Nina Harrison was born in Huntsville, Alabama. She and her brother were raised by their single mom, who was enlisted in the army. A self-described military brat, by high school graduation Harrison had attended 13 different schools. “I loved it,” she said. In 2010 Harrison, 41, moved to Huntersville, when her employer, Electrolux, relocated its North American headquarters to Charlotte. She lives with her husband, Mike, and their three children.
Q. Did you have a sense of style as a kid?
A. With my mom being in the army, she wore a uniform to work every day. There was no flash and flair. So it was really difficult for me to find my own sense of style. I didn’t have to wear a uniform but I might as well have.
Q. Do you remember something from your childhood closet?
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A. There was this Princess Leia shirt with purple sleeves and the body was white. I loved that. I wore it all the time. When I got something like that I clung to it.
Q. When did you start to develop a style?
A. I went to a women’s college for undergrad. One of the reasons I was really drawn to it was I could just be myself. There was no ‘Are you preppy or nerdy or yuppie?’ so it was easy for me.
Q. How did working for a corporation affect your style?
A. My best friend also works for Electrolux, and she schooled me on the different consumer types and styles. I’ve struggled with who I am my entire life. My mom is white, and my dad is black. Style is something I struggled with from the beginning.
Q. How did your friend help you?
A. We travelled a lot. We would go to Las Vegas, and there were all these high-end aspirational brands. She said you need to find a brand that resonates with you. She said you’ll know. So I walked into a Carolina Herrera store and I said, ‘Yes, this is me.’ I walked into Fendi, and I said, ‘That’s not me.’ And Hermès. ‘Oh, this is me ... when I’m 80 and have a whole lot of money.’
Q. Once you identified a designer, how did you build your wardrobe?
A. I bought one staple from Carolina Herrera that kept me focused. It was a pair of black suede shoes with the CH logo and I fell in love with them. Black to me was safe. I could wear them with everything, yet they are special, so I wouldn’t wear suede shoes all the time. But when I do wear them, they pop.
Q. What else did you learn?
A. When you get really nice things, you think ‘This was a lot of money and I don’t want to use it.’ But don’t keep it locked up in a closet. That’s a jagged little pill to swallow, especially being a working mom, because I don’t want it to be ruined. It’s an investment, an heirloom, a statement piece.
Q. What do you like about CH?
A. There is elegance and simplicity without flashiness. I don’t want to be flashy with the brands that I wear. People who know the brand will recognize it, and that’s all I care about.
Q. What was the first nice suit you bought?
A. Brooks Brothers. It was linen and black. I bought a dress, pants and jacket, so I could mix it all up. It’s tailored. I still have it. It was a great investment.
Q. What does style mean to you?
A. Being able to express yourself without caring what anyone else thinks, which is difficult to do sometimes, especially at work, because you have guidelines. My style is very simple and classic and elegant, so it can work within the confines of work. But I see men and women struggle because their style doesn’t fit the confines of corporate America.
Q. How do you keep up with trends?
A. MM.LaFleur. You get your own style profile, you tell them what you like, what designer influences you, and they send you a box with whatever you want; dresses, accessories. You have a few days to decide what you want to buy.
Q. Tell me about a splurge.
A. The only car I got two speeding tickets in was a red Nissan 300 ZX with T-top and a stick shift. It was our splurge car before the twins.
Q. What’s a fashion mistake many make?
A. When the heel doesn’t match either with their body type or the look that they are going for. Chunky heels for a short person: No.
Q. What thing do you wear every day?
A. My earrings. They are diamond studs from Tiffany. They are my push gift, one for each baby. We couldn’t afford a Tiffany ring so I got my earrings instead. It was worth it.
Q. Tell me a store you like.
A. For everyday affordable staples I’m a big White House Black Market fan.
Q. What’s your latest fashion find?
A. Louis Vuitton. It’s my new brand. I don’t want to go down the shoe path, though if you ask my husband he’d tell you I have plenty of them. A purse is a better investment.
Q. So you bought one?
A. In my travels I saw this bag and fell in love with it, so I saved and saved and saved. Once I started I couldn’t stop, so I bought the wallet a couple of years later, then I got my black everyday wallet, and now I’m cutting myself off.
Q. What are three out-of-the-ordinary things in your purse?
A. A lacrosse ball, which I use as my own little massager. Band-Aids, because I have a tattoo that I cover up on my ankle, and then I have a Challenge Coin, which is something that another military person bequeaths to you, and you are supposed to keep it on your person, and when it’s time to drink, people pull out their Challenge Coins in order to avoid picking up the tab.
Q. Where do you shop for casual clothes?
A. I’m a golfer. I love Puma brand. They have a nice women’s selection.
Q. What does your hair say about you?
A. People wonder if I have extensions in my hair. My hair is very curly. I’m one of those people who pays to have keratin put in my hair. So yes, I pay to straighten my hair, and then I curl it how I want.
Q. What’s something you can’t believe you once wore?
A. I wore legwarmers. Way past the time you were supposed to. I didn’t get the memo. I think it is because we were living in Germany and then I moved back to the States, and I was rocking them.
Q. ‘I always splurge on … ’
A. Other people. I’m the gift giver. I listen, and I find the most personalized gift for individuals, and to me that is splurging because it takes time.
Q. What’s your best bargain?
A. My kids. Our twins we did in vitro fertilization. We did it once, and we got two beautiful babies as a result.
Q. Who is your muse?
A. My husband. We truly are opposites. I have a tendency to get a little neurotic. He doesn’t even have to say anything, he just looks at me and it calms me down. He’s also a great sounding board. He takes it all in.