I’m so excited to have the amazing Katherine McMillan here on the blog today. I was introduced to the neckwear brand Pierrepont Hicks she runs with her husband Mac when I started the blog almost four years ago. Kat has been a role model for me ever since. Not only is she a talented businesswoman and have impeccable taste, she’s an incredibly kind woman. Her relatively new women’s brand Mrs. P. Hicks is a beacon of light in the women’s market for many of us menswear-inclined females. Many thanks to Kat for answering some questions about the brand, giving us a peek of what’s to come, and sharing some sage advice for aspiring businesswomen.
Q. You and your husband Mac run your own brand Pierrepont Hicks. What inspired you guys to design and create neckwear (and now a full menswear collection)?
A. I had a creative urge to make him some ties after a trip to Scotland. While there we went into all these little kilt shops and there would be piles and piles of colorful wool tartans… at that time those styles of neckwear were pretty difficult to find in most shops here in the states. After I made some samples, we decided to sell them online. I knew becoming a mother I wanted to also have a fulfilling job outside of motherhood and creating our brand felt like the right thing to do.
Q. What inspired you to branch into the women’s market with Mrs P. Hicks, specifically with women’s footwear?
A. Honestly, it’s not that exciting why I started the shoes… I made them for myself! I was lying in bed one night and thinking about what I was going to wear the next day to take my oldest daughter to school. It was going to be rainy and damp and I found myself wishing I had something comfortable and cozy but not frumpy. I have always been a huge fan of Clark’s Wallabees and the classic Desert Boot. I just found that most of the time, these styles were mucked up with frilly details that I did not want on my shoes so I would always buy the men’s styles just two sizes down. I had just met Kyle Rancourt of Maine’s Rancourt and Co. and we talked about my designing a few styles for women. Thankfully he said yes and they are now my main supplier.
Q. Who is the woman that inspires you and who you design your footwear collection for?
A. I am inspired by women who are confident and open. Women who stay on the periphery and like to be alone as much as they like to be with friends. I guess I am kind of like that. I love Lizzie Garrett Mettler of Tomboy Style and I carry her book with me often in case I need something inspiring to read while waiting for an appointment. I admire the style of Jenna Lyons, Milla Jovovich, Sienna Miller, Jane Birkin and Lauren Bacall. I can remember seeing a Seventeen magazine cover with Milla on it in 1988 and being inspired to try new things in my wardrobe. I was 14. She’s now an example of a mother who pulls off motherhood’s wardrobe necessities with style.
Q. What are some of your biggest challenges, and biggest accomplishments, to date with the brand?
A. Well it was challenging just getting it going. We did it all ourselves monetarily and we were having kids at the same time. Looking back I can’t believe I was in the hospital, breast-feeding my second daughter at 4am, and answering emails for work on my phone. It’s amusing. I would say the biggest accomplishment is creating something beyond neckwear now. I am so pleased with the outerwear.
Q. In what ways do you hope the brand will grow/develop in the next 5 years?
A. We have started to create items based on lifestyle. So Pierrepont Hicks is going to be the place you would buy your outerwear for a fall weekend in the country and your wool tie and sport coat for the dinner Saturday night. We’re skipping the shirts and just creating some key pieces for your wardrobe.
Q. As a fellow woman who is more menswear inclined, what are some brands that you rely on for your apparel and that “get” the no-frills aspect of womenswear?
A. That’s a toughy. Clare Vivier clutches are just right for my cocktail party needs – not too frilly. Chance is a wonderful brand I really love for comfortable style pieces. I am more than a little excited that Ruell and Ray is working on her first line of women’s denim and she’s been kind enough to make her men’s jeans in my size. One my favorite shops online is TOAST. I get lost in their website and catalogs all the time.
Q. Some sage advice as a successful businesswoman to other women who are hoping to start their own brand or company?
A. I would tell her to always ask the “stupid questions”. They’re actually not so stupid. Sometimes your fear of asking can be your only obstacle to a major opportunity. I would also say ALWAYS be having fun. If you don’t enjoy it – don’t do it.