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Taste Test:

February 19, 2013

NYC Fashion Designer Hilton Hollis Headlines at Atlanta History Center March 13

From Natchez to NYC, this fashion exemplar draws inspiration from art, architecture, fashion…and laser light shows

By Nancy Staab

NYC Fashion Designer Hilton Hollis brings his Ethereal-Meets-Edgy Spring Collection to the Atlanta History Center’s Annual Members Guild Luncheon on March 13. In honor of his upcoming appearance, we quizzed Hollis on his tastemaker tendencies.

Looks from Hilton Hollis' Spring 2013 Collection Looks from Hilton Hollis' Spring 2013 Collection

Rising fashion designer Hilton Hollis represents the best of both worlds. The Natchez, Mississippi-born designer has all the charm and polish of his native South---and so do his designs. Meanwhile, training at The Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC gave Hollis both sophistication and edge. Post-school, Hollis trained with famed designers Dana Buchman, John Bartlett and Calvin Klein, so he knows just how to cut a sharp dress, jacket or suit and then embellish it with just a dash of fur, metallic, leather or lace. It is just this fusion of ladylike polish and sexy, modern edge that allows Hollis’ frocks to transition with ease from the corporate world to a cocktail. His ethereal Spring 2013 collection is no exception and on Wed. March 13 you can see his latest designs and meet the well-mannered designer in person when he presents his latest designs at the annual Atlanta History Center Members Guild luncheon at the Atlanta History Center, chaired by Joanne Chesler Gross.  

Hilton Hollis Hilton Hollis

Hilton Hollis said his Spring 2013 “Ethereal Angels” Collection was inspired by multi-media show sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art at Radio City Music Hall. The show incorporated music by Antony and The Johnsons, laser lights, and art installations to evoke a sense of transcendence and flight.

The result of this inspiration: a fashion collection that is equally dreamy and structured. The architectural cuts that Hollis is known for are still there, such as seamed jackets and shaped sheath dresses in glazed linen, but there are also dreamy, floaty, exploded digital prints that evoke expressionist paintings; Monet’s lily ponds with their shades of murky mauves, purples and whites; and perhaps elements of one of Hollis’ favorite painters Kadinsky. Many of the pieces incorporate fluid movement as if to underscore the angelic theme. Hollis will present this collection at the Atlanta History Center in March.

We caught up with Hollis on the eve of his Atlanta appearance to tap his good taste and get a peek into his designer’s mind on such subjects as art, style icons, fashion and architecture.





Charles James design Charles James design

Favorite fashion designer from the past?

Charles James, because he was a master at the architecture of clothing.



Favorite fashion designer from the present?

Narcisco Rodriguez, for his simplicity, fabrications, and technical virtuosity.



Best lesson you learned at Calvin Klein?

While training under Tim Gardner from Calvin Klein, I learned to always be myself in my designs.



Charlize Theron and Cate Blanchett Charlize Theron and Cate Blanchett

Which celebrities would you most like to dress?

Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett and Kate Middleton.





What is the most over-the-top design you have created?

In 1999, I created a very avant-garde piece for a runway show in Colorado. This runway look was created by using 23 different, pattern pieces of shearling, and woven strips of leather. 



Favorite museum?

Victoria& Albert Museum.



Wassily Kandinsky; John Singer Sargent Wassily Kandinsky; John Singer Sargent

Favorite artists?

Kandinsky, John Singer Sargent and Cezanne.





Favorite city to visit?

Milan, because the fashion is inspiring, the casual lifestyle of the Milanese is endearing and the cultural renaissance that is currently happening there is very enlightening.



Favorite hotel in the world?

The Straf in Milan.


Show by Antony & The Johnsons Show by Antony & The Johnsons

What were some of the inspirations for your spring 2013 collection “Ethereal Angels?"

I attended a concert by Antony and The Johnsons at Radio City Music Hall. The concert was sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art. It was produced in collaboration with the light artist Chris Levine, the lighting designer Paul Normandale and the set designer Carl Robertshaw. It was so inspiring and changed my entire prospective on the collection I was working on. I was going with one theme, but after I attended that concert, my entire concept changed.



Where did the water-color-like floral print come from?

