The charming, talented and, yes, candid Nicole Richie talks business, baubles, her boho sensibility and her brand.
By Lauren Parker
Whether it’s her new VH1 series Candidly Nicole, her House of Harlow 1960 fashion/accessories business, or her growing awards roster – FNAA 2014 Style Influencer of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year from Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards or her nomination for Celebrity Fashion Line at the Teen Choice Awards, Nicole Richie is in constant forward motion. Accessories called the hardworking mom of two in LA to check in and see where her brand is heading.
Accessories: First off, what color is your hair today? Are we still blue?
Nicole Richie: Still blue. I’ve had the same hair color since July. It changes color just a little bit each time I wash it, so it’s doing its own thing! I’ve lost control.
You are a bona fide celebrity who launched accessories with real talent, not just a desire to slap your name on a license. Do you think you surprised people with your design seriousness and ultimate success?
My work stays true, no matter what. I’m beyond honored to even get the awards that I’ve gotten. That feels good in any field. Designing is something that I love…it’s in my heart. Just to be recognized for something I love doing is a huge honor.
You are such a style icon, with your hair, your accessories, your boho style. What other brands or people inspire you—both in luxury brands or more fast-fashion?
The reason I started House of Harlow 1960 in the first place—and why it’s called that—is because I’m hugely inspired by ’60s and ’70s. I grew up listening to classic rock since I was a teenager, and music really led that time and pushed people to express themselves. The fashion then came into play and was the next level of that: using fashion as a form of self-expression. The feeling of rules or being somebody else didn’t exist. It was about who you were and how to introduce yourself to the world and I wanted to bring that back to fashion today. I get a lot of my inspiration from music and listen to classic rock when I design.
House of Harlow fashion jewelry (manufactured by Glamhouse) was an early adopter to the whole Western/Aztec/geometric trend that’s been so widely emulated in jewelry. Do you feel you got there first?
I wouldn’t say that. I pull a lot of inspiration from the past and appreciating moments of the past so I can’t say I was the first to do it now. I can’t take all the credit.
You’re known for your boho sensibility. How do you keep true to your original aesthetic but still move forward in design?
I play two roles. I design the jewelry and I’m the creative director of the entire brand. There are things as someone who is running the brand I must think about—like keeping the core and introducing it in a different way. The brand is evolving and I’m evolving. I started designing when I was 26 and now I’m 33. The coolest thing about the world of fashion is that as your life changes, your perspective changes, your eye changes, you become open to new things, palettes and textures. So that’s happens to me. I find it really exciting to design each season to see how my eye is changing.
We’re touching into the ’60s with some crystals but keeping the Art Deco, Aztec vibe. I also added more jewel tones. Overall, the line is more mature; keeping the aesthetic but sleeker. We also explored the idea of the stacked ring sets. [Retails range from about $58 to $188].
Would you ever expand House of Harlow into fine jewelry?
I do create fine pieces for myself and my friends from House of Harlow designs. As a Christmas gift to myself last year I did real crystals and real gold and diamonds. I love it. So yes, I do design fine jewelry but not as a business. Would I ever? I don’t know…
What’s your design process?
Well, for starters, I can’t sketch! So for jewelry, I brought someone to the team who I grew up with. She’s a few years older so I always looked up to her growing up. She does the sketching and it’s amazing to sit next to someone who has known me for a long time and can get into my head. I come up with a vision, what I want the brand to say, then create mood boards.
I’m on my second season with candles, which are my first step into home. I’m very passionate about the home category as I love interiors as a whole and entertaining. So I partnered with DL and Co. (my favorite candle company) so we came up with some great scents as well as beautiful holders that can be used later. I have great ones coming up for spring. Retails: $35 for candles, $39 for diffusers. For clothing, we brought the Winter Kate brand under the House of Harlow 1960 name, so there’s consistency there. Everything is House of Harlow now. For handbags, we’re going to start introducing larger bags back into the collection. Now it’s just clutches [retailing from about $168 to $275].
I think of you on red carpets with your hard minaudiere clutches with super long metal fringe. You certainly updated the “classic” evening bag category!
Well, when I go out I want to have fun! It doesn’t have to be so serious. My line lets you do going out your own way. For spring, there will be lots of fringe and snake textures.
When you’re talking about a brand, it does have to be cohesive on some level and speak the same language. But it’s not matchy/matchy.
As you grow your brand into a lifestyle brand, any plans for a retail store?
There’s a possibility of a pop up shop in the summer. It would certainly be an opportunity for us to showcase our whole brand in an environment the way we want.
Time Magazine named your Twitter account one of the best of 2013. What do you tweet about most?
I mostly go on the Internet for laughter…and I’m usually laughing at myself. That’s the idea of the show “Candidly Nicole.” There are so many parts of this world moving at a rapid pace. When I decided to do the show, it’s catching up on all of those topics. Learning about them, exploring them. And on Twitter, I can see what people are eager to talk about too. We learn together.
Do you talk about yourself or the brand on Twitter?
We’re one and the same.
You call “Candidly Nicole” the “real-life comedy space between scripted and reality.” How do you come up with the topics?
It started just people responding to the tweets that I already talked about, but now people are telling me I should talk about this or that. The web series are 5 minutes long [writing a hip-hop song, raising bees, roller derbying, getting hypnotized] but on VH1 they are 30 minutes. Totally different topics.
As a mentor on the design completion show “Fashion Star,” what was your best takeaway?
I really loved the idea of encouraging people to listen to themselves, listen to their instincts. I didn’t mentor from a judgmental place. I always told them, ‘You’re only as good as your last collection,’ and while they were showing their lines to buyers on the show, I was doing the same thing with my brand. I wanted them to listen to the buyers, not just me. Having buyers giving you feedback each week on your designs, that doesn’t happen in the real world.
Do you do personal appearances? Times are different now as designers can engage with their fans all the time via social media.
True but I like meeting my customers and that’s why I have done personal appearances in store. I know how I wear House of Harlow but I actually like to see how they wear it. I get inspired by my customers.