Gabriela Hearst made her debut as a fashion designer when she was just a little girl. In an interview with CFDA back in 2016, she said that her friends always remembered her as “the girl sketching in the back.”
“I was designing everybody’s Quinceañera dresses. I was six years old when I watched Cinderella. When she got help from the little mouse and bird to do the dress, I was immediately transfixed by the idea that you can make clothes. And so I went to my grandmother’s closet, took her lace gowns and started cutting them into a dress.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Born in Uruguay, Hearst grew up on her family’s ranch surrounded by horses, cattle and sheep. After spending more than 10 years in New York working on designs, Hearst finally launched her eponymous label in Fall 2015.
When she debuted her limited edition Nina bag (which she cheekily calls the “power ball” because it’s shaped like a ball) in 2016, it caught the eye of Jony Ive, former Chief Design Officer of Apple. He noticed her carrying it in a London elevator and proceeded to tell Hearst that he’d like to buy one for his wife.
The Nina is now one of the most sought-after bags in the world and has an extensive waiting list.
From now till 15 November, Gabriela Hearst’s handbag collection will be on display exclusively at On Pedder, Pedder on Scotts. This is the first time that Gabriela Hearst classics such as Nina and Demi, and newer styles such as Diana, Patsy and Walkwoman are made available outside the brand’s own website.
The bags on display at On Pedder, Pedder on Scotts
Ahead of her visit to Singapore to present her latest collection at Pedder on Scotts on 1 November, we caught up with Hearst to find out what inspires her, why sustainability is so important to her brand, and what are some of the causes close to her heart.
Why did you decide to launch Gabriela Hearst?
We decided to launch the collection because we saw that — after many years in design — there was a place for true luxury that would represent the modern, ultra luxurious customers while having a conscious approach to the environment and how things are made.
My guiding principles to design are to use superior, long-lasting materials and to not follow trends; it’s going inwards from a design perspective. When you’re using materials that have a premium price point, you have to have a design that will pass the test of time. If a client is buying a suit or cashmere coat, I want them to have it for the rest of their lives. All of this, while pursuing a sustainable way of creating luxury.
Describe the woman who embodies the Gabriela Hearst brand?
The brand Gabriela Hearst is for women of action. Our clients have dynamic lives; professionals who are always looking to develop themselves further, and our clothes are armour for their daily life. For me, it is the women first and the clothes second.
You mentioned in an interview that the goal of your first store on Madison Avenue (next to Caryle hotel) is to prove that you can create a green environment without sacrificing luxury.
We now have two stores like this in New York and London. What we wanted to do was to create a sustainable space without sacrificing luxury. There are three points to this approach: To create a store that is sustainably made because if we want to open a store, the environment does not have to suffer because of our decision. So, all the wood we used was reclaimed, and nearly 95 percent or more of all the waste that the store created was recycled — from the natural fibres to the paint that was chosen.
There are no plastic bottles but there is a filtering water system, and intelligent lightning. We wanted to create something that does not lack the vision and feel of luxury, which is a welcoming and comfortable place that inspires you. It is also very important that the store is not intimidating.
Besides sustainability, what other causes are close to your heart?
Anything that involves the welfare of children and the most vulnerable people is close to my heart.
Gabriela Hearst started off as a womenswear label before making the leap to include menswear this year. Can you tell us what inspired the inclusion of menswear?
The inspiration came from my husband because he needs help. At Gabriela Hearst, we work with a lot of materials, and our tailoring is quite men’s-based. So, I thought “Why not?” Tailoring is one of our strengths. We actually see a space in the market for beautifully tailored pieces that are well crafted with some design perspective yet not full of logos.
Do you have a favourite piece from the Fall/Winter 2019 collection?
For our Fall 19 collection, I was inspired by Maya Plisetskaya, the famous Russian ballet dancer. We imagined our collection in her urban setting — Maya walking to rehearsals at the Bolshoi a few blocks from her Moscow apartment with coats and outerwear to protect her from the Russian winters. We also imagined her rehearsal and performance outfits, as well as the contrasting rural life she led in her Dacha and the wardrobe she would wear in that setting.
It is so hard to choose a favourite from this collection. I love all the pieces, all the boots, and all outerwear.
Which designer past or present, dead or alive, do you admire the most?
One of my favourite designers is Elsa Schiaparelli because she had the fortitude to work with some incredible artists of her time, like Salvador Dali. Also, that her first collection was knitwear created by Armenian refugees. Even so early on, she was able to address the social component of fashion. She was also self-taught.
Who has been the greatest influence in your life?
Undeniably my mother. She always was out of the ordinary. I grew up in a very conservative country at that time. Now it has changed. My mother was always breaking the mould and standards.
Who’s your style icon?