The floral print was originally a much more vivid print, but considering my inspiration of “Ethereal Angels” I decided to make it a more subdued color palette.



What fashion staples should every woman have in her closet?

A beautifulblack pencil skirt, nude shoes, and crisp white shirts.



Diamonds Diamonds

What key accessories should a woman have?





What fashion staples should every man have in his closet?

Dark denim jeans, cashmere sweaters, and seude side-zip boots.



Favorite fashion item or accessory in your own closest?

My watch collection.



What are some fashion faux pas?

Women who reveal too much, and dress outside their age.



Best way to make a style impact?

One key item that is a fashion trend, will always make an impact.



Brunello Cucinelli blazer Brunello Cucinelli blazer

Favorite Luxe Label (other than your own)?

Brunello Cucinelli, for men and women, because he produces casual, yet luxurious, items.



What little luxuries can’t you live without?

Creme de la Mer and my leather iPhone cover.



What are some of your favorite indulgences large or small?

Bearded Papa's Cream Puffs



Marie Antoinette & Grace Kelly Marie Antoinette & Grace Kelly

Favorite style icons past or present?

Grace Kelly and Marie Antoinette.






Any dog-eared style books in your library?

I have a set of Japanese pattern-making books that I constantly refer to.



At what age did you “design” your first creation?




Any dreams to expand your brand in other categories?

Absolutely, my goals over the next ten years are not only to expand Hilton Hollis as a lifestyle brand, but also become known globally as a fashion leader.



Can you give hints of what is to come with your Fall 2013 collection?

“The Exoskeleton”



Guggenehim Abu Dhabi by Frank Gehry Guggenehim Abu Dhabi by Frank Gehry

If you weren’t a designer you once said in an interview that you would be an architect, interior designer, gardener or chef so….What is one of your favorite pieces of architecture?

 Anything by Frank Gehry 




Do you have a favorite chef, restaurant or dish?

My late grandmother's fried apple pies and homemade ice cream.



Do you cook yourself and, if so, what is your star dish?

I love to cook!  My star dish would have to be blue corn crusted catfish with a corn and pepper relish.



Favorite garden?

The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens



What is your interior design aesthetic?

An organic approach with clean lines, textured fabrications, and matte metal finishes.



Some Like It Hot Some Like It Hot

Are you inspired by the movies or TV in terms of your fashion design and if so, which ones?

Some Like it Hot, Boardwalk Empire and I have a feeling I am going to love [Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming verions of] The Great Gatsby




What is the starting point of your collections: fabrics/textures, silhouettes, color, a mood?




If you could pick another fashion period in history to live in, what would it be?




Can you describe the ideal Hilton Hollis woman for whom you design your clothes?

She is refined and sophisticated with exceptional appreciation of fabrication, quality, and value.



And do you have any “signature” fashion trademarks?

Yes, I pay very close attention to detail, and in many of my jackets I put a dart at the center-back which has become one of my many signature trademarks.



Does your upbringing in the South inform your designs and if so, how?

My designs are definitely inspired by Southern architecture, and its simple way of life.



Windsor Ruins; Southern Ice Tea Windsor Ruins; Southern Ice Tea

What do you miss most about the South when in NYC?

Simplicity and iced tea.



Favorite Southern haunts?

The Ruins of Windsoroutside of Natchez, Mississippi. Boca Grande, Florida.



Favorite NYC haunts?

Shalal on the Upper West Side. Korean karaoke bars, and Barney's.



WWD Aug. 2008 Hilton Hollis cover WWD Aug. 2008 Hilton Hollis cover

Your biggest or proudest fashion moment to date?

The NYC Millenium Fashion Show in 2000, and my first cover of Women's Wear Daily.




Hilton Hollis will talk and present his Spring 2013 “Ethereal Angels” Collection at Atlanta History Center March 13 for the annual Members Guild Luncheon. Joanne Chesler Gross is the chair and tickets are $150 per person. For tickets call 404.814.4102 or contact Katherine Hoogerwerk at  Hilton Hollis will host a trunk show of his latest designs at Tootsies  March 13-14.


You can find Hilton’s fashions locally at Tootsies Boutique at Shops Around Lenox, For more info on Hilton Hollis visit: