Faux fur is one of the hottest trends on runways this fall, but few labels take the animal-free concept as far as Hiraeth, a new ready-to-wear line created by actress Rooney Mara, childhood friend Sara Schloat, and former Barneys New York employee Chrys Wong. The trio produces their pieces without any animal-derived products. That means no fur, leather, wool, or silk materials, long considered staples of luxury apparel.
Equally impressive and important for the brand’s long-term success, the designs are killer. Elegant, streamlined, soft yet modern, these are elevated wardrobe essentials you can’t resist. Of course, launching an apparel and accessories line is about much more than just designing cool clothes. We asked the founders of Hiraeth how they’ve done it so far.
Rooney Mara: I wanted to do something that didn’t rely on animal products whatsoever. Because while sheep aren’t killed for their wool, you still can’t guarantee their living conditions or if they are living a good life. There is a vast difference in the way people used to live and the way we do now. Things like meat and leather used to be considered a luxury—you were lucky to be able to have these things. The only reason they are so accessible now is because the animals are suffering, the environment is suffering. I try to be super conscious about those things, and that’s why I wanted to do something that didn’t rely on animals at all.
Sara Schloat: Rooney and I grew up together and have been lifelong friends. We talked about starting an animal-free clothing line for quite some time. I remember sitting in Rooney’s apartment having a conversation about how difficult it is to find great-quality animal-free footwear. We really started to hone in on the line about two years ago.
Chrys Wong: I met Rooney a few years ago while I was working at Barneys. Rooney and Sara already had this idea of starting something. When they told me about the project I immediately took interest and I was excited to help them move things along. None of us have formal training in design, and it’s been a very collaborative process. Rooney usually plants the seed of an idea, and we come up with different ways to realize the final product. We bring in technicians with specialized skills to fine-tune certain details or patterns. We also work closely with our small workshop production facilities to help us achieve our goals.
RM: It took us a long time to decide on a name. When we came across the Welsh word [for homesickness and nostalgia], it resonated so much with what we were doing. We have moved so far away from each other in modern society—that feeling of longing for something or a “home” you can’t return to is a feeling many people have today. We wanted to do something where, when you buy our stuff, you are aware that another human made this thing, and many other humans were connected to it along the way. Hopefully that might make people stop and think about the other things that they buy.
RM: I don’t know if that moment of “we made it” has happened yet. I think every day there are new challenges. But it all did happen pretty quickly and has been a huge undertaking.
CW: During my time at Barneys, I have seen the beginning stages of a number of start-up brands, many of which have become very successful. It’s fair to say I was sufficiently warned about the difficulties of starting a company. But it is so rewarding to be able to work with a small group of people and make things happen in your own way.
SS: We have a studio in Los Angeles. Rooney and Chrys are both based out of L.A., so they meet often at our office. I am based out of San Francisco, so I go to L.A. periodically to meet with the team. Because we are such a small business, we really work collaboratively and support one another in all roles. Rooney serves as our creative director. She comes up with the concept and inspiration for each collection. Chrys and Rooney work together on bringing that idea to fruition. Chrys manages our development and production, along with the day-to-day running of the business. I work to support Chrys and Rooney in each of their functions, and also work on sales.
THE BEST STYLES
RM: I love the boots the best because that is the thing I was missing the most in my own wardrobe. I also love the motorcycle jacket. I’d describe Hiraeth’s looks as romantic, modern, and nostalgic.
SS: I love the corduroy suit. The trousers are a perfect fit. And the jacket is so versatile.
CW: Harness and moto leggings in our vegan leather!
SS: Our plan is to grow organically and continue what we are doing. We each love clothes and fashion, and ultimately came together for that reason. It’s been challenging but also extremely gratifying to take on the workload of running a business. The aesthetic is evolving but will certainly stay within our framework of minimal and romantic.