After debuting her clothing brand H.E.R at Boston Fashion Week in October 2023, New England native Hannah Richards is launching a new collection in 2024 which draws inspiration from sustainable fashion and her own family history.
Richards created H.E.R., which stands for Hannah Elyzabeth Richards, two years ago after she graduated from Lasell University. In the spring, the designer is gearing up to release her next line, “Origin Story,” a collection paying homage to her familial history. Richards closed this first chapter of her fashion career by presenting her latest designs — a line of clothing she calls “888” — at Boston Fashion Week’s sustainability showcase in October 2023.
“I really like to put all of me and sprinkle my love into my designs,” Richards, 24, said. “So, it just takes a while, and you have to be okay with things not turning out the way you thought they would or things changing as you go along. I usually just find my inspiration through people.”
Raised in Belfast, Maine, with a high school graduating class of 90 students, Richards always knew she wanted to design clothes. With parents who are both teachers and an artistic younger brother, she was surrounded by a family supportive of her dreams. When Richards and her mother looked for colleges with foundational fashion programs in the area, they came across Lasell University in Newton—from which she graduated in 2021 with a degree in fashion design. Now, she’s making her mark on the region’s fashion scene with fresh, fun and ethical designs.
The Scope sat down with Richard to discuss the running of a small business, participating in Boston Fashion Week—and what inspires her as a designer. The following conversation has been edited for clarity.
Can you tell me a little more about why you started your brand?
It kind of goes back to my high school experience. I have always loved fashion since I was little and played online fashion games and do all of that. In high school, I started to dress differently. I started to dress more “fashionable,” as fashionable as you can be in high school. I really got made fun of and I felt very very different. I used fashion as a way to express how I was feeling but it wasn’t well received, and it wasn’t reciprocated so I just stopped. I started wearing sweatshirts and stuff to school. I stopped shopping. When I got to college I really said “Wow, I don’t want people to feel that way.” So, my whole, I guess you could say brand mission, is to help the wearer feel confident enough that even when they are faced with people like the people I faced in high school, they still feel good about themselves.
How did it feel to showcase your designs at Boston Fashion Week last October?
It was really cool. I really liked the space that we were in. It was a very brief runway section. I only had five designs. Some of the other designers had a little bit less than that, but it was really the afterward part that made me feel good. It was kind of like a meet and greet, so people were able to go around and chat with me, chat with my models and kind of see my designs up close and personal.
What’s the story behind the collection you presented at that showcase?
So, my most recent collection is called “888.” [The number] 888 is an angel number that represents balance. I really wanted to focus on light and dark colors within the collection, but also having masculine and feminine aspects as well. So really, just merging everything together. I wanted to really push the message that — by having an androgynous collection merging light and dark, masculine and feminine — at the end of the day, we’re all the same. That goes along with my brand message of no matter who you are, what you think, what you believe, what you look like, at the end of the day we’re all the same.
How do you get yourself in the headspace to think of concepts like “888” and “Origin Story?”
It can actually be really challenging. “888” was my first collection post-grad. It was very freeing without having the restraints from college professors, like “oh, you need a skirt and top, or it needs to have certain aspects.” It also made it more challenging because we didn’t really have a guideline to follow. I was sitting with this one for a while. I was kind of toying with it, like, okay, I could go one way. I could go the other way. How do I mesh everything together to get my message across?
Sustainability was an important part of the showcase. What role does it play for your brand overall?
To me, sustainability is really important because we need to take care of where we are. We need to take care of the earth. We need to realize that we have the responsibility to help maintain where we are. I think that that’s really important and I think that a lot of people don’t understand that even some small things that they do can have a really big impact.
As a fashion designer, how do you promote sustainability in the industry?
I think I try doing things as sustainable as possible. Like when I design, I usually get only as much fabric as I need to create that one piece. If I get an order, then I just repurchase as much fabric as I need to make that piece. I reuse the scraps, or if I do end up having leftover fabric I use that for another project, whether that’s for myself, the collection, whatever that may be. Actually, in “888,” I made a whole look that was stuffed and quilted with all of the scraps from all of the looks. So, just being really mindful of how much you’re using and how much you’re getting, but also how you’re taking care of it or using it in another way.
How do you feel about the growing distribution of fast fashion?
I think it’s sad. I understand why, because people want things quickly. They want things cheap. People want to get stuff now now now because of the instant satisfaction. But in the long term, it’s so harmful. And it’s harmful not only to small designers who take the time and need to charge things a little bit higher just to make up for what we had to pay, but also so harmful for the earth.
As a fashion designer running your own company, what has surprised you about the business side of this industry?
How much things cost. I learned when I went through my senior collection that fabric is expensive but doing it on my own when I have an apartment to pay for and bills, it’s even more expensive. It makes things take a lot longer, but also, I was shocked how much I had to charge to make up for what I paid. So, it’s a big struggle especially being a small business and especially because with fast fashion people want things cheap. Handmade stuff doesn’t always come cheap, so that’s hard. Also the social media aspect of posting, posting, posting and getting two followers. It can be pretty discouraging on the other end, but you just have to stick with it and know that you have a message you are meant to do.
Could you tell me a little bit about what’s next for you, such as your newest collection?
“Origin Story” is a very hard collection for me, even harder than “888” which I wasn’t expecting. Because I put so much of myself into my collection, Origin has been very challenging. I’m taking some old pictures of my family from when I was younger. It’s kind of hard because this collection means a lot. My dad was recently diagnosed with cancer. My grandparents are in their 90s and they just mean so much to me that it’s this unwritten pressure that you need to represent them well, which I know is a pressure I’m only putting on myself. So, it’s going to take a little bit of extra time to get them there.
To learn more about Hannah Richards, H.E.R. and the upcoming “Origin Story” collection, visit www.herfashioninc.com.