H IS FOR HER x HOUSE OF HIATUS
Meet Sæl and Jenna…
“At House of Hiatus we are inspired by a life lived fully and consciously by purchasing goods with long-term use and utility in mind. We imagined Hiatus as a connection to the freedom found on vacation.”
As women we are capable of amazing things. I love female owned businesses, and they’re even more special when they’re run by multiple women. We’re entering the age of Woman, I’ve said it a lot; challenging and breaking down stereotypes simply by choosing to support one another.
Enter House of Hiatus. Owned by Sæl and Jenna: two women with a vision to create a line of genderless clothing that calls to mind the effortless feeling one gets when on vacation. Clothing that also happens to be very suited to city living. Multi-functional, sustainable, intentional fashion.
I always start these posts with a story of how I first met the featured artisan. Although I have yet to meet Jenna, I remember my first impression of Sæl. I had just arrived at the airport in Seattle and was waiting outside to meet up with a group of women. We were to drive to a gorgeous Airbnb on the water and spend the weekend showering our beautiful friend Mingni with love in celebration of her upcoming marriage to a dahlia farmer. I was coming from Spokane, WA. Sæl was with the group coming from LA.
Since I was very young I’ve had a thing for fashion, so it never goes unnoticed when someone has it. Sæl was wearing a gorgeous long jacket (which turned out to be a robe made by herself and her business partner Jenna!) and seemed to emanate that effortlessly cool vibe that LA dwellers seem to pump out in spades. I liked her immediately.
What followed that initial meeting was a magical weekend with strangers-turned-friends, topless sunbathing on our own private beach (although I’m positive the neighbors saw more than anticipated), rosé, kayaking, eating grapes off the vines, and camaraderie of the kind that only women-supporting-women can create.
I’m honored to have Jenna and Sæl share their story with us.
1. Tell us about what you do. How did House Of Hiatus come to be?
S: Jenna and I are first and foremost makers. It’s hard to reduce our business to simply a leisure wear line... we have always had a bigger picture in mind, making for us is about putting something out in the world that is thoughtful and can be part of someone’s life journey. My background is in textiles and when I met Jenna, who worked in merchandising and production, we were both seeking something new, we wanted to make something that was uncomplicated and timeless and that would bridge our laid-back California lifestyle with our love of design.
2. What inspired you to begin?
S: One night Jenna and I were at a Father John Misty show in LA and a guy walked in with a style that made us pause...he was wearing a Moroccan caftan with white leather sneakers...a look usually reserved for vacation but pairing it with the sneakers, he created a whole new urban vibe. The next day Jenna called me and proposed making robes, genderless caftans that anyone could wear both indoor and outdoors! Our intention has always been to work with hotels and this would be the perfect way to enhance the way a guest is able to experience their surroundings, all while building strong brand connections to our products.
3. That’s so interesting because the effect his look had on you is exactly the impression you left on me when I first saw you in that gorgeous robe! What was the scariest part about starting your business and how did you move through that fear?
S: Having Jenna as a partner was reassuring: her strong background in retail and our similar design sensibility felt complimentary and I knew we balanced each other personality wise, it felt like a good yin-yang. I had started a business before so knew if we took it slowly, step by step, staying true to the original idea we could build a strong brand.
J: Getting through the fear is the toughest part. I've had many ideas for companies and until I partnered with Sæl I just couldn't make it stick. Knowing that she had done it before helped me get over that fear. It also takes time to build a company so being realistic about your timeline on ROI is key and if you are able to maintain other forms of income it becomes less scary. For me this brand is my art, it's what I choose to do, not what I have to do.
4. I love that. When in the beginning it can be a passion project, staying true without compromise becomes much easier. Name a woman who inspires you?
