A Conversation with Lisa Hackwith of Hackwith Design House

In a world filled with mass-produced fast fashion, Lisa Hackwith’s handmade collection sewn by a small team of talented seamstresses in her Minnesota studio stands out. The independent design house is a distinct part of a movement toward quality, handmade design in America in which designers are reviving the artistry and craft of apparel manufacturing. This is exactly what has drawn so many to Hackwith’s ready-to-wear range, crafted with quality fabric, a minimalist aesthetic and timeless design.

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After graduating from college with a degree in art, Hackwith taught herself to sew and quickly immersed herself in design. Seeking both minimalist beauty and practicality, Hackwith sewed daily for five years and her label’s unique aesthetic found success on the popular handmade website Etsy and in the wholesale market. Inspired by the work ethic and stamina of her parents, who are also small business owners, Hackwith took a risk in September of 2013, moving her store o of Etsy and building her own studio. Releasing a new limited-edition design every Monday (fewer than 25 of each design are produced), the label’s innovative business model quickly created buzz.

In addition to the limited-edition range, Hackwith Design House has grown to include HDH Swim, HDH Basics, HDH Plus and a newly launched bridal line. Every piece is designed, sewn and inspected in the Saint Paul, MN studio, allowing Hackwith to have complete quality control and to employ a talented team. With the sound of industrial sewing machines roaring in the background of the raw space, Hackwith walks around her bright, sun-bathed, studio overseeing the entire design process from beginning to end. From time to time, she tries on sample pieces, wearing them around the shop for hours with one goal in mind—her clothes should not only make her customers look good; they should also make them feel good. Soon after her work caught our eye we invited the designer for a conversation to learn more about her process and vision.

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What type of woman do you envision wearing your clothes?
The whole idea behind our more minimalist style is that the designs can work for anybody. We have customers ranging from teenagers to women in retirement. We love when people take our pieces and style them to make them their own.

How does your background in studio art influence your design process for HDH?
I had an art professor that told me that when you get stuck, you just have to keep working, keep producing. You may keep making bad stuff for a little while, but it’s that bad stuff that may lead you to the next great thing. That advice has stayed with me as I’ve been designing clothing. Sometimes I have to make nine things I’m not happy with to get me to the tenth thing that is just right.

Can you tell me about your biggest accomplishment thus far in your design career?
I think my biggest accomplishment was starting. It’s so scary just to start, whatever that may look like for you. For me, it was starting my own website and getting o of Etsy. I wanted everything to be perfect, but you can stop yourself from ever starting if you let yourself get too inside your own head. At some point, you just have to take the plunge.

You and your husband work together. Can you describe your relationship and how it grew professionally?
I was lucky to have a husband that was incredibly supportive, and he saw how happy making clothes made me. He encouraged me to pursue it full time, and I’m so glad! Then on top of that, he designed our entire website. He really understood what I wanted it to be, so I was very lucky to have him as our designer.

In light of the recent launch of HDH Bridal, can you tell us about your own wedding dress? Did you design it?
I did design my own dress! I really wanted a simpler silhouette with a sustainable fabric; I used a white linen. My own dress has been in the back of my mind as I started this company, and eventually, I had the time and resources to start our own bridal line. We just launched HDH Bridal, so we are spending time growing that line and focusing on how to make all of our lines even better.

All photos courtesy of Hackwith Design House.

This story appeared in ALIVE’s “Express Yourself” issue. Subscribe to ALIVE here.

 

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