Fashion designer Gabriela Hearst: “I could always have started selling cattle again” | Fashion

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HCome on, wait a minute, I want to show you something, ”said Gabriela Hearst, hopping from her chair in her spacious Manhattan office and searching for something on the shelves in the background of her Zoom frame. “These are my diaries from when I was 16 or 17 – let me check the date, uh 1993, yes I was 17 and look!” She flattens out a page full of colorful teenage drawings and presents them to the camera: “I’ve designed a whole collection of creepy shoes!” “

The fact that these journals remain within easy reach of the fashion designer’s office in her Chelsea studio is a testament to the fact that despite the success she has achieved, Hearst never forgets where she came from. As Creative Director of her award-winning brand, founded in 2015, and for a year in the same prestigious position at the Chloé fashion house, it would be an understatement to say that Hearst is a hot property in the world. in fashion right now.

Not only can she count among fans of her brand Angelina Jolie, Gillian Anderson, Greta Thunberg and Jill Biden (she dressed the latter in the embroidered white coat for the 2020 opening night), but she does everything she can to kind of. fashion headlines for her determination to demonstrate to an industry famous for its unsustainable practices that sustainable innovation can make business sense, too. It’s also a big plus that her husband, John Augustine Hearst – a senior member of the Hearst Corporation and heir to one of America’s richest families – is involved in the self-funded business.

From day one of her eponymous brand, renowned for its luxury handcrafted aesthetic, she has raised the bar for the sustainable management of a luxury fashion house. She has set a goal of using 80% dead fabric within three years and no virgin material by 2022. Her first fashion week show in 2016 – where she brought chairs from her home and donated the show’s metal planks at the end – laid the groundwork for the first-ever carbon-neutral fashion show in September 2019. Earlier that same year, her brand declared itself plastic-free, “front and back home ”, using recycled cardboard hangers and fully compostable biobased TIPA packaging. And she re-romanticized the idea of ​​waiting lists, making her handbags more or less to order to avoid waste.

Shout out: on the podium for her SS 2022 collection for Chloé. Photography: Christophe Petit-Tesson / EPA

It is a passion that comes from his bucolic childhood that Hearst likes to keep as much at heart as at hand. Born into a sixth generation of ranchers in remote Uruguay in November 1976, she spent her childhood living pretty much off the grid, raising cattle from a young age on her parents’ ranch at 17. 000 acres in Paysandú. “It’s extremely remote,” she says. “When I was a kid and it was raining, you didn’t go out because the rivers were flooding. We had to plan for a whole year of what we would eat because you couldn’t just go to the supermarket or the deli.

In the absence of television, radio provided entertainment, while for the designer, “my toy was my imagination,” she says. “Much of the creativity I have today comes from using my imagination [back then]. Imagination solves all problems, doesn’t it? On a ranch, you have to use it a lot; you can’t just call in an expert if something doesn’t work. I was taught during that time that quality comes primarily from a utilitarian perspective… and even in a humble environment, quality is high because everything is made to last a lifetime.

It is to this logic – and to the rhythms of following nature during its early years of development – that Hearst attributes its appreciation of the land and its resources. She also has an innate understanding of how to use common sense: “Rethink what to do to work? The ways to prioritize were ingrained in my upbringing! ” she says. Years of training like that would create a force to be reckoned with later.

In 2017, she won the prestigious Woolmark International Women’s Fashion Award; in May 2018, she won the Pratt’s Fashion Visionary Award for her commitment to sustainable development; in April 2019, LVMH Luxury Ventures acquired a minority stake in the company; she was named the Fashion Council of America’s 2020 Women’s Clothing Designer of the Year (the fashion equivalent of the Oscars); and last month she was named Leader of Change at the British Fashion Awards.

“This recognition humbly gives us more motivation for the road ahead,” she told her followers on Instagram (where, by the way, you can find her making her way through meetings in the past. purchase, to show how to wear her creations and to share inspiring ideas (images of her mother raising Criollo horses). As it turns out, Hearst’s path to success has been as dynamic as she is.

Turning the page of her diary, she proudly holds up a sketch that reads, “I’m going to Australia!” “When you live in Uruguay, you are really far from everything and [when I was 17] I wanted to go to Australia like nothing else in the world. I told everyone I was going there and they said I was crazy, ”she explains. “Then one day a friend told me about a scholarship that would get me there. There was a place, I applied with this whole presentation and got it.