S: We have many strong creative ladies in our lives but who’s blown our mind in her quick ascent in the design world is Hillary Taymour and her line Collina Strada. I was around when she started her brand almost 10 years ago and collaborated with her along the way. She went from a simple bag idea broadening to a fresh contemporary clothing brand. Her tenacity in keeping at it is impressive (the fashion world is brutal), she has bloomed into a unique creator and her clothes reflect her brilliant mind and sharp observations on society.
5. What would you say are some of the key challenges in running a business?
S: Truly knowing your strengths and weaknesses will really help your business. Delegating when possible is so important: I know I love step one, creating, and I enjoy seeing the end result, but I have a hard time promoting the work and marketing it. The latter steps are equally as important, so it is a daily exercise to make sure all stages are properly executed.
J: Exactly, many of us come from jobs where we do one or two things...but when you own your business you do it all! We of course play our parts but I like both teaching and learning, and that's what this process allows.
“Also, you must have humor when the challenges arise or you'll never get through them.”
6. What has been the greatest reward in starting a business?
S: In the beginning, we had a simple friend and family party to launch House of Hiatus and our community really showed up. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and there’s nothing better than to know you’ve made something that the people you love appreciate! Then when we landed our first hotel account, ARRIVE Palm Springs, we were like whoa...not only do we have a business, but so many strangers will now get to experience what we have created as well.
Hiatus offers non-gendered silhouettes
with simplified sizing, as this inclusive model lends itself to the spirit of a freeing lifestyle.
-House Of Hiatus
7. What keeps you inspired and how do you change things up?
S: It’s tricky to keep your mind fresh. I am a serial traveler and Jenna knows if I get a bug to get out of town l, I basically pack up and leave! I am a child of two countries (Italy and US) and grew up with quite a bit of cultural stimulation so it’s easy to say I love learning. Jenna and I constantly share images we love, she is a great observer and detail oriented so it’s easy for me to share something broad with her and have her edit it, and boom we have a concrete idea. We def keep each other in check, I’m generous with my imagination and often all over the place, she is more focused and not scared to keep our ship tight, both in generating feedback and keeping us in line with our initial inspiration and business goals.
8. Yes! Balance, right? As the solo captain of the H IS FOR LOVE spaceship I find that I’m constantly having to switch sides in my brain. Having a yin to my yang would probably be very helpful. Tell us about what you want your business/craft to look like in three years?
S: I defer to Jenna with future thinking. I am very now oriented, she seems to be more aware of forecasts and realistic expectations!
J: In three years our business will be five years old (on paper). I look forward to that point in time when we know if our business is sustainable for the long term. This coming year we have a few more hotel partnerships in the works and we look forward to growing and inspiring our HoH online community to maintain the feeling of relaxation and freedom found on vacation. Hopefully in a few years our partnerships with our vendors and manufacturers will be very strong and this should allow us to focus on what's next.
9.How about a long game? Do you have a dream beyond doing what you love?
S: Jenna and I agreed from the beginning that HoH would not only be a robe company. We want to grow into a lifestyle brand, a label that covers a state of mind that future generations can identify with regardless of trends.
J: Our intention to partner with hotels was not by accident and I see us playing a larger role in how people experience their surroundings in the future.
10. How have you grown since starting your business?
S: Keeping a business alive requires dedication and consistency. When we launch new collections I am ready to go back to the drawing board, but the job is still not done: being a two-woman show we have to cover a lot of ground. We are learning to check all the boxes including the ones we dread and especially focusing and trying to improve what we are not proficient at yet.
J: I believe we have both grown in our communication skills and time management; two very practical skills (super glamorous, right?). We also try not to manage each other but instead inspire as this allows us to maintain a healthy friendship as well.
11. What is a piece of advice you would give to someone just starting out with a new business idea?
S: Write a sort of manifesto for your brand/baby at inception. That initial spark and magic should always be present in your work even when, perhaps, it grows and evolves into something else. This written statement will keep you on track when you’re doubting yourself or you forget why you started your journey to begin with. And keep an open mind; allow constructive criticism into your sphere or you’ll never grow and adapt.