Interview: Size Inclusive XS-6X Activewear Brand, Haute Holly

You all know I live in activewear. Not just while I work out, but it’s become a staple in my wardrobe for everyday wear (hallelujah for athleisure!). So when I found out my Parson’s classmate had a true size inclusive activewear brand (and not just one claiming to be), I needed to get ALL the deets! She sent me some gear to test out (I’m wearing the party sequin legging and sports bra) and I LOVE the set. Holly and I then sat down for a virtual interview because I knew I wanted to introduce her brand to y’all! Meet CEO and designer, Holly!

Let’s get to know Holly!

Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I was born in Georgia, mostly raised in Texas, and lived in San Diego and New York in my 20s. And currently live between Austin, TX and Birmingham, AL with my boyfriend and our two dogs. I went to Trinity University where I studied psychology and math (though I took so much studio art that I had enough hours for a minor). The math nerd part is pretty visible in my designs. While in New York, I studied fashion at Parsons The New School of Design, where I then went on to work for J. Crew, Kate Spade, and Rebecca Minkoff. 

How did you decide to get into design? Had you always wanted to be a designer?
I learned to sew from my grandmother before I could talk. That, and I always loved drawing and crafting. Fashion was always a bit of a no brainer to me.

When was the inception of Haute Holly?
Haute Holly (in its current form) came to be in 2016.

What drew you to create your brand Haute Holly?
I am inspired by those who just want to have fun, be free, and express themselves. I’m noticing a movement of uninhibited self-expression. I first really experienced this at Burning Man, but going to music festivals, doing aerial yoga, I’ve realized more and more people are interested in just playing, experimenting, really letting themselves get to know who they are and embrace being that person.

I fell in love with the idea of wearing things simply because they spark joy, and my goal became to make things that make people feel happy and help them express themselves. 

How did you get your small business off the ground?
I’ve started small and focused on a scope I can manage. I’ll only invest energy and money into projects I’m really passionate about. I’ve built a community of other small businesses and creatives, and we really encourage and support each other. I wouldn’t be able to do this without my friends and family. 

Who are some of your design influences/inspirations? Where do you look for creative inspiration? 
Though a bit indirect of an influence, my favorite designer is Iris van Herpen. I get inspiration from nature, sacred geometry, art, dreams, everywhere really. I have the most random pictures in my phone. I’ll take pictures of the ground if I find a pretty oil slick or a random window if the light is hitting some water droplets nicely. 

What is your ultimate goal with Haute Holly?
Haute Holly is my brand, but is also an online boutique, and my ultimate goal is for both brand and store to offer a complete shopping experience for explorers. This includes those exploring fashion and art, travelers exploring the world, and those exploring ways in which their body can move through dance, yoga, acrobatics, etc.

In addition to my activewear and handmade jewelry, I will soon be adding ready-to-wear and swimwear. I also plan to expand my curated pieces from amazing artists, designers, and makers; currently I feature hand-braided clothing by Danceweaver, but I’m always looking for more treasures to share with my customer.

What made you decide on activewear as your focus? Did you always know you wanted to do activewear?
My focus is on self-expression, and movement is such a huge part of that. I started out designing dresses, but I noticed that I lived in yoga pants because they allow me to be comfortable and feel unrestricted in my day to day, and I realized I wasn’t the only one. So I started doing research, and started seeing all these really amazing digital prints. I just got really inspired for different prints and started having a lot of fun designing the graphics. Designing activewear is really so fun because I’m able to design for so many pieces of my customers’ lives!

Happiness, health, and beauty looks different on everyone. My job isn’t to tell you what size to be, it’s to help you feel excited about how you look and express yourself through clothes.


Let’s dig in: size inclusivity

The fact that you included up to 6x is really important! Why is size inclusivity important to you?
I think it’s pretty simple, happiness, health, and beauty looks different on everyone. My job isn’t to tell you what size to be, it’s to help you feel excited about how you look and express yourself through clothes. I want that for as many people as possible, so I just wanted to offer as many sizes as I could. 

As a designer, what do you think about the size inclusive market?
It’s surprising to me that a lot of brands are just now starting to pay attention to inclusive sizing. It’s weird and sad that some people have been made to feel they weren’t allowed to wear certain things, that they had to dress a certain way because their options were so limited. I’m glad to see a dialogue about it and a changing trend. 

Have you faced any challenges with having a size inclusive brand?
People come in all shapes and sizes, and you can’t please everyone. I just try to be as receptive to feedback as I can be. I work with vendors for a few of my styles who have more limited sizing options, and that can be frustrating.

Do you use fit models? If not, how do you ensure all consumers will have a proper fit from XXS-6X?
I rely heavily on wear-testing and encourage my friends of all sizes to be honest with me. A lot of my experience is in technical design, so fit is my specialty.

Do you think specific “plus size” clothing brands will eventually be a thing of the past and perhaps, follow your footsteps in truly including all sizes?
If a brand can manage to cater to a lot of different body types, I think that’s great, but I also don’t see anything wrong with a brand choosing to focus on a specific body type. This allows a brand to really be an expert for that customer and cater to specific fit needs or proportions. As long as customers have options, and all body types are being celebrated and catered to.

Along with size inclusivity, how would you like to see the fashion industry innovate and better champion diversity?
I think one of the biggest issues is that the fashion industry has a pretty standard formula that we simply scale up or down for sizing. For example, bust and hip are going to scale proportionately, but we know that being busty does not also mean one is hippy and vice versa. I know a few denim brands that have attempted to tackle this, but personally for me it’s a huge problem in dresses. I’d love to see sizing that addresses different proportions. Shape inclusivity!

What do you have coming down the pipeline for Haute Holly? Anything excited you want to share?
I have several new yoga pants designs coming out this summer! I’ve also recently started doing Mommy and Me, so all printed yoga pants are also available in toddler, kids, and youth sizes. 

I’m wearing the party sequin pant and matching sports bra in size medium.

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