Honey Cooler Handmade designs are a favorite of bloggers and lingerie lovers alike, so I’m extra excited have an interview with the designer today! Stephanie is the mastermind behind the brand, which combines Art Deco and Edwardian influences to produce one of a kind camisoles, panties and chemises. Through unusual fabric combinations and some sort of natural lingerie designer mojo, Stephanie produces absolutely magical pieces.
Holly: What fascinates you about the Art Deco and Edwardian periods?
Stephanie: I’m particularly interested in the sartorial transition between the Edwardian and Art Deco periods. From the repressed Victorian lady came this new, modern woman who was at once independent and in charge, but still femme. While I love the drippy gorgeousness of Victorian fashion, it is so constricting and rigid. The stereotypical flapper wore easy, comfortable silhouettes that didn’t shy away from lace and embellishment of earlier decades. My favorite fashion history specimen is Lanvin’s 1920’s Robe de Style – it retained a somewhat feminine shape and occasionally even had panniers. The Robe de Style was worn by women who appreciated the flapper trajectory, but were unwilling to totally relinquish their feminine side – those women must have had the most beautifully stocked closets!
Holly: How did you come up with the combination of silk fabric and vintage lace that you use in your pieces?
Stephanie: Combining silk and lace is not a new idea – just about every lingerie designer does so at some point. My original inspiration came from visiting vintage clothing stores and examining gorgeous silk slips and step-ins from the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s. Those garments look and feel so intensely special – the kind of thing that would instantly dress up any contemporary outfit if worn as a blouse or top.
The sad truth is that there aren’t many lace companies left that make really gorgeous motifs on Valenciennes lace anymore, and that’s why I usually turn to vintage lace when I sew my pieces. My vintage Valenciennes stash runs the gamut from elephants and sparrows to fishermen and tennis players. If the lace on your nightie has foxes all over it, it’s a pretty good bet you’re intending for it to be seen. Edwardian and Art Deco underpinnings had this sense of innocent whimsy paired with veiled flirtatiousness that you don’t find much in contemporary lingerie. When it comes to HCH, staying true to the spirit of Edwardian and Deco-era lingerie, at least in part, is important to me.
Holly: Your pieces balance strong graphic elements with frilly and feminine ones. How do you balance those two sides of your design aesthetic?
Stephanie: If I had my way, I’d exist wearing 1950’s cupcake dresses, heels and frou frou stuff all day, but the truth is that in order to exist in normal society (especially in a-tee-and-jeans San Francisco), I can’t dress like a confection on the regular. On the same token, I really appreciate harder, more contemporary and experimental fashion, but I would hardly call myself a risk taker, so that kind of style doesn’t quite feel like a match for me either. My line is the perfect way to marry my uber-femme side with the side that appreciates a sleek pair of leather boots and leggings. The HCH girl is both hard and soft, vampy yet sweet. And let’s face it: no matter how hard and graphic my motifs, they are still crafted in lace. A tee with a skull printed on it is all hard; An HCH Deco Cami with an entirely sheer lace skull is still hard, but with a sweeter bent.
Holly: What’s the best part about being a lingerie designer? What’s the hardest part?
Stephanie: The best part about being a lingerie designer, especially a self-employed one, is that I get to work whenever I want. I can sew all day and into the night if deadlines require it, but I can also take a dance class in the middle of the day or meet a friend for coffee and still be able to pull together a last-minute photo shoot. The obvious other plus side is that I get to work with gorgeous materials all day long. Stunning fabrics and beautiful old laces are just part of the everyday routine. I get to create all the time and that’s a dream come true. The hardest part of my job is not knowing when to stop working. I love what I do so much that sometimes it’s hard to put my laptop down and tuck my sewing machine away. My weekends are often full of good work-related stuff, but those things sometimes eat into my personal time and I forget to allot time to the other important aspects of my life.
Holly: I know you’re a big fan of custom work. How do you make your pieces work on a wide range of body types? What is your custom design process like?
Stephanie: Custom work is so fun! In general, as long as a little extra pattern drafting is done, most HCH pieces will work for a broad range of body types. For example, I offer my Deco Cami style in two cuts – bias and straight. The bias cut looks great on everyone, but it’s especially flattering on girls with prominent curves – it’s the piece I keep making over and over for myself. The only piece that doesn’t work for a broad range of sizes is my Vaudeville Bralette, which is best for an A/B cup. I would love to expand the size range, but bras require so much support past a C cup and part of what I love about my line is the unfussy structure (Ribbon Corsets, of course, being the exception).
Collaboration on custom work is pretty easy. First off, my customer decides on what kind of piece she’d like and then we discuss fabric choices. I have a few great fabric sources in San Francisco that I love, so I’m usually able to offer a few options that span different price points. Once we nail down a fabric and desired motif, I can get a better idea of final price. Once a deposit is squared away, I can get to work. Depending on the workload I’m wrestling with at the time, it can take up to 2 weeks to make something custom. And if my customer is in the San Francisco Bay Area, we can even do in-person fittings to get the best fit possible!