With more consumers focused on sustainability, it has become a luxury that few brands possess and many are playing catchup to try and achieve. This is not the case with Gabriela Hearst. The designer launched her eponymous line merely 4 years ago with luxury and sustainability in mind, and the result has been collections of ready to wear and accessories that wow those with a keen fashion eye while also showcasing extreme innovation of materials and design. Though Gabriela Hearst’s major focus is on sustainability and the environment, her sophisticated eye toward clean and artistic accessories has not wavered. Because of this, her bags have been incredibly hard to come by and if you were looking to order one you would have to inquire with the brand and wait until the bag you wanted was ready.
For the next 10 days, this will no longer be the case. Along with the launch of her new website, Gabriela Hearst is opening up her handbag line to be readily available for purchase which includes many renditions of the highly coveted Nina Bag and my new favorite, the Diana Bag. We sat down with Gabriela in her NYC office to ask her a few questions and get a look at what’s in her bag.
Gabriela is not only highly passionate about what she does, but also highly personable. Few designers have been able to create so much organic demand for their products and when you learn about the process Gabriela and her team take to create each bag and design, you’ll appreciate it on an entirely new level.
Gabriela’s view on her brand focuses on communicating that true luxury is sustainable and to buy quality over quantity. We inquired about her thoughts on the growing wait list for her bags and she shared: “A very successful screenwriter told me “all hits are born from a certain innocence”. It is the exact case with the Nina. I designed it with joy and with leisure time. A friend of mine told me that I needed a bag to complete my look. It was my dream bag. Then as traction started, I decided to continue that same philosophy in all our other bags. We have to love it, there is no timeline or pressure, if they are good they come out. We develop them for months and months as if we have all the time in the world. Which by the way, time is the true luxury. That’s why our handbags are so special for us and we keep the distribution very close.” This take is highly refreshing in an industry that is constantly aiming to churn out the next coveted design by releasing countless options close together, and also insightful to just how different her brand works.
One of my favorite lines Gabriela shared with me is “I always say Vision without Execution is Hallucination.” It is clear she lives by this, as her brand continues to grow, yet she has never left her focus toward the environment nor style behind.
A Few Questions For Gabriela
PB: How would you describe your bag designs?
GH: They live in a world of their own. I don’t design handbag collections. We create and develop bags in some cases for more than a year and when they are ready we launch them to the world. It’s a process we manage to keep very free and creative. As our pieces are extremely complex with their own technical custom closure systems. For example, the Joni and the Mitchell bag that are inspired by the Tiffin food delivery containers in India and they consist in many different parts to make. It involves magnets and springs. Or the Diana that has all its custom hardware made by hand one by one. As for inspiration, I have been inspired by artists such as Botero (for the Nina shape). For the Patsy, I was inspired by the lunch boxes of women entering the work force during the 1940s. The bags are named after female singers: Nina (Simone) my favorite singer off all time was used for our first bag. Diana (Diana Ross), Pasty (Patsy Cline), and Billie (Billie Holiday her middle name, Jane).
PS: Why do you think you’ve had such success with your bags?
GH: My friend Ben told me after we launched our collection of ready to wear and shoes, that I shouldn’t be carrying someone else’s bag. I thought he was right and I took my time to design a bag I absolutely loved. A famous writer told me that all hits start from innocence. I believe that, as our handbag business started this way. It was in October of 2015 that I was carrying the prototype in Paris and people started stopping me in the street. I had a plan to do only twenty five. Then in London I was in the elevator of a hotel and a gentleman saw how the bag opened and told me it was very interesting.
I said it was my prototype and I was thinking of doing a few more. He said if I did he would want one for his wife. When he gave me his card I realized it was Jony Ive, the Chief Design Officer of Apple. I took it as a sign. A few months later I sent him one and he sent me an iPad pro. Then Brie Larson wore one of the first editions the night before she won her oscar. This bag has been surrounded by good fortune.
PB: What’s next for Gabriela Hearst?
GH: After 5 years of business we are relaunching our website. To celebrate this we’ve decided to make our full selection of bags available for immediate purchase for 10 days only. Since launching handbags in 2016 with the Nina bag, we’ve kept distribution exclusive to our own retail channels. To ensure impeccable quality and uphold the brand’s sustainability standards, production has been kept limited, with bags available by request only through our online shop’s waitlist or our own stores. We are opening our second store in London this Saturday and a Hong Kong store in 2020.