1 comment / Posted on by Rebecca Brown

Tell us a bit about yourself…How did you get your start as as fashion designer and why did you decide to pursue it as a full-time career?
I grew up in Mississippi, I'm a Southern boy. My grandmother was a seamstress and a hand quilter and I learned how to sew from her. Growing up on a farm, the idea of becoming a fashion designer was a little far fetched. I actually went to school in Rhode Island on a fully paid scholarship to study Restaurant Marketing. During this time, I went to New York almost every weekend. When in the City, I would go to Bergdorf Goodman and look at the store windows along Fifth Avenue. I instantly fell in love with design and fashion.

So I went back to Mississippi and started to research and learn more about fashion. I took art and sewing lessons and I applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York. I was accepted and had the opportunity of studying under Tim Gardner at Calvin Klein, and many others. My whole experience there was great. I remember in my draping class, my professor commented that I must’ve been draping my entire life! Little did she know that I grew up on a farm and had never draped before! But it honestly all came so naturally to me. To me, draping is like sculpting. If you understand how to form something out of a piece of clay, you should be able to form something on a dress form, to create a silhouette on a woman’s body.

When I graduated, I worked for Dana Buchman and John Bartlett. I then landed a job with Reba McEntire when she decided to do her line for Dillard’s. They approached me to be the Creative Director for her line and I loved it. During the years that followed, I worked for a variety of high and low-end brands so I was really able to understand what part of the market I wanted to be in.

A post shared by HILTON HOLLIS (@hiltonhollis) on

What inspired you to start your own brand? 
I knew I really wanted to create a designer look at an affordable price. So for my line, we use all Italian, French, and Spanish fabrics and everything’s made in either Portugal, Japan, or Hong Kong. Everything is incredibly well thought out. It’s all in the details. Eric Wilson from The New York Times described my collection best as “deceptively simple.” One may not see all the nuances of the garment until they put it on or turn it inside out, but when they do, they can appreciate the craftsmanship. My clothes have an impeccable fit. Most of the fabrics used are natural fibers that allow the skin to breathe. I’m really guided by the way a fabric makes you feel. You want a great fit but you also want a garment that can deal with weather conditions — breathable in the summer and cozy but not heavy in the winter.

l really listen to my customers. I go into the stores and understand what they want in specific regions. Many of my customers are also businesswomen. My take is classic with a twist. It’s not super traditional, but there’s still a classic element. I elevate the whole look to make it modern. And fit is still most important.

We have a very segmented group we sell to. These women like unique things, but they don't like to feel as though they're wearing today’s latest trends either. They’re all about beautifully made, great quality clothing.

What has been the most surreal moment for you thus far?
There have been a few defining moments for me. First, when Women’s Wear Daily was still in circulation, I scored the cover and thought I was going to lose my mind! Another milestone was when I just graduated from FIT in 1999, I was asked to participate in the big millennium fashion show in Times Square. There were 100,000 people and I was the only unknown designer alongside Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Thierry Mugler, and Armani. It’s one thing to dream, but to actually do something amazing is pretty incredible. 

What inspires you to create and innovate?  
The upcoming Spring 2019 collection is inspired by the Belgian artist, René Magritte. For me, it was eye opening to look into surrealism in a deeper way. I hadn’t paid that much attention to Magritte in the past and for me to travel to Brussels, explore the museums, and experience it all was really moving. I didn’t expect to be blown away but I really was. A previous collection called “In-flight” was all about travel. In this collection, I threw everything to the wind. I wanted to think outside the box and do things inspired by my part-time move to Portugal where I was free to travel more. It’s pretty remarkable what being away from your comfort zone can do to your creativity. 

A post shared by HILTON HOLLIS (@hiltonhollis) on

Apart from you own, what are some of your favorite fashion brands and why? 
Fendi is a favorite. I really think it has withstood the test of time. I also love Narciso Rodriguez's aesthetic. He’s super talented and what he does is so gorgeous. And I love Ralph Rucci. Then there’s Charles James — he’s probably my all-time favorite designer ever.

What are some of your current fashion obsessions? 
Socks! I think it’s because of all the shorter pants on the market. I also love anything grey suede — a belt, a jacket, a pair of shoes. Medium grey suede is just gorgeous. I actually started wearing a lot of different colored suede belts recently. I like to dress simply. Helmut Lang and The Kooples are two of my favorites for cool, simple fashion pieces.

Best fashion tip? 
Tailoring is the most important thing you can do to your clothing. If a pant is too long, go and get it tailored. It makes such a difference and can make the body appear slimmer.

What's your favorite piece from your collections?  
The black embroidered zip-front bomber jacket — it’s mesh fabric with a 3D flower motif all over it.

A post shared by HILTON HOLLIS (@hiltonhollis) on

Can you describe your style in three words? 
Refined. Thoughtful. Unique.

Who are your style icons? 
Charlize Theron and Coco Chanel.

What's the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?  
Always be true to yourself, no matter what people say about you or your designs. You can’t please everyone but if you’re pleasing yourself, that’s the most important thing you can do.

Favorite Quote? 
“Improvement makes straight roads, but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.” William Blake

What is one thing our readers would be surprised to hear?  
That I hate shopping! I do it as little as possible.

A post shared by HILTON HOLLIS (@hiltonhollis) on

Why womenswear over menswear? 
With womenswear you can be much more creative when it comes to prints, patterns, and fabrics. I have a great aunt who’s still kicking it at 105. She’s an amazing woman who’s always inspired me. She’s the reason why I gravitated in this direction. She has perfect style in my eyes. She once took a trip on the Queen Mary around the world in the 1950s and her photographs from that time are mind blowing. They really knew how to dress back then. 

What do you like to splurge on? 

What do you think sets Hilton Hollis apart from other brands?  
It’s all about fit and the quality of the product versus the price. I think our quality is really top notch.

Oprah has called you one of the best resources for curvy and full figured women—how did your affiliation with her occur?
Adam Glassman, The Oprah Magazine's Creative Director, discovered me. He loved what I was doing and he put me and my brand in the magazine and I’ve been featured several times since.

The Quick Five: 

Coffee or Tea?

Brights or Muted Pastels?
Muted pastels.

Florals or Abstract?

Sweet or Savory?

Pizza or Pasta?

Check out Hilton's website HERE and follow him on Instagram HERE.

1 comment

  • Posted on by Jean Bush

    As a Mississipian I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article.. so sorry I was unable to get to your showing at The Tree House in Jxn.. Let us know when you’ll have another show in the South…

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing