’t put a price on that. No, that has really helped me. And that’s when I finally figured out, what has this journey been about? And why did I get to do this at my age and have all these cool things happen? It’s not about putting more fashion into the world. I mean, I love it.

    Nancy Volpe Beringer [00:38:30]:
    I need my creative outlet, but I really think it’s about having a voice and keeping my voice alive for those who and allowed who don’t have a voice.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:38:39]:
    Well, thanks so much for joining us on the Happiest retirees podcast, Nancy. You’ve certainly inspired me.

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