We've been following the work and lovely aesthetic of clothing designer Lisa Hackwith (Hackwith Design House), for a while now and are thrilled for the chance to know her a bit better. Creating no more than 25 pieces of a single design, Lisa and her team at HDH want to ensure that every article of clothing becomes the highlight of your closet. Lisa does a beautiful job of maintaining a consistent brand while incorporating other creatives for custom boutique designs as well as her recent goods addition "Makers Alongside." On August 25th, she is launching her newest venture, HDH Basics, which is a line of five basic pieces that will always be in stock on her website. We reached out to HDH to learn more about Lisa and the process behind her collaborations.
How has HDH evolved since the first piece you released in 2010?
When I first started, I thought I had to design for other people, had to make things I thought other people would buy. I had some success doing that, but when it wasn't until I started designing pieces that I loved, that I thought truly expressed my aesthetic that my company really grew. People respond well to honesty, even honesty in design.
The limited quantities and excellent design truly makes each piece feel like a piece of art. Do you have a favorite?
I try to keep one of everything I make, so it is really hard to pick a favorite! At this point, I pretty much wear only HDH pieces. I do love the Harper and Millie Kimonos, both for their versatility as well as the design details that went into them: the stitching all the way around the back, the way the piece opens at the back of the neck.
Can you describe the collaboration process with other boutiques?
When a boutique approaches us about working together, we ask them what some of their favorite HDH pieces are. Some owners come with a clear vision in mind, others just have broad ideas. I use their ideas as a jumping off point to create designs specific to their store. I also incorporate the location, the climate of the city they're in, and the fabrics I have readily available to make something unique to their store. I love working with boutiques because it forces me to think outside my own box, and I often come up with something I never would have otherwise.
And how about the process of working together for your Makers Alongside goods?
Working with the artists for Makers Alongside is similar to working with boutique owners, except in this case, I'm more like the boutiques. I come with an idea or two, but the best products come out of our talking and then my just trusting the makers to do what they do best. There is a reason we approach these makers in the first place, and trusting their instincts is how we've gotten such great products.
Is there a limit to how many collaborations you take on during each season?
We are naturally limited by being such a small company. Last fall when I first started the website, I was the company - a one-woman show. But I have been fortunate to hire some amazingly talented seamstresses and a business partner who has helped me dramatically increase the number of boutiques we can work with as well as get Makers Alongside off the ground. We hope to continue to work hard and grow in a sustainable way.
Sometimes a collaboration just isn't working; can you share how you might work through that or when it's okay to say 'no'?
We have been fortunate to work with people whose vision and aesthetic is similar to ours. The few times we have found that we could not get on the same page during a collaboration, we've been able to pivot into a new product or new design that both parties like better than the original we were trying to force to work.
Any advice for those looking to collaborate with other creatives?
Trust your instincts. If you have put in the time, energy, research, and work, then chances are, your instincts are right. Don’t try to cater to others; do what you love and what makes you happy. That’s what gets people excited – when they see how thrilled and proud you are of your own work. If someone keeps fighting you on something you feel is right for what you're trying to accomplish, don't be afraid to explain why you feel the way you do. Chances are they just need some help seeing it from your side. But when you're not the expert, trust the people you choose to work with. If you work with people whose work you admire, don't get in the way of that work.
How does being a clothing designer effect the way you see the world?
I would actually turn that around: how I see the world affects my design. I want the clothing I design to be your favorite piece in your closet. Everyone has that shirt or dress that when they wear it, they feel most like themselves, most at ease. You go through your day confident you look good in what you are wearing, so you forget about your clothes; instead, you spend your time focusing on the more important things: performing well at work, connecting with friends, enjoying a night out. I hope people find that when they put on an HDH piece, they don't have to think about it again because it is their favorite thing to wear. I also want what I design to be sustainable, something that was made by people being paid fairly in a good working environment. So I design pieces that we are able to make in our Minneapolis studio.
Memories of being creative as a kid?
I was always in my own little world as a kid. I'd make up elaborate stories and then would play dress up to live those out. My grandpa gave me this great dollhouse, and my sisters didn't really play with it, but I loved it. I would spend hours decorating it, making wall paper to hang on the tiny little walls. Art class was always my favorite. I went to a very small high school that didn't have a lot to offer in the arts, so I asked a teacher to help me create a curriculum for a photography class because I wanted to take one.
Was there ever a point in your career where you wanted to throw in the towel? Can you describe how you overcame that time and kept going?
In early 2013, I realized I had to figure out a way other than wholesale orders and a small Etsy shop to be able to live off of designing and making clothes. Rather than quitting and going to grad school (and let's be honest, who hasn't thought about doing that?), I took time off to talk to people who were successful in the fashion industry, to read and research about fashion and retail, and to re-write my business plan. That patience and work led to my creating the limited-edition model of my business and helped me gain clarity in what I wanted Hackwith Design House to be. It was scary to basically start over, but I had great support in my husband, friends, and family, and it helped me create a business I am really proud to have my name on.
Do you have a favorite season to design for?
No, but I love living in a place where I get to design for all four seasons. By the time it is a new season, I'm ready to start designing for that season.
How do you take your coffee/tea?
I take my coffee with a little bit of cream.
Favorite place to visit for rest?
My parents have a cabin in the North woods of Wisconsin on a lake. I love going there: swimming, lounging on the dock, cruising around on the boat. It's so relaxing and great to spend time with my family up there.
How do your friends and family encourage you?
My parents have always been very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. They are also small business owners, so they know how much work it is and are always really encouraging. My husband, Dustin, has been a never-ending support through this whole process. He was with me in 2010 when I was sewing constantly, all day, yet making no money. He supported us and kept working a job he did not enjoy so that I could create Hackwith Design House. I am so thankful for his support.