It’s approaching four years since Gabriela Hearst launched her collection with women’s ready-to-wear, defined by her modern, sophisticated working woman lifestyle and the values of quality and timelessness gleaned from her childhood on a sheep ranch in Uruguay. She now has more to show for that relatively brief span than most independent designers operating at the highest level of luxury — a rarity to begin with — achieve in a decade or more. Hearst has a full range of shoes and a waitlist for her handbag collection, which she has shrewdly refused to wholesale. With her last runway show, she introduced a fine jewelry collection that’s sold exclusively in her brand new store adjacent to the Carlyle hotel on Madison Avenue.
Designed in collaboration with Zaher Katerji of ZARI Architects, the store opened earlier this month as a temple for Hearst’s clear aesthetic vision and her commitment to sustainability, a suddenly red-hot concept in fashion, which she has always considered intrinsic to luxury. The interior is done in natural, reclaimed oak, free of chemicals and synthetics, packaging is 100 percent biodegradable, lighting is energy-efficient. There are no plans to pause or let momentum slow. Hearst has her sights on two additional stores in 2019, one in London, one in Hong Kong.
“Opening the store was a big part of the dream equation of the business,” said Hearst, noting that sales expectations were surpassed within two weeks of opening. “We feel very strongly that the obvious next move is to open two more stores internationally. Those are the goals to achieve in 2019, at least to start.” She hinted that more categories are to come, but the short-term focus is retail. Right now, the business is 50/50 retail to wholesale, but Hearst hopes to tip those ratios to 70/30 in the next few years. In terms of choosing Hong Kong over Paris or Los Angeles, which typically top retail expansion lists, 33 percent of her handbag customers are based in Hong Kong. She also just likes the city. “I want to open stores in places I like to go.”