“Music in Greece is everything. It’s everywhere and it’s so nice.” An enthusiastic Nicole Richie recalls her summer 2021 vacation in Greece. “We had come as a family to celebrate my father’s birthday, we had a huge party and had a wonderful time. We travelled all over the country and everywhere was so special. The waters of Greece are so beautiful. And people know how to have fun.”
The reason for our conversation is House of Harlow 1960, the brand that Richie has been running for about fifteen years. During this time, the company has evolved in many ways, moving from jewellery to clothes. Richie herself, the main designer of the brand, singles out as a noticeable difference regarding the immediacy of sales.
“There has been a steady upward trajectory of House of Harlow 1960, but now that I look back, I would say that the idea of selling direct to the customer was the most radical, as when we started it was unheard of.
Finding ways to connect with our clientele was initially a challenge, we’re talking about a different world fifteen years ago. But for me it was a very good lesson and something that helped me when I was a judge in ‘Making The Cut‘: the world changes, without warning and very quickly. You have to be alert, ready to adapt and find ways to fit into this new world. For me, finding a way to communicate with the buying public was very important. How do I stay in touch with them? So that’s something I always want to remind the designers of this show: everything we’re talking about today, how much it’s going to matter to people in the future — who knows where the world will be in five years? Are you able to keep up with the speed at which our lives our evolving?”
Of course, all this had to do with business decisions, since Richie does not want to confuse her personal aesthetics with her work.
“My aesthetics are not about others. However, that’s not the way I think. House of Harlow 1960 never ran behind trends. Personally, I find trends rather limiting. I prefer that we celebrate the diversity of each person. It is very important to me that my aesthetics remain intact. The things that occupied me in the evolution of the brand had to do with behind-the-scenes business decisions.”
It’s hard to believe that a woman at the forefront of fashion hasn’t changed her tastes over the decades, especially when she’s not only concerned with her own appearance, but dressing other women as well.
“When I dress, I would say that I follow emotional criteria/ I do what I feel, it’s not like I open my closet and think, ‘This the woman I’m going to be today.’ Instead, I let what I feel guide me in choosing an outfit. I’m a woman who is definitely drawn to colour, but often I can only be in the mood for black and want to disappear into my day running errands. So I always start with my mood in mind. And when I’m having a day where I feel cheerful and bright, I want to play with accessories, to exaggerate. And then there are days when I just want to disappear and dress in something quieter.”
As I listen to her, strangely, images of her deafening outfits in the past form in my mind. Nostalgia often plays in a big role in fashion trends and we’ve seen this with the resurgence of interest in early 00s trends and the women who them. Does she miss them too? Is there anything you’d never want to wear again?
“The whole going back to the 00s was very interesting to me because what we’re seeing is a much more romanticised version of them, a much more careful revival of what we actually lived and wore. There are definitely designs and trends that I see as a homage to back then and think, ‘seriously, since when? I don’t get it, I don’t remember it, but ok.’ Let’s just say I’m not sure. I try to evaluate them all. But I can’t say that I feel any attachment to what I see. It’s nice to see them… Let’s say, in relation to the way I used to dress myself, I’d say I’ve moved away from low-rise pants forever. I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of them. And I see them coming back, but it’s not for me.”
‘Making the Cut’: a reality show with designers
As an entrepreneur, Richie has learned some lessons from the [fashion] field and is ready to pass on the knowledge: “The most important advise I give to anyone who asks me is that you have to be grounded and listen to what is happening. It’s also important to spend time with people who have been in the fashion industry longer than you and be open to learning and growing.”
She herself does not refer to specific mentors, but to her collaborations themselves.
“I had many mentors. People from the fashion industry literally sat next to me and talked to me about their work over the years, about what it means to have a fashion business. This was a valuable school. And that’s why I agreed to participate in ‘Making the Cut.’ It’s because I feel so grateful to everyone who sat down with me and shared their experience on the job.”
This played a major role in Richie’s decision and the fact that she is where she is today.
“When I realised that by participating in ‘Making the Cut’ I could in turn contribute to the field, I made the decision to do it very easily. From the very first season, we were sitting with designers and asking ourselves ‘what are we based on?‘ Because the hard thing about the job is that there is no single right way to do things. As I told you, the world is changing. There are people who rely on social media and others who decide to stay away from it completely. There are so many different ways to connect with the customer.”
As for her and her brand, she has long been settled on what is the best way to approach the public.
“For me it’s the designs themselves. I spend all my time there. A really long time has passed from the creation of a garment to the moment it meets the public. And I’m happy when that happens, but the time I enjoy the most is when I’m at home designing new pieces and deciding what new jewellery, which I’m also designing, to pair with. Or calling friends, looking for partnerships.
How does she see the future? Many would like to see the House of Harlow 1960 brand develop into a lifestyle brand. The idea of expanding the brand into a series of fashionable hotels does not sound bad at all:
“No one knows where this world will be ten years from now, but I love what I do and I plan to continue doing it for a long time to come. I have so many ideas in my head and so many things I want to create. They will surely see the light of day at some light. And that fills me with excitement. As for the case of creating a hotel related to the brand, I haven’t thought about it, but I think it would be amazing. I stay in hotels all the time and take notes on what goes great and what could go better. So who knows?”
Life after 40
Nicole Richie does not hide that something has changed since she entered her fifth decade of life. “Forty is an important age, a milestone. Every year I feel more and more confident about myself in this job, more certain about my decisions. And you can’t get that with money. You can’t buy years or experience. You just have to wait, you have to experience them. It’s nice to be forty, making decisions and knowing they didn’t come from the mind of a much more gullible twenty-something. This is an age where you can perhaps be taken advantage of.
Being forty is very different because it gives you more prestige, comes with more confidence. And I enjoy it. I am calmer when making decisions and now have less and less things to prove to myself and others. I am who I am and I rely on myself. That’s actually a very liberating feeling.”
One of the biggest challenges in her life in recent years was of course motherhood: “It’s wonderful to be a mother. I love being at home and watching the kids grow and their personalities develop. It’s so much fun. The best thing in the world.” But if she could go back to the early carefree years of her adult life, What advice would she give herself? “Don’t pluck your eyebrows or piece your belly button to wear a ring.”