If I could live inside the Hackwith Design House, I absolutely would. The fabrics look heavenly and the designs are casual elegance at it’s finest. Better yet, the pieces transcend the seasons so you can enjoy them year-round. Brilliant? Indeed. Founder and maker, Lisa Hackwith, started HDH in 2010 and just over a year ago, she relaunched with a new business model: stay local, keep things domestic and release items on a limited-edition basis. I especially love that she makes only twenty five pieces of each design and in turn, greatly admire what this model requires of her creativity & production-wise. She’s making her mark, one beautiful design at a time.
NAME Lisa Hackwith
LOCATION Minneapolis, MN
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND B.A. in Studio Art
COMPANY Hackwith Design House
Tell me a bit about yourself & how you landed in fashion. I taught myself to sew after I graduated from college with a studio art degree. I took a year off to research MFA programs when I discovered my medium – designing and making clothes. Over the next five years, I sewed daily. I had some success with my Etsy shop and getting wholesale orders, but in order to make my business sustainable, something had to change. In February 2013, I took a few months off to re-work my business model; I re-launched Hackwith Design House in September 2013. The new model centered on my priorities: staying in Minneapolis (I grew up in Wisconsin, so I wanted to stay close to my family), manufacturing all the clothing in the U.S., and making sure I love everything with my name on it. Thus, the limited-edition model was born: 2 – 4 designs are released every Monday, no more than 25 pieces of each.
How has your background in art influenced your work? 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 is that bad stuff that may lead you to the next great thing. That piece of advice has been vital as I have designed. I’ve scrapped many a design because it just wasn’t good, but rather than give up, I’ve used those bad designs to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
You create less than 25 of each piece (talk about special!). Why did you decide on this limited production approach? As I said before, the new model centered on my priorities: staying in Minneapolis, manufacturing all the clothing in the U.S., and making sure I love everything with my name on it. I didn’t see how a traditional fashion model would work here in Minneapolis, and I didn’t want to outsource my manufacturing. I wanted to be able to control the quality of each garment as well as provide jobs for my community. This way, I get to design more (which I love!), and I get to ensure that each piece that leaves here is exactly what I want it to be. I also believe the limited-edition model better reflects how a woman wants to feel when she puts on an outfit – unique, special. This way, you know that whatever you buy from us is few-of-a-kind and made with care for your enjoyment.
Rather than selling your clothing as a part of a collection, you ingeniously release a new design every Monday. Has this been a fun challenge for you, professionally & creatively? It’s been so fun! I love being able to be more immediate in my design process. I can be influenced by something, whether it be the weather, a story, an artist, and I can see the result of that influence in a matter of weeks. I don’t learn to hate my designs because by the time they’re for sale, I’m already over that collection; instead, I get to care for the design and then see others enjoy shortly after.
Everything in your shop looks supremely comfortable & elegant. What inspires your pieces? How do you go about choosing the appropriate fabrics? Tell me what your design process is like. Most of us are familiar with that shirt or dress that brings out our individuality, making us feel most like ourselves, most at ease. With such a piece, we are able to go confidently through the day while focusing on the more important things in life: performing well at work, connecting with friends, or enjoying a night out. That’s what I think about when I design. The process varies; I often start with sketches that I take with me to the fabric store to find the right fabric for a particular design. Sometimes I find a fabric that I just love and then end up designing something based on that fabric. Because I do not use the collection model, I’m able to be pretty flexible with my process, which allows me to cater to my own artistic whims.
Did you face many challenges as you were preparing to launch Hackwith Design House? How did you learn the ins and outs of running your own company? The biggest challenge was learning to trust my own instincts. I talk about that more below, but because I knew I’d put in the time and research into my business model, I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. But it’s hard to ignore the doubters around you, and you find yourself wanting to take every piece of advice. I had to learn to listen and then follow what I believed was best. Another huge challenge was the amount of time it took to start my company. I ran the entire show for four months before I was able to hire a seamstress and another 3 months before Erin came on board to run the logistics and operations. I was working 90 hours a week, and it was exhausting. But I love what I do, and I knew it would be worth it.
Who would be your dream collaborator? I am lucky to be working with so many amazing people already. Our boutique collaborations are so much fun, and I love getting to learn about different places and what they’re looking for in a design. Our Makers Alongside collaborators are all so talented. I am inspired by all of their talent and hard work on a daily basis.
What is one pearl of wisdom you would share with someone considering starting their own business? 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. The best thing I did was to take a few months off to be able to step back, think it through, and figure out something that could work for me. Allow yourself to design a business plan that maybe you haven’t seen or heard of before. Get advice from those who have gone ahead of you, but also be willing to take risks. I talked to a lot of people prior to starting the limited-edition model of my business, and close to two-thirds of them told me it wouldn’t work. So get advice, but use it to inform your decision, not make it for you. Trust your instincts, and then take the plunge. It’s scary, but worth it.
Guilty pleasure? Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips (and NOT the baked kind)
Cake or pie? Pie!
Favorite HDH piece? I’ve been wearing our HDH Basics Long-Sleeve Top non-stop lately. We’re coming out with a new seasonal color in a gray, t-shirt fabric that I can’t wait for.
What is one thing people might be surprised to know about you? I think people would be surprised to learn that I own a 120 lb. rottweiler, Samson, and even though he’d like you to think he’s big and scary, he’s really just a big softie.
Words to live by? I love the quote from our Makers Alongside print: Remember Your True North!