A paradoxical mashup of sleek and subversive design is probably how you’d describe the work of Hannah, the British designer whose off-kilter, puffy accessories have slowly been taking over Instagram. Her fledgling label HRH was added to the Fall 2021 roster of Lulu Kennedy’s acclaimed talent incubator Fashion East, whose alumni include Kim Jones, JW Anderson, Simone Rocha, and Yeezy Gap Design Director, Mowalola.
Being handpicked by the London Fashion Week legend is a pretty big deal for any young designer, but Hannah’s obvious enthusiasm about joining the lineup goes beyond just snagging a spot on the fashion calendar. “I work by myself, mainly, and sometimes it feels like existing in an echo chamber,” she tells NYLON. “It feels really amazing to suddenly have people behind me, and it’s very reassuring. I'm really excited, it's just a big honor.”
Hannah’s design debut initially came under the moniker Monster Coat Club, and yes, it’s exactly like it sounds. (Think: vibrant, long furry fabrics shapeshifting into oversized coats, or enveloping a pair of hotel slippers.) Although the designer initially envisioned this as a platform through which to collaborate with her friends, many of whom are artists or curators themselves, it evolved into a brand in its own right. “A lot of things that I end up doing originally come from a desire to have something myself,” Hannah reflects. “I was making these scrunchies for myself and then everyone wanted to buy them.
And just like that, Monster Coat Club evolved from a passion project to a legitimate accessories label, now called HRH. It might seem like an unconventional way to launch a brand, but Hannah’s approach to design comes from her non-traditional pathway into the industry, along with her background in costume design. “I’m really interested in the link between adornment and performance,” Hannah shares. “I love working with dancers and people who are moving. I guess that's where it ties in with my interest in athletes and sport. It’s physical performance, but it's also a performance in the show of things. A lot of sports costumes are really quite elaborate.”
Sports — in particular dance, figure skating, and gymnastics — are a key theme in Hannah’s work and make a regular appearance on her brand’s Instagram feed. Among candid images of the designer’s everyday life and her latest HRH creations, you’ll find inspo pics of the 1996 USA Gymnastic team and Olympic track-and-field athlete Florence Griffith Joyner (aka Flo-Jo).
“I always think of someone like Flo-Jo and how amazing her nails, scrunchies, and one-legged costumes were. She was the best athlete, as well,” Hannah explains while discussing visual inspiration. “We have such a strict code for sports costumes and I’m really inspired by someone like Serena Williams, who steps outside of that, and wears these custom Nike looks that are really femme and fab.”
See more of HRH’s debut collection for London Fashion Week Fall 2021, below.
Naturally, these influences, although not immediately obvious, are pretty easy to spot in HRH’s Fall 2021 collection, which debuted on Tuesday to close out London Fashion Week. There are the kitsch hand muffs in iridescent finishes, meme-worthy oversized scarves and ultra-fuzzy fur arm warmers and hoods. Oh, and did we mention there are scrunchies at every turn, including scrunchie-inspired thong waistbands and scrunchie shoulder straps on the brand’s signature padded mini bags?
While Hannah seems to have a consistent starting point when it comes to kicking off her creative process, the real challenge, especially for emerging designers, has been staying inspired through a year of ever-changing restrictions and uncertainty.
“It’s really had an impact [on my creativity] because what I didn't realize before was how much inspiration I take from my peers; going to art openings, and seeing their work,” Hannah recounts, noting that her imagination is usually fueled by visiting fabric suppliers. “I feel like I have such a rich source of inspiration around me that's really been very reduced in this last year.”
But on the other hand, COVID-19 has given many the gift of time or at least a little more creative freedom. As Hannah puts it, “Because everything has had to slow down so much, you don't feel the constant pressure of being extremely productive. You have room to play around with things a bit. The stakes are slightly lower.”
What Hannah wants, above all, is for her work to evoke a certain kind of feeling in those who see it. “I have this extreme emotional connection to watching something like the Winter Olympics,” she gushes, bringing the conversation back to her deep love for showmanship. “There’s just all of this amazing adornment, even down to how people have their hair done. There’s this whole aesthetic, and each sport has a really different one,” she elaborates. “I just find it so charming. I hope to infuse that in my collection.”