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An Interview with Owner / Designer Leslie P

January 22, 2019

An Interview with Owner / Designer Leslie P

Did you know that Hawthorne Collection now encompasses an entire brand alongside our boutique stores? We recently sat down with owner and head designer, Leslie, to learn a little about the process of designing Hawthorne's brand.

1. When did you first realize you wanted a career as a fashion designer?

I didn't exactly set out to do this intentionally!  I went to college for mechanical engineering, which oddly enough is extremely useful in pattern-making. In middle school, I learned to sew and continued to learn as much as I could for most of my adult life.  In my early twenties, I started two different fashion-based businesses. One business focused on ready to wear figure skating apparel,  and the other custom swimwear.  Neither took off, but I learned a lot in the process.  After taking some time off when my oldest son was born, I was asked to come back to work in the automotive industry developing production patterns for car interiors.  I also worked for a while making patterns for Radio Flyer.  After Hawthorne became larger, adding in our own line was somewhat of a dream for me, combining something that was a passion of mine into this business.

2. You said you tried businesses before and they failed.  What did you learn from that? 

I learned so much from every aspect of fashion design, but yes, a lot from failed businesses! Mainly that you need to know your customer and your market extremely well before starting out.  That's why I love designing so much for Hawthorne - we know our customer on a very personal level.  Designing for her is fun. 

3. Many fashion designers have a "muse".  Do you have one? 

Actually, I have a few.  One of the perks of being where I am is that I have great friends that have worked with me at Hawthorne for a long time.  Stacy, Sarah, and Lindsay are not only great friends, but all have very distinct styles.  When I am designing, I usually can peg if the piece will be a favorite of one of them.  Usually I know if they like it, the item will work well within the collection.

4. Where do you find inspiration?

It's not just me - we have a product development team that is very good at coming up with ideas of what will be amazing.  We all have very different but somewhat overlapping styles.  Working with a group to determine the high-level ideas of those silhouettes makes the actual pattern design somewhat easy. And yes, we spend a lot of time on Pinterest. :)

5.  What is "product development"? 

Product development refers to our design process, creating a garment from start to finish.  Our development team is based in our Jenison warehouse.  The first step is usually a brainstorm or an idea phase - either ideas we have for items or something that we know our customers want but can't find.  Then we start the process of pattern development, sewing an actual sample garment in our sample area to test the fit of the garment.  After we make tweaks, we send the digital pattern to our manufacturer for a pre-production sample. Once approved, the garment goes into manufacturing production. 

6.  Hawthorne's brand has expanded this year.  What has attributed to that? 

2018 was a huge year of growth for the product development department.  We started selling our brand wholesale (meaning we sell to other boutiques that carry some of our styles) and with that came the ability to manufacture in larger production runs.  As we are able to do that, we are able to offer more and more selection throughout both our wholesale and retail divisions.  Systems-wise, we have invested heavily in our in-house development department.  All of Hawthorne's patterns are designed in-house, with samples made and tested at our warehouse in Jenison.  We added the capability of designing in a CAD software program, which has dramatically decreased the product development lifecycle.  Once we have determined design and fit, we can send our files to our manufacturing facilities very quickly.  

6.  What does 2019 hold for Hawthorne, as a brand?

As our product development team looks into the next year, we are preparing for further growth in both our retail and wholesale markets.  Stacy and I have learned to "never say never" and we have some definite surprises up our sleeve.  We have lots of new styles in all areas of development that we are excited to share, and plan to bring back some customer favorites. (Colored skinnies, anyone?) As for trends, we are going to see a re-emergence of Coral, as well as lots of leafy or animal prints.


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