Clothes minded Hilton Hollis creates classics with a twist

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Hilton Hollis

Clothes minded Hilton Hollis creates classics with a twist

By Linda Miller

Fashion designer Hilton Hollis said he listens to women and takes to heart their needs as he travels around the country making personal appearances at the boutiques that sell his clothes.

They asked for tops with pockets. Done. How about pants that offer the same comfort as yoga styles but with sophistication? He designed a pair with panels that trim and elongate legs. They’re flattering and can be worn almost anywhere.

“I really want to make people feel good,” Hollis said. “I listen to women.”

It’s not unusual for women to send him a note saying his clothes make them feel like a million bucks. The husband of a client shared with him that he changed his wife’s life.

“The payoff is so much bigger than a monetary payoff,” he said during a visit to R Meyers in Nichols Hills Plaza where he was showing his fall collection.

He describes his clothes as classics with a twist.

“I like the whole idea of classics with subtle nuances.”

To add interest, he plays with texture, pattern and fabric, and often mixes it up. Detail is in every piece – stitching, seams, panels, colorful linings — and the clothes look as beautiful on the inside as the outside. He likes that little surprise.

“Clothes with soul,” he said.

And women aren’t shy about telling him they immediately feel different when they slip into one of his dresses or jackets. “That’s pretty awesome,” he said.

Like most women, his customers, no matter what they’re wearing, want to be comfortable. Stretch is always important. “It’s a little thing that makes a big difference.”

His clothes not only look good on the body, they feel good to the touch. He buys fabric from the same mills as Valentino and Oscar de la Renta, but his prices are much better with jackets starting at $495, blouses about $255 and pants, $345.

After two visits to Oklahoma City, Hollis has a good feel for what women here like.

“Oklahoma women definitely like to dress,” he said. They’re laid back like women in the south. They appreciate quality and they’re not afraid to get dressed up.”

Hollis was born in Natchez, Miss., and grew up on a farm in Carthage. At an early age he watched his grandmother sew and make hand-loomed quilts.

“Her friends would come over and I would watch her sew,” he said. “I was enamored by that.”

He started sewing at six, and learned how to cross stitch and candlewick. His said his grandmother was the most creative person in his life. She cooked, worked in the garden and wrote poems. She was the Martha Stewart of her day.

“She was such a dedicated worker and just a good honest person who instilled good energy and liked to give it back,” he said.

Hollis feels blessed to be doing what he loves, and he believes that God gives peoples talents and it’s up to them to embrace that talent and run with it.

That’s what he has done, though he didn’t realize it was possible when he was growing up on the farm. His first job was at a store in Jackson, Miss., and he was encouraged by the owner who wrote a recommendation for him to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

“He saw something in me that I couldn’t even see in myself,” Hollis said.

He worked for Dana Buchman and John Bartlett before creating the original concept for Reba McEntire’s clothing line at Dillard’s. He was responsible for all aspects and met regularly with McEntire who was very involved.

“It was a lot of work but so much fun,” he said. “It was my first opportunity to create something from the ground up and watch it thrive.”

Hollis left Reba in June 2005 to start his own line, which is now in about 30 stores.

“I feel like we’re getting in the stores that will be with us for a lifetime,” he said.
With jackets, dresses, pants and tops, his is a lifestyle collection.

“If a woman gets it, she can pretty much wear my clothes every day,” he said.

Now that his women’s collection is rocking along, Hollis is ready to launch a new menswear line that’s travel inspired.

No doubt his constant jaunting across the country to visit with customers played into that decision. Men want clothes that are comfortable, too.

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