At the age of 58, Nancy Volpe Beringer realized she wasn’t living her dream. Creatively stifled by work—she went from creating events and leadership training to a management position—she decided to make a drastic change. When her passion for fashion design became evident, Beringer quit her job and started searching for programs, eventually enrolling in Drexel University’s master’s program.
Now 65 years old, she’s living her dream to the fullest. The Bucks County native, who currently has a studio in Philadelphia, competed on the current season of Bravo’s “Project Runway.” Then 64 years old, she is the oldest ever contestant on the reality show, which tasks a number of up-and-coming designers with weekly challenges. Designers are then judged by Elle magazine editor-in-chief Nina Garcia, model Karlie Kloss and fashion designer Brandon Maxwell, plus a slew of guest judges. Finalists present collections, from which a winner is crowned (Beringer is currently among the final five contenders on the show, which wraps up this spring).
Beringer’s career—and her eponymous line, which she launched shortly after graduating from Drexel, which has appeared in the fashion-forward Joan Shepp—has taken off in the wake of her appearance on “Project Runway.” A designer focused on inclusivity across gender, age and body-type, her latest collection features an array of pieces that anyone can wear, from her iconic wide-legged wrap pants to art-inspired coats to rompers to graphic sweatshirts. She’s also included a selection of easy to wear items like kimono tops, skirts, dresses and organza jackets and collars. “They’re fun, whimsical pieces,” Beringer says. “It’s an easy way to transform what you’re wearing to go from day to night.”
A number of those eveningwear pieces are meant to go over top of an existing outfit, even something as simple as yoga pants and a tank top or a body suit. Alternately, they can be worn over more elegant pieces, elevating the overall look. Ever versatile, when styling her own pieces, Beringer says she sometimes opts for a more casual look like jeans and high tops, which she dresses up with something like the organza jacket. “You can still stay who you are as an individual, you can just transform your look,” she says.
Such eveningwear pieces, along with capelets and evening coats, are now available to shop at Van Cleve, a bridal and eveningwear boutique in Paoli. It’s the only local store to stock Beringer’s eveningwear collection.
“It’s very cool, very edgy,” says owner Deborah Van Cleve, who anticipates their popularity for everything from balls and galas to b’nai mitzvahs and weddings to easy, but elevated looks when traveling. “It’s a more interesting approach to evening than the usual eveningwear or cocktail dress.”
To celebrate the collection, Van Cleve will host a meet-and-greet with Beringer at the store from 12-2 p.m. on Feb. 29. In addition to meeting Beringer and exploring her line, the store is hosting an all-day trunk show with French designer Cyril Verdavainne.
Beringer began work on this collection last year. As is typical with her design process, it all started with the fabric, which she discovered in New York. “I don’t get my ideas from sketching. I go on a journey with fabric,” she says. “I either find fabric that intrigues me or I manipulate and create fabric and then I just play with it.”
The result is compelling, show-stopping pieces that can be worn by any gender or size. “For me, inclusivity needs to be above all. When I design, I don’t see a face, I don’t see an age, I don’t see a shape. I just see the fabric,” Beringer says. “You put [on my garments] and you feel empowered, more confident, happy.”
Beringer takes that mission of inclusivity and empowerment further by volunteering with area organizations like Southeast by Southeast, the Refugee Women’s Textile Initiative and Women Organized Against Rape. She also hopes her story of later in life success continues to inspire individuals to follow their dreams, no matter their age. “Now I get to use my fashion to work with organizations that empower women, that help disadvantaged children,” she says. “I want to promote inclusivity and sustainability. How I define my success is being relevant and that is creating fashion that makes people feel good and empowered, but also giving back to the community.”