Houstonians have always had impeccable style, and designers are beginning to take notice. We chatted with three of our favorite local designers about their story, collections and why they love Houston.
Erin Breen and Katie McClure are the sister duo behind the brand that fashion-cautious girls and moms across the country are making a household name, Mirth Caftans. Caftans are a category of clothing that has been worn by women since the 14th century and always seem to make a comeback. The sisters have always loved a good caftan because they are comfortable and forgiving — allowing you to be both the best dressed and most comfortable, whether at a party or on your couch. Erin discovered caftans when she was pregnant and became enamored with the fact that she could look great for dinner but feel as though she was in a nightgown.
In 2016, the sisters proudly launched Mirth while vacationing in India. “The day [they decided to create the brand] ended with an elephant ride in the desert outside of the city, and we were elated with our new sense of purpose and our newly formed path that felt so right. We couldn’t stop laughing, and it felt as if years of puzzle pieces just came together — pure mirth.”
Although the sisters shared this special moment, the idea for Mirth has been in Katie’s head for years. After countless trips to India and Bali, Katie had a lightbulb moment where she realized she could combine her two loves of heritage textiles and resort wear/caftans. The sisters were both in a place where they wanted to create something that was theirs and where their individual strengths could merge to “form a company with a backbone of creativity, travel and a mindful life. We’ve both always had a similar aesthetic and style, and working together creatively made sense.”
From then on, they set out to create modern pieces that incorporate and honor the heritage techniques and traditional craftsmanship of the makers in India. In the past few years the brand has steered more toward resort wear, including blouses, pants and shorts. The expansion was as natural as caftans are quintessential resort wear. You may be able to guess what is newer for the sisters and Mirth from their story: collaboration with artisans from the places that inspired Mirth years ago.
Were you a fan of the NBC show “Fashion Star”? Hunter Bell, the South Carolina native and current Houston resident won season two in 2013, and is continuing to make her mark on the fashion industry. After the win, Hunter’s line was carried by multiple mega-retailers, such as Nordstrom and Saks. But her time in New York City was closing — between her husband’s job, her [now] three children and the desire to juggle it all, the family make the move to Houston, a city Hunter soon learned would support her efforts to continue building the brand without having to sacrifice her desire to also be a mother.
Not long after moving, Hunter observed that Houston women are on the go: The Houston woman is social, dresses playfully and enjoys looking chic no matter the occasion. Each season Hunter creates pieces that appeal to women of every generation, which includes tops that look best with denim, dresses that can be worn in the carpool line, or that perfect outfit for a luncheon.
The Fall 2018 collection was inspired by Blackberry Farm in Tennessee and is filled with earth tones mixed with quintessential Hunter Bell: color, ruffled sleeves, pussybows, and tailored silhouettes. [The dress donned on our magazine cover is from the Fall 2018 Collection]. While designing the collection, she pictured what she and her clients would want to wear on a fall getaway. That feeling is what drives each collection, and she designs pieces that she feels both her and her clients’ closets are in need of. Caroline Knapp, of House of Harper and our Fall + Holiday issue cover girl, says “I love her flirty, colorful styles because they are always a flattering fit and transition easily from work to weekend and even play dates with the boys!”
Hunter’s holiday collection makes you want to RSVP yes to every holiday party invitation! Winter whites, pearl-embellished black tulle, and red and pink metallics are a few of the details that the collection includes.
Hamilton Shirts is Houston’s oldest family-owned business, providing ready-to-wear and bespoke shirts since 1883. High quality, the company’s mantra, has been passed down four generations to current owners (and siblings) David and Kelly Hamilton. Growing up in the studio felt like more than the place their dad worked — for the sister/brother duo, it was like home.
David attributes this personal link to the business as how he and Kelly ended up continuing the family legacy. Their parents never expected them to continue the business, but the business was in their DNA. He says that when in the showroom you work one-on-one, hands-on with the team to design the perfect shirt for you. Using the highest quality fabrics from renowned fabric mills across the world, your shirt will have a finish like no other you’ve ever owned.
Hamilton Shirts has been featured and praised multiple times by GQ. “The collar and cuffs aren’t fused with glue like cheaper options are, and that collar is a hefty spread that looks just as good with a skinny tie in New York City as it does without any tie at all in Texas.”
More impressively, they continue to be worn by politicians and celebrities. It’s not often that quality, passion, and experience consistently find their way to your clothing. Every shirt is hand-cut, sewn and crafted in Houston by individuals passionate about how the perfect-fitting shirt complements each and every customer’s silhouette.
This past year the family made a decision that had been in the works for some time: providing the same service and quality to women. The women’s line was a long time coming, but because of the company’s reputation for the highest quality, it was not a new venture the duo took lightly. They spent years researching and developing the perfect design before calling customers who had been requesting it for ages with the good news. That perfectionism and passion never ceases, and David says he still gets a thrill out of seeing someone wearing a Hamilton.
Shop Hamilton Shirts online and in their Houston store.
Feature Photo of Hunter Bell NYC is Courtesy of Cody Bess.