Kate Hudson already conquered the fitness and athleisure world with her super-successful Fabletics activewear brand. Now, she’s setting her sights on the ready-to-wear market with Happy x Nature, a stand-alone fashion brand created in partnership with New York and Co. parent company RTW Retailwinds, Inc. The first collection launched today on Happyxnature.com and will also be available in select New York and Co. stores through new shop-in-shops.
The Daily spoke with Happy x Nature’s head designer, Michele Manz — whose job it is to translate, augment, and execute Hudson’s vision — on the eve of the launch to learn more about the brand, what it stands for, and what makes it special.
First off, what can you tell us about the collection?
It was Kate’s childhood dream to have her own clothing brand and it’s very much inspired by her own personality. The first season is a sort of road trip in the desert. The idea is to be high fashion, with great quality fabrics, at a really affordable price, and with sustainability at the heart of the brand.
Why was sustainability so important?
Kate’s a mother of three and she really wants to leave the world a better place for her children, so sustainability is at the core of the brand. You’ll see it as you look through the rails, there are a lot natural fibers, some cottons, some linens, linen blends, but also a lot of recycled, plastic bottle fabrics. Our skinny jean is actually using Cone denim. Cone is the only remaining denim mill in America and this is a reprieve product. Reprieve is recycled, post-consumer bottles, turned into polyester, which is then used as the stretch part of the denim. There is recycled cotton in the other jeans, and some of the blouses are made with recycled plastic bottle yarn. We’re really trying to avoid using any virgin plastics. We’re also using the least amount of packaging possible and we’ve sourced our shipping materials and that sort of thing to be as sustainable as possible. The shippers are biodegradable and the hangtags are fabric. We’re also using BCI cotton, which means better cotton initiatives, so we know that the farmers are growing their cotton crops sustainably.
It’s a great start, and certainly more than a lot of brands do.
We’re going to strive to do better every season.
What about your own background?
I graduated from Royal College of Art in 1997. I was the head designer of Alberta Ferretti for about seven years. I was at John Varvatos as the creative director of women’s and helped him launch Converse by John Varvatos. I was also the creative director of 7 For All Mankind and the VP of design at Current/Elliott. It’s an interesting mix of high-end women’s fashion and premium denim and being able to use all of those elements within this line has been amazing.
And how has it been working with Kate?
It’s an absolute joy. She’s exactly how you’d imagine her to be — funny, intelligent, super creative — and she’s got an insane eye for fashion. One day I was asking her, “How come you know how to fit things so well?” and she’s like, “Michelle, my mom’s Goldie Hawn. I used to go to fittings with Bob Mackie and Valentino, so as a child I just soaked all of that up.” So it makes sense why she’s got such a passion for fashion and such a good eye. And she’s smart. Really smart.
She definitely knows what she’s doing. Just look at her success with Fabletics.
And she’s just as interested in that side of the business [as she is in design]. Actually, we’ve been learning a lot from her — how to use social media to your greatest advantage, when to post things, knowing who your demographic is. She’s really into that whole side of it.
How did you two find each other?
An agent recommended me for the position. It was very important that they find someone who knew how to do feminine dresses, but had a denim background. Usually, if you have a denim background, you really don’t know how to design other categories. I’m one of the rare people that can do both. I’ve had a very interesting, weird career path, but this has honestly has been one of my dream jobs — that we’re able to do what I feel looks like a designer product at a really affordable price, but with a sustainable angle. And I’ve never worked with a celebrity before, so that was interesting for me as well. I live between New York and LA, so it all worked out perfectly. It was just one of those moments — right place, right time — and Kate and I just gelled.
How long did you have to work on this first collection?
We started in the middle of July, so it’s been tight. We literally started from scratch — logo, design, finding fabrics, fitting looks, building a team. It’s been intense. At first, it was just brainstorming with Kate — finding a theme and getting an idea of her taste level — looking at fabrics together, working on color pallets and prints. This first collection was actually ready a couple of months ago, so in the meantime we’ve been designing fall and working on holiday.
So what’s the price point like?
The jeans start at $88 and all the tops are under $100, so we really are an affordable brand.
I have to say, I’m not really seeing any true basics and I like that. The last thing the world needs is another line of closet staples!
We’ve really gone at it from a fashion angle, especially in terms of fashion fabrics and detailing. Even our skinny jean is an ultra high-rise skinny with a 12-inch rise and recycled plastic bottle fibers. And Kate is really the one pushing that fashion angle. It’s great for me as a designer. Usually, when you work on a [more commercial] brand, you have to dumb down the fashion, but Kate knows so much and I actually have to rise to her level. It’s wonderful.