For Gabriela Hearst Fashion and Philanthropy Make Good Business Partners
Gabriela Hearst is a self-taught designer, who only launched her signature label three years ago. This year she was nominated for the CFDA womenswear designer of the year award, just opened her first flagship store in New York, debuted a permanent showroom in Pars. She is also currently on track for being profitable by the end of the year.
But Hearst is no overnight success. She has years of experience in the fashion industry. However, it was her conscious decision to shift to only creating clothing using the best materials she could lay her hands on, to focus on versatile timeless garments and to design pieces with multitasking women in mind that made all the difference. In an industry built on the idea of the accumulation of things, Hearst is finding her global success with a less, but best, philosophy.
When we spoke she had just signed her lease for her store and her nomination for her CFDA award was still very fresh in her mind. But even though she had a lot of exciting news about her nascent company, it was when she spoke to me about the core message of her company that I really felt I got a better and deeper understanding of this exceptional business woman.
Congratulation on this year’s CFDA nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year. What was that like for you, because only a handful of women have been nominated for this award over the years?
First of all, my team and I were very honored, super excited and humble because last year we were nominated for emerging designers with the big guys. I have a perspective that I like designing for women, it makes sense to me. As a woman, I know firsthand how our body change through the months and years and how our bodies feel. It’s like I am really exploring a woman’s psychology.
Tell me a little bit about this idea of psychology. As a woman designer creating clothing for other women, you have a perspective that no man could ever have, or understand. You are living the life, you are a working mom with 3 kids and yet you are an autodidact. So I am curious about what you might pick up one that others might not see.
Our woman is a woman of action. She is working, she has her family, she has things to do, she is always on a mission. I am making sure her wardrobe and whatever I am doing has the best materials. Also, I am making sure use materials that travel well like my suits that are designed to not wrinkle. I want to make sure the women who wear my clothing are ready for whatever unexpected thing might happen.
I am thinking of the things that matters in her life and I want to make sure of the touch of our clothing is right too. I always said to my team, imagine the lights go off and our clients need to be able to find our rack in the dark. I want us to be known for our fabrics and our hand because I do believe that our sweater and cashmere, nothing feels softer. And I truly believe that how you feel in your clothing changes your perspective. Life is not so bad when you are wearing a nice cashmere sweater.
In other big news, you just signed a lease for your first flagship in New-York, right?
Yes, we were so excited! We just signed at for a store at the Carlyle House. We always knew we wanted a physical space to showcase the whole esthetic of who we are.
Also, it going to be the first physical store to sell our handbags.
That is interesting because one of the things that I have read is you don’t wholesale the bags, they are only online through you. Is that right?
Yes, they are not even online that you can go online right now and buy a bag. You have to go online and put yourself on a waiting list. It is quite democratic, if we have the bag online we will ship it to you. If we don’t have it, because we are waiting for the factory to send it to us, we put you in a waiting list.
How long is the waiting list now?
Depending on the colors, some of them like new one we launched, the Patsy, it is a two-month wait.
The bags are all named after musicians, is that correct?
Only after women singers except two: the Demi, which was named after Demi Moore because our first bag called Nina was a bag that Demi liked very much. But she wanted a smaller version. We did the Demi for her. And then, a tote named after Stuart Vevers, who is a close friend of mine, so we called it the Vevers.
I know you had another fashion label before you started your eponymous line. It was more boho-in-style. What made you decide to stop that line and start the brand you have now? And what did you learn from that first venture that you are taking on board with your new company?
When I launched Candela, I was in my mid-twenties. I started it with a lot of passion and not a lot budget. It had to be a contemporary brand in terms of price point because those were the sort of materials we could afford. I would say the brand was a success in sense because I was able to pay my bills. But it was also very much a learning in experience as well because Candela existed before the boom of Zara and H&M. I remember we had an office in Soho below a Zara and I was thinking this is going to be a tough one.
The more I thought about it, I started dreaming about creating a high-end collection because I wanted to work with the best materials in the world. After, my father passed away and inherited the family sheep ranch in Uruguay ranch and I remember thinking that the quality of the product at the ranch is so high.
There was a discrepancy between what I was doing in New York and my life, were I came from. We were selling to department stores and they wanted it cheaper. I had to lower the quality and I just could not it anymore. It was like breaking my passion. At the beginning, this brand was going to be just a shoe brand. But then, since I know how to do all of this and I wanted to tailoring, we decide to do more. That is why people are so surprised, it has only been three years but they forget that I have over ten years of experience doing, delivering and producing, knowing how it works and making mistakes. I knew very much what I wanted to do when we launched. I am just too old to make products that I am not proud of and there is all this crap in the world that I really wanted to put the best in what I can do. I tell my team that I am only interested in the best, all the fabrics, suppliers. I get so much joy from working with great craftsmanship and I believe that, when you support quality, you are supporting passion because most of these businesses are multigenerational.
“I WANT TO MAKE SURE THE WOMEN WHO WEAR MY CLOTHING ARE READY FOR WHATEVER UNEXPECTED THING MIGHT HAPPEN” – GABRIELA HEARST
Is that why you decided to give the brand your name?
When it is your name you can’t hide. The standards have to be pretty high and you just don’t have any more time for amateur work, it has to be pro all the way.
Nomination for the CFDA, brand new store, this year is third year for your brand and you are you recorded sales of more than 10 millions dollars last year. How are feeling are you able to take it all in?
Well, every time something wonderful happened, the nomination for CFDA and also the visionary award, it is the kind of thing I take 24 hours to enjoy it and feel great about myself, celebrate with the whole team and the next day I moved on to my dedication to the work. I had this incredible opportunity that I am so grateful to be able to communicate and manifest the vision of what I find beautiful, interesting and what I would like women to wear. I take this so seriously, in a way that so much love is all the reward. People telling me I love your clothes, having clients. I have gone to a store where I have seen a client in a wheel chair, she loves wearing our pieces because they are so soft and make her feel happy. Nothing beats having a happy client.
Jessica Michault is the Senior Vice President of industry relations at GPS Radar by Launchmetrics. She is also the editor-at-large for ODDA magazine and contributes to publications like the New York Times, the Business of Fashion, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Mixte magazine.
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