INTERVIEW: GABRIELA HEARST, DESIGNER
words by LUCY BULLING • Fashion
Gabriela Hearst is a woman for women, and she designs for them too, dressing everyone from street-style-stars to royalty.
Julia von Boehm: Firstly, I love your new store! Congratulations, you have done such an incredible job with that...
Gabriela Hearst: Oh, thank you! We had three main goals with the store: first, to be done sustainably. Just because we wanted to open a store on Madison, didn’t mean the environment had to suffer. Everything we had made was crafted by hand and brought in from Italy with a lot of care.
The second was that the store should feel warm, and not be intimidating to the customer. There are many women who feel intimidated by going into luxury stores - they feel pressure and like they have to buy something. We did not want the space to feel overwhelming, we really wanted people to be able to come in and feel a sense of serenity. The couch has become our prime piece of real estate.
And lastly, we wanted to be sure we were communicating our vision of luxury. Every brand has a vision, and for us, it was very specific. With all three criteria, I think we did it.
JVB: You really made a beautiful space. It is the cleanest, and so warm. Immediately I was obsessed. I think you succeeded with every point that you just mentioned! Ok, now for the more formal questions - what do you believe is the secret to powerful, feminine dressing?
GH: Women today do not have time; we all live busy lives and we don’t have any time to waste. In a way, I hope to give them a uniform - something that is timeless, however you choose to mix your clothes.
It is important to first cover the basics, then add the character. Good dressing does not have to mean the latest seasons; I am always dressed in five different seasons. And I do not design with the thinking that I won’t be able to wear something the season after next. Women have bigger fish to fry than being concerned with wearing the latest seasons fashion! We need a uniform and armor, to go through what we women need to.
JVB: That is exactly my vision of dressing.
GH: And collectively, I think we are waking up to this. We need to simplify this part of our world. The world has become such a complex place, and it is so hard for everyone to understand it. In a way, we have become more ignorant...
JVB: Confused, almost, by what we should be listening to and what we shouldn't.
GH: Exactly, and clarity of mind is such a desirable thing to have right now. And clarify of time. So whatever we can do [as a designer and a brand] - I find very important.
JVB: What do you feel are the most important, signature pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe?
GH: A good outwear piece can dress an entire outfit. A good blazer, or ideally a suit - you’re never overdressed or underdressed when you’re wearing a suit. There is a formality when you are wearing a suit that you are always correctly dressed. And you must have comfortable shoes!
JVB: And that’s it!? What about for the weekend, what would you usually wear?
GH: I mean, if you want to be in your pyjamas on the weekend, sure - go for it! I am very specific with my weekend wear, usually sweatpants and a cashmere sweater. There is something beautiful and comfortable about cashmere; I notice that when I am wearing cashmere, my kids hug me more!
JVB: Yes! Mine too! How old are your kids?
GH: I have five in total across all ages. They are all so much fun; challenging in that they all have different needs as everyone is in different moments of their lives. It is also challenging to be both a mom and a step-mom. But I find it so fulfilling and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.
JVB: But it’s great, I mean being a mother is what makes my life worth it - it is all for the kids.
GH: All of my efforts are for them. I am extremely concerned about the world that they are going to inherit - I just want them to know that I tried to do whatever was in my ability to do. It is all our responsibility, nobody is blameless - and a big challenge for a fashion company is to think outside of the box.
JVB: Where do you go to find inspiration for your collections?
GH: It’s always my curiosity that drives me. Subjects could be women or a movement, wherever my curiosity takes me. I very much enjoy the research part, where I am deeply delving into an area that is inspiring me.
I really try to make sure that I have time to read. I feel so ignorant all the time and reading triggers things in my brain and I tend to find this adventure helps.
JVB: What is your favorite era to look back on for inspiration?
GH: I always love the 70s feel, I was born in 76 so I like to look back at all my photographs of my family. Everything was so well made and beautiful. My mother had everything made by a seamstress, so it was practically couture!
JVB: That explains your clothes!
GH: I always try to recreate that quality I saw when I was a little child. I am trying to get there, I am not completely satisfied yet. I feel like there is a long road ahead, but we are trying.
JVB: And do you have a style muse(s)?
GH: Yes yes yes, of course! Usually, they are people who have done things with their lives that are remarkable. For fall, I was inspired by ballerina Maya Plisetskaya. Her story is incredible - but the more remarkable thing is that she danced for the Bolshoi for over 50 years!
She retired now, but I think she was dancing when she was 65 - she was dancing during the Stalin era. I think she had done Swan Lake something like 800 times, and for every major leader - anyone who would come to Russia would have Maya dance. She was an interesting character to read and she has been a muse for a lot of designers, including Pierre Cardin.
JVB: Bags have become the icon of your label, particularly your ‘Nina’ - what is it about this bag that has everyone from street-style influencers to The Duchess of Sussex, Megan Markle carrying it?
GH: I didn’t know when I designed it that you know how they say ‘when you have a hit, it comes from innocence’ I never knew it would come out this way. I worked on it for a long time, when we first launched we did ready to wear and shoes and a friend said: “you can’t launch and walk around in your clothes and have no bag!”
I think people really love it because it's round. I don’t know if you notice, but in nature, there are really no right angles. So I think that people tend to react emotionally and positively to roundness - maybe that's part of it? I don’t know!?
JVB: Do you have favorite cities to go to be inspired? And indulge in fashion?
GH: I love Tokyo. But right now I am completely enamored with Madrid. The Prada museum, which is going to turn 200 years, is one of my most favorite in the world. I am always there, this year is twice already, and I have taken my children and they just love learning about Madrid.
I find it such a great city to be inspired - it is flourishing right now it is in a great place, and for the kids.