In honor of Haute Hippie’s new location at 81st and Madison, which opened earlier this month, Quest associate editor Elizabeth Quinn Brown talks to founder Trish Wescoat Pound about the brand’s expanding empire, design inspiration, and how its look of sultry chic all comes together.
QM: What’s the inspiration behind Haute Hippie, and how did Haute Hoodie, your casual knitwear collection, come to be?
TWP: Haute Hippie was birthed because I wanted to make really cool clothes that women want to wear—clothes that make them feel sexy, confident, and cool. I had to create what is my ultimate closet. The only way I felt that I could achieve this was by becoming my own boss. What I wanted to do was to do it myself. I became the master (or mistress) of my universe or, in this case, my closet.
Haute Hoodie came about, quite simply, as the result of my relationship with Jesse, my husband. Jesse really loved some of the ponchos and serapes that I would wear, having great style and poise himself. So I started to think about designing and making a selection of men’s wear, all with comfort, style, and beautiful quality yarns and fabrics. From the kernel of that one idea came the impetus to develop an entire knit-driven collection for both men and women that also embraced fur and leather.
QM: What about Haute Hippie allows for stores that appeal to customers both in TriBeCa and on the Upper East Side?
TWP: I think it’s because the “Haute” world speaks to such a broad spectrum of lifestyles and tastes. The clothes come from a place of truth and authenticity. The collection is so personal, it’s our hope that the customer identifies and connects with it in a profound way. The collection’s appeal is broad and can embrace both an uptown and more downtown vibe.
QM: How did working at brands like Michael Kors and Theory prepare you for Haute Hippie?
TWP: I have been very fortunate to work with and learn from extremely talented designers and some of our industry’s true visionaries. I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked in different creative environments with completely different perspectives and processes; this has been an invaluable experience for me. When I started Haute Hippie, I mostly I challenged myself and approved the creative process in a more organic way, and I trusted my instincts. I really wanted to engender the philosophy that anything was possible – with no limits to the creative process.
QM: Can you remember a “pinch me” moment when you realized you’d made it work?
TWP: I suppose the “correct” response should be when we saw such-and-such celebrity wearing our clothes and read about how much he or she loved them. In truth, I think that my “pinch me” moment hit when my daughter, Jillian, came home from school one day and told me that all the girls in her class had been talking to her about the line! It was at that moment that I realized we had hit on something that people had started to talk about and that it was starting to take hold.
QM: Who are your style icons?
TWP: I love music. And I run the gamut. I tend to love classic rock, but my guilty pleasure will always be country western. My style icons reflect both my musical tastes, as well as the fact that I tend to gravitate toward people who have character—people who have lived. Just as the Haute Hippie collection embraces a broad, eclectic range, so do our icons and influences. For example, one season we might draw on Bianca Jagger, Stevie Nicks, David Bowie, and Jimi Hendrix, mixing that with Napoleon’s mistress Joesphine Beauharnais, Talitha Getty, and Anita Pallenberg. Out of this palette was born “RoBo,” or “Rock ’n Roll Bohemian.” Kate Moss would be the modern “it” girl.
This eclectic fusion then defines the brand season after season but, at the same time, we have key aesthetics that underpin our icons that act as a unifier. These range from The Great Gatsby to Studio 54 to 1970s hippie chic.
I always play this game of hosting the ultimate dinner party, choosing which guests to invite. My guests, in no particular order, would have to be: Jesse Cole (my husband), June Carter and Johnny Cash, Waylan Jennings and Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and all the style icons. Of course, we would add a few others, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker.
QM: Haute Hippie incorporates everything from beading to cashmere to fur to tulle. What’s the key to making it all come together?
TWP: My design process is organic. An idea begins but where it ends many times has nothing to do with where it started. It’s about process. The journey rather than the destination, and trusting your instincts. We are not thematic. We do not subscribe to trends but rather the overarching idea of our imaginary muse’s closet. Every season she needs a complete wardrobe. A ballgown, a poncho, some leather, and fur. Certain key influences and styles do reoccur for us such as the 1930s—we love flapper dresses. And we always need a chunky sweater, sequin miniskirts, and a beaded gown.
QM: What’s next for you and your brands?
TWP: We want to expand and extend the “Haute” lifestyle to incorporate and embrace travel, leisure, and literature. We are looking to build not just on the retail stores that we have, but also really embrace the true meaning of being global nomads. We endeavor to continually inspire and be inspired.
Visit Haute Hippie at 1070 Madison Avenue (phone 212.535.0193), or online at hautehippiestore.com.