From Romantic to Rustic:
Introducing Gabriela Hearst
Written by Marc Palatucci
Photographed by Thomas Lohr
Portrait by Hanna Tveite
To know Gabriela Hearst—both the designer and the brand—one must begin in the vast and fertile plains of Uruguay. Raised there on her family’s estancia, a centuries-old cattle ranch, Hearst grew up with a deep affinity for the land and its inhabitants. “It is a country of quality,” she asserts proudly, seated on the living room sofa of The Apartment by The Line – New York, the city she now calls home. She is clad in her namesake label, a collection of enduring pieces that favors tradition over trend, and she has fresh, vivid memories of her homeland, having returned from a visit there just the day before.
“The people on Uruguayan currency are musicians, poets, composers, artists. That gives you an idea of the country. We celebrate culture.” Hearst speaks with a soft and lyrical lilt, a vestige of the Spanish and Italian ancestry that is interwoven with Uruguayan identity, giving the country and its populace a uniquely cosmopolitan air. This aspect of refinement, alongside the robust physical labor that forms the backbone of the country’s main agricultural industry, is a dichotomy that defines Uruguay’s ethos, and in turn shapes the character of Hearst’s designs.
Life on the ranch instilled in her the virtue of tradition, and she marvels at the age-old methods applied in raising the grass-fed livestock and merino sheep on the family farm. “It’s done the same way as it has been for the last two-hundred years. Nothing has changed.” This regard for time-honored practices holds a lesson that translates naturally to Hearst’s endeavors in fashion. “I felt the need for those values to be put into the clothing, for the collection to represent the same things that I understand from that other side of my life,” she explains, “but in more glamorous settings,” she clarifies, laughing.
One particular inspiration was her equestrian upbringing, evidenced by the knee-high profile of her taupe suede boots—modernized, naturally, with a heel more fit for the city than the stable. “My family are riders. I don’t even know when I learned to ride, I was always on a horse.” As a young girl herding cattle on horseback, she imagined herself as a beautifully frocked princess, illustrating the sort of imaginative musing that would eventually manifest in the details of her garments. “So we did these minimalist stirrups,” she says, pointing out the silver-toned hardware at the waistline of her culottes, “and then the hardware you see on the coats is actually a sailing shackle, because my husband is a sailor,” she adds. “It very much represents both of us. This is a family business—we’re doing it together.”
I wanted to create a brand that reflects a slower pace and process, where things are made with care and detail.Gabriela Hearst
This sense of kinship extends beyond Hearst’s immediate family to the many people that contribute their skills and expertise to the Gabriela Hearst label. “You have to really find people that take the same pride in what you do as in what they do, it’s a collective passion.” That passion is shared by a team that is comprised, notably, almost entirely of women. The brand’s most popular cashmere is knit by the hundreds of women employed through the Uruguayan non-profit Manos del Uruguay. The Italian mill responsible for the majority of the label’s wovens is owned and operated by women. Though she does not publicize it, Hearst appreciates that her customers, by purchasing her pieces, are supporting fellow females.
Hearst is particularly inspired by women who have, as she puts it, “tough exteriors. One of the women I always refer to is Oriana Fallaci, who was this badass war journalist—you would see her in these urban settings and she would be so chicly dressed.” The example is apt, conjuring images of the sort of rugged yet refined exterior which, she reckons, often conceals something more delicate within. “I always play around with this concept that anything close to your skin has to be super soft, and then as we layer, it becomes more rustic.” It is this contrast that allows her clientele to wear the collection as a luxuriously comfortable yet durable sort of armor, suitable for active lifestyles everywhere from the slow, rugged pampas of Uruguay to the frenetic streets of Manhattan.
Styling Vanessa Traina
Hair Tomo Jidai at Streeters
Makeup Stevie Huynh at D and V Management
Model Pooja Mor
Explore another chapter in The Stories:
The Sky’s the Limit: Jewelry by Sophie Bille Brahe