NEW YORK — Matthew Mellon, the heir to banking and oil fortunes, seems to gravitate toward women with design credentials. Tamara Yeardye, his ex-wife, is the founder of Jimmy Choo. Noelle Reno, his former fiancée and once a model, helped Mellon launch cashmere label Degrees of Freedom. Now he’s engaged to designer Nicole Hanley and together they’ve started a line called Hanley-Mellon.
The two appear to have more in common than a love of fashion. “We met at a wedding of mutual friends two-and-a-half years ago,” Hanley said. “[Matthew] was in the wedding party. The groom’s mother is my godmother. Our families coincided with one another across multiple generations in New York.”
Hanley was standing in the St. Regis suite on Friday where she and Mellon had been showing their spring collection to retailers all week. “I’ll put something on,” she said, grabbing several garments from the racks. Hanley disappeared, returning dressed in brown-and-white striped trousers, a white tank top and white jacket with a tab closure and brass buttons. “Nicole is really the best representative of the line,” said Mellon, who hopes to wholesale Hanley-Mellon to 200 to 300 stores within three years. He declined to reveal sales projections.
While the couple’s lives are intertwined professionally and personally, Mellon isn’t losing sight of his business objectives. “I told Nicole, ‘I’m in this for three years — six seasons,’” he said. “That’s my cash outlay for this. I’m willing to weather the storm.”
The collection’s retail prices, $70 to $300 for ready-to-wear and $300 to $750 for cashmere, are “affordable in this economy,” Mellon said. The higher-priced Degrees of Freedom, which is sold at Saks Fifth Avenue and Harrods, “broke even the first year with 15 stores around the world,” Mellon said. “The Hanley-Mellon price points make more sense.”
Hanley, who did stints as a designer for Rugby and a stylist for Polo Ralph Lauren, also worked as a buyer at Intermix.
Hanley-Mellon hired Adam Drawas, a consultant to Chanel and Fendi, to help produce the collection. “Nicole’s dream was to have components in her wardrobe that were luxurious to the touch,” he said, adding she also wanted lots of layering pieces. “Matthew has a 100 percent input on the design. He knows color and he has a great eye. Matthew’s background is luxury.”
The collection has a palette of navy, black, butter yellow and earthy washed purples and sages. Fabrics include lacquered linen for shorts, paper-thin jersey T-shirts and a netting fabric for tops. Details such as chains sewn into the hems of jackets, dresses and vests are typically found in more expensive collections, Drawas said. One-ply cashmere cardigans are trimmed with rickrack ribbing that looks like pulled nylon stockings.
Hanley-Mellon is a departure from Hanley’s existing collection featured at her Hanley store on East 74th Street. That concise line features silk shirts trimmed with vintage leather and leather skirts. The store will be changed over to a Hanley-Mellon boutique in April. In addition, Mellon said he plans to open a store in Los Angeles.
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