Resort and Summer 2022 Collection by Gabriella Hearst
Color code: designs for Gabriela’s own brand. Photograph: shutterstock / PR

After returning to Uruguay, Hearst convinced her mother to let her find a paid job to save money to visit a friend in New York City she had met during her fellowship. “I arrived [in New York] in 1994 when I was 18 and within a few hours I said, I’m going to live here, ”she said in a neutral tone. Six years later, she decided to move permanently by enrolling at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater to study the Performing Arts. After persuading her father to pay her expenses – “convincing my father who was a gaucho to pay for a theater school in New York was my best performance ever” – she worked on her studies to cover her living expenses. . While a career on stage turned out not to be her calling, she learned an important lesson from her time there.

“We studied the Meisner technique, which I obtained,” she says. “It’s the technique of being truthful – of dealing with the truth [it takes] play and play from a place of truth. It was a remarkable experience and without it I wouldn’t be able to do interviews like this or be so present [today]. “

None of her friends or family are surprised Hearst has become a fashion designer, she says, although she admits to having stumbled upon it by accident.

Before Gabriela Hearst and long before Chloe, came Candela, the brand of women’s clothing that she launched with two partners and $ 750 each. “At that point, if it didn’t work, I should have started selling cattle again with my dad – so I gave it my all! ” she laughs. “I don’t recommend it, but at the time it was about 0% APR so we maximized the credit cards [to get it started]. Fortunately, the business went from zero to a million dollars in no time, so we were able to pay it off. “

Gabriela Hearst with Jill Biden and Carolyn Miles.
Blue Note: with Jill Biden and Carolyn Miles. Photograph: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

It was Candela who taught Hearst the details of supply chains and logistics, for which she is grateful, but ultimately led to disillusionment. “We were doing [clothes] for the contemporary market at cheap and shoddy prices and there was a total disconnect for me. In 2011, her father passed away and she inherited her ranch (which she still runs remotely to this day). To meet in Paysandú “to work with tradition, to organize the animals, [watching] the circle of life, ”she knew something had to change. “I thought about it and said, ‘If I want to put something new out there, it has to be done better and with lower environmental impact than everything else. “

Four years later, and after much research and planning, her brand was born in partnership with her husband, with whom she has three children, Jack, six, and Olivia and Mia, both 13. It was with his encouragement that Hearst continued the summit. work at Chloé, which was done in a characteristic go-getter style.

“I had one of those crazy moments with Gabi when I said to my future boss, ‘Listen, my name is Gabi, just like founder Gaby. [Aghion] So that’s it ‘! “She laughs.” Then of course I did a 92-page presentation and justified my thinking, but it was really meant to be because it’s a language that I ‘love.”

Achieving a work-life balance while running two of the world’s most successful fashion brands is “very difficult,” she says. “But I have a very supportive family. My husband’s responsibilities have changed and adapted, so there are definitely sacrifices.

Gabriela Hearst with Gillian Anderson at the Met Gala.
Fan of the brand: with Gillian Anderson. Photograph: Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Live a “moderate” life that includes going to bed at 9:30 pm to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, exercise, and eat a healthy diet – “I mean, I’m going to derail at times of pressure and eat too many bears. freaky gelatin and drinking too much coffee, of course ”- she believes in keeping a clear mind to be able to“ access information from the subconscious ”and she chooses carefully what takes her away from home. In November, Hearst spent its birthday in Glasgow during a panel at Cop26 to talk about climate success through low impact business models. “Spending her birthday away from her kids is painful and so if I had to do it, I really wanted it to be worth it, and it was.”

Her work as Administrator of Save the Children since 2018 has also turned her attention to Ghana, Kenya and, more recently, Afghanistan. This is not the first time that it has taken advantage of the exclusivity of its waiting lists and limited edition creations in December and has donated 100% of the net proceeds of all items in its stores. lighthouses in London and New York as well as from its website at the charity. Afghan Crisis Children’s Relief Fund.

“I don’t like it when brands bombard me with gift lists and things like that,” she says. “The vacation season is about giving and being aware of others, so I’m not comfortable selling a product to make more money. Can’t we think of others? Afghanistan is one of the places where it is hell on earth right now and why do these children have to suffer? It might not be on the news now, but that doesn’t mean the problem has been rooted out.

This year, she also quietly launched the Gabriela Hearst Youth program in the United States, to create a space for teens to channel their anxieties by teaching them fabrics and the future of fashion design. One of her proudest accomplishments of the year, it says a lot about Hearst’s motivation to do everything she does. Two of his main takeaways from this year’s Cop26 summit were: “Anyone who fights the young will lose” and that when it comes to the environment we are all supposed to leave our children better off than at the start. “The mission is worth it,” she said. “I can honestly tell my kids that I have tried, I have really tried.”

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