NEW YORK — To observers, Matthew Mellon and Nicole Hanley Mellon master the art of living well with much ease. They reside at the tony Pierre hotel with their children Force and Olympia; share an appreciation for fashion and design, and, as global citizens, are as comfortable here as they are in London or Paris.
Now they are channeling that lifestyle into the Hanley Mellon collection, which makes its debut during New York Fashion Week next month.
“As Matt and I were contemplating our next move, and trying to find what our style is, we noticed how, in all of the fashion ventures we have been in, there was the combination of ease and comfort, with sophistication,” Hanley Mellon said. “There was also this idea that style really comes when you put your life first. Otherwise it doesn’t make any sense.”
The husband-and-wife team comes to the venture with independent fashion experience — Hanley Mellon at Ralph Lauren Corp. and Intermix, as well as a namesake label that has since shuttered, and Mellon, the entrepreneur and descendant of the banking Mellons, with Degrees of Freedom, Jimmy Choo — at the time run by then-wife Tamara Mellon — and Harry’s of London footwear.
“It’s really about a lifestyle and the culmination of a lot of things,” said Frederick Anderson, who joined the duo earlier this year as president from Douglas Hannant, where he remains as co-owner and co-chief executive officer. “The two of them and their story are so interesting and so many people are interested in their lifestyle. They have such a specific reference to the way you live first, and from your life comes your style. We are taking that and we are building around that for a lifestyle brand.”
The concept is somewhat nomadic in its approach. Though the line will be rooted in knitwear, each season’s message will home in on a different part of the world the Mellons find fascinating.
“The three of us are curious and constantly want to learn,” Hanley Mellon said. “We realized that we really have to get out there and meet people and experience different things to understand the meaning behind some of the inspirations, and also to collaborate with different people from around the world to create unique product.
“We are getting out there and living the kind of life we want to live,” she added. “The creation comes with that.”
The online launch, slated for October at hanleymellon.com, stays closer to home. It is inspired by New York, featuring such coolly casual looks as a white cashmere knit top and skirt and a navy knit top and skirt teamed with a woven cashmere vested coat. For fall, the couple also created some jewelry pieces with Giuliana Michelotti of GM Collections.
“You look at the trends in Malibu and everyone is basically in their pajamas and those are their day clothes, and in L.A., it’s sports clothes,” Hanley Mellon explained. “What would the sophisticated version of that be for New York, Paris, London? We wanted to keep the comfort, quality and sophistication high.”
For spring, the inspiration is Kenya. They were drawn to the African country specifically after meeting Jess Teutonico, who founded the Under the Acacia program that seeks to generate sustainable initiatives in remote Kenyan communities, through the We Are Family Foundation (the couple sits on the board).
“When you think of Kenya, there is such a vivid understanding of peripheral,” Anderson said. “Many stylists and editors look at Pinterest and they think they’ve been there. We think, ‘What is it for us? What is it like to really go and experience and delve in a little bit more into what is the underbelly of some of these places?’”
The initial focus will be on women’s sportswear positioned at a bridge price point. Suggested retail prices range from $275 to $850, with cashmere pieces as high as $1,200. Wovens are priced from $250 to $1,200 and leathers from $400 to $1,500.
A year from now, the couple plans to add men’s, which will be inspired by Mellon and his sartorial preferences. Children’s apparel is set to follow after. A freestanding retail store, most likely uptown near their Pierre home, is planned for early next year.
Meanwhile, the Web site, which launches in October, seeks to engage consumers in many ways, including “One Minute With Matthew Mellon” video shorts.
“Philosophy, life, what makes people tick,” Mellon offered when asked about the nature of these shorts. “What I find about really interesting people that are very disruptive.…Not only do they believe in the message, but they are willing to take a bullet for it, whether it’s the extreme of Julian Assange or the guy on the street.”
By all accounts, Mellon has a Forrest Gump-like knack for stumbling, almost coincidentally, into fascinating experiences. One day, he may be jamming in a music studio with Nile Rodgers; the next, he could be on duty as chairman of the New York Republican Party’s Finance Committee. “This is probably the worst career move you can make if you are in the fashion business in New York City,” Mellon cracked. “My popularity went down like a lead balloon.”
Through a holdings entity, the couple is also invested in several other companies, including StyleHaul, Paddle8 and Alvin Valley. Mellon is also a leading advocate of Bitcoin, and said that the digital currency is likely to play a role in the new label’s future.
The Hanley Mellon label is self-financed. The official launch will take place at the Hudson Mercantile at 500 West 36th Street on Sept. 10.
As for revenue projections, the trio declined to disclosed a dollar amount, but Anderson said, “I have been very conservative going into year one, because we really wanted to do key messaging first, and then, at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016, we will start to get very aggressive.”
As for the Mellons, who got married in 2010, they appear to strike a healthy balance between personal life and professional collaboration, and their approach comes with a good sense of humor. Throughout the interview, they finish each other’s sentences, and on more than one occasion, have a chuckle at each other’s expense.
“When I first met her I knew immediately that I was sitting in front of my wife, and I called my ex-wife and my mom,” Mellon said. “To me, it’s about three words: ‘Of course darling.’”
“That is such B.S.,” Hanley Mellon retorted. “The saying goes, ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life,’ and he somehow manipulated it into a situation that is ‘Happy Husband, Happy Life,’ and I say, ‘That doesn’t rhyme.’”
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