With the holidays upon us, we’ve had our eye on several things from Hunter Bell (how cute is this dress?). This mama to three (under two!) has been growing her self-titled line since 2010 into a label loved by celebrities and socialites alike. Now, after relocating to Houston from New York City, this Southern-born designer is focused on growth – for her family and her brand. We had a chance to chat with Hunter about her fashion influenced childhood to her win on reality TV to her plans for 2018. Read on…
It’s so lovely to meet you! We’re big fans of your line. Tell us more about Hunter Bell and how you got started in fashion.
I grew up in the theater watching my mother perform on stage in musicals as a child and teenager. My sisters loved being on stage while I was intrigued with the costume department downstairs in the basement of the theater. Watching the seamstress create costumes excited me and I found myself loving the fabrics and trims that occupied the costume room. I was always interested in fashion at a young age, begging my mother to check me out of school to go shopping pretty regularly. I knew going into college I wanted to major in interior design or fashion design. I actually started out majoring in interior design and quickly realized one semester later I wanted to study fashion design. In college, I moved to NYC twice during the summer to intern for designers I really admired; Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor. During my senior year while interning for Rebecca Taylor, I had a pinch myself moment while the sun was setting over the Hudson river. While I was watching Rebecca and Beth (her business partner) in a fitting, I knew immediately I wanted to own a clothing line one day. In 2003, I moved to New York City and worked as an assistant designer for almost 3 years before launching my own line in 2006.
You describe yourself as a “South Carolina native with the sensibility of a New Yorker.” Tell us more about this sentiment and what it means to you. How do you think this affects the way you approach your business?
My collection aims to give the Southern woman options for her dressier wardrobe with bold prints, dresses for luncheons and also color! By living in NYC for 12 years, I was able to develop a love for street wear and more subtle color choices to thread into our collection season to season. In this business you have to be versatile and willing to sell to the masses. I keep my southern roots in mind when designing but I also have an appreciation for NYC and how the city matured my collections allowing Hunter Bell to reach a larger audience.
In 2013 you competed and won (congrats!) NBC’s show, Fashion Star. Tell us about that experience.
Since winning Fashion Star I’ve seen my business grow with more brand awareness and increased sales. The experience as a whole helped me grow as a designer. I learned so much about my strengths and weaknesses while filming Fashion Star, which has helped me become more focused designing each season. The competition was one of the most challenging experiences in my life. Jessica Simpson was my mentor and challenged me to be a bit more sexy and less buttoned up.
You have an impressive celebrity clientele. Your designs have been worn by Marisa Miller, Lake Bell, Emma Roberts and Sophia Bush to name a few. Do you have a dream client? Who would it be and what piece would they wear?
You are a proud supporter of the Garment District in New York and you produce 100% of your line in New York City and Houston. Tell us about this decision, why this is important to you and do you hope other companies would rethink their own manufacturing practices?
I’m a control freak when it comes to delivering my product on time to stores and domestic production allows me to be hands on with my product from start to finish ensuring that the quality and fit are intact. I love giving back to the US with job creation. Surprisingly, I have run into more problems producing overseas than producing locally. If I had to complain about one challenge, I would say there aren’t enough factories and resources for bulk production here in the States. In Manhattan, I feel supported and it’s amazing to see how so many designers including myself support the garment district. Andrew Rosen has been instrumental in helping the garment district grow.
What are your three favorite pieces from your latest collection?
You hinted at wanting to expand your line into children’s wear. Will that happen? What’s next for your brand?
I need time to focus on designing this for Spring/Summer 2018. That is the goal! We are hoping to launch this new product category in February 2018
Keeping working mothers around me is extremely important to help me cope with my new normal.
You have three kids under the age of two (omg!). How has motherhood changed your approach to your career?
Since Harrison’s birth, there is a newfound perspective on life. My life was not complete before motherhood and can honestly say I was not living until Harrison was born. On a more practical note, as someone who claims to not be “domesticated” or a “morning person,” motherhood has certainly initiated a new side to my life. With three kids, I have to work on being more organized, drinking more coffee helps and I constantly battle with feelings of having one foot in and one foot out of work and motherhood. I think this is a struggle for most working moms.
You made the move from New York City to Houston. How was that transition?
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. This time in my life was one of the hardest in my career. After having a baby, you fall madly in love with this precious child and don’t care about anything else in the world except this moment. I struggled very hard with the idea of working vs. staying at home to care for Harrison. I shut-down my New York office, battled with my hormones being all over the place for a few months, thought about closing the business all together and freaked out a bit at making the wrong decision. SO, it was a huge challenge and through it all I kept praying, stayed focused on being with Harrison while learning how to be a mom. Now I’m back at work full time, have moved the business to Houston and have two more children to care for. Oy Vey!
We’re all about our mama tribe. Tell us about your support network.
Keeping working mothers around me is extremely important to help me cope with my new normal. We all need each other more than ever after having children. Blogger, Caroline Harper Knapp of House of Harper and I knew each other in New York and now live down the street from one another and I love picking her brain about balancing work and motherhood. Houston’s network of strong working mom’s is not lacking by any means, and this city loves to support and encourage one another, fortunately. There is zero attitude in Houston, Texas.
3 pearls of wisdom
Your husband or partner needs just as much love as your precious babies
Laugh hard and be in the moment.
Lean on Christ for guidance through prayer. This is a tough world we live in.