New York Bound-Mary Hester Hill

FSF scholar, Auburn University senior, apparel design major, vintage redesigner and bridal aficionado Mary Hester Hill is a Southern Belle with big dreams – beautiful, big dreams, that is. With a conservative upbringing laced with pearls, pink azaleas and Lily Pulitzer prints, Mary embraces femininity in both her personal style and design approach, and is making it her mission to design clothing that brings out the “lady” in a woman. This summer, over 50 FSF scholars will be coming to New York City to intern at some of the world’s top fashion companies – and Mary is one of them. With an internship position secured at Macy’s private label, Mary’s Southern charm and style will grace Fashion Avenue, and just like refreshing Mint Julep, will take the edge off us New Yorkers’ urban panache.

FOF: Tell us about yourself and your exciting work in vintage and bridal.

MHH: Since last fall, I have been working with Olive, a small custom bridal designer, and Paisley Umbrella, a bridal boutique, both owned by Katriesa Raines in Atlanta, GA. I am Olive’s Social Media Director – I write Olive’s blog and manage Olive and Paisley Umbrella’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. I also do some graphic design for Olive and Paisley Umbrella. I have also been a vintage redesigner for Sydney’s Consignment Boutique in Auburn, AL since summer 2010. As of this semester, I work for a florist in Auburn and have enjoyed finding new ways to express my creativity through nature.

FOF: That all sounds wonderful! When did you receive the FSF scholarship and what will you be using the funding for?

MHH: I received the YMA FSF scholarship in January 2011 and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity. Because of this scholarship, I will be interning in New York City for Macy’s private label design this summer. When I return to Auburn in the fall, I will still have another year of school and another internship left to graduate, but I am so happy to be mentored by YMA and cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me!

FOF: What inspired you to pursue fashion? When and what was your “aha” moment?

MHH: As I write this today, I sit in my childhood bedroom and look around at piles of Vogue and In Style, boxes of pages torn out of magazines, and way too much memory on my laptop occupied by pictures of anything and everything that inspires me in some way. I guess I’m too sentimental, because I have been compiling these things since middle school and I can’t force myself to delete or throw away ANYTHING! In middle school, I was obsessed with interiors and constantly drew pictures of rooms.

But, I remember one day sitting in my upstairs bedroom as a high school freshman, flipping through a magazine and thinking, “I could do that.” I immediately started sketching evening dresses and saving every wedding gown on the Internet that caught my fancy. To me, it’s never been about “designing clothes” but creating a picture of true beauty in whatever way possible.

FOF: What and who have been your fashion influences throughout your life and how has being from the South affected your style, if at all, or do you feel like you’ve navigated away from it?

MHH: This is my favorite question! I could probably write a book about this, so I”ll try to get to the point. Where, what and who I come from have EVERYTHING to do with who I am today as a person and as a designer. Not only coming from the South and the state of Georgia, but coming from the city of Augusta has exposed me to what I think is the definition of Southern style. Augusta is a place where pearls, preppy and pink never go out of style. It’s home to The Masters, the most prestigious tournament in the world…In addition to growing up in Augusta, my parents and grandparents have had a lot of influence on me. They are all Southern born and were raised in small Georgia towns. They inspired me to listen to Frank Sinatra, to look up to Princess Diana, and follow my biggest dreams from a very young age. From them comes my appreciation for timeless beauty and the life of a true lady.

FOF: What type of fashion are you most passionate about?

MHH: I am most passionate about women’s ready-to-wear, evening and bridal. I love vintage, but what I love most is creating new clothing that is reminiscent of yesterday.

FOF: Who are your icons?

MHH: Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Zooey Deschanel, and Walt Disney.

FOF: If you could design for anyone, who would it be? What’s your dream career?

MHH: It’s hard to give just one answer to that question, but I have always dreamed of designing for Oscar de la Renta because I admire his timeless styles, clean lines, and bold use of color.

FOF: What is it like working in fashion social media? That’s very impressive that you are the director of social media for Olive’s at such a young age.

MHH: I love working with social media! I’m 22, so of course, I’m very accustomed to Facebook, Twitter and blogs. I love when there is good response to a post. I love being creative with blog posts and learning to express myself through words and style.

FOF: What is it like working in both fashion design and fashion media?

MHH: I love it! I took a class  in school a couple of years ago that taught a lot about Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and it was one of my favorite classes that I have taken so far. I love working on the computer and find it the most enjoyable way for me to release my creative energy, but I also love creating actual clothing and seeing my designs and ideas come to life.

FOF: Describe your process for vintage redesign. What type of vintage pieces do you typically work with?

MHH: I like to take vintage pieces and create them into a piece that is still obviously vintage, but wearable today. To me, making a vintage piece into a completely modern piece takes the value and meaning out of the garment. My process is just to tweak the original garment into something more appealing, whether that be making a dress into a completely different skirt and top, or just shortening it. Doing something as simple as changing the hemline can completely change the feel of a garment. The hardest part about vintage redesign for me is to create something modern out of a vintage style that I already love. I’m not one to follow trends wholeheartedly and wear everything that is “in.” I wear and design what I like, and utilize the trends that coincide with my style. So when redesigning vintage, I look at a dress and see a beautiful silhouette that I don’t really want to change…but others see an outdated piece of clothing. Sometimes, it takes a lot for me to cut up a dress that is so reminiscent of a certain decade to make it fit into this decade.

FOF: Do you have any instilled beliefs or anecdotes when it comes to fashion design?

MHH: I firmly believe in creating what you love. Every person has a different look, style and aesthetic taste. Following trends can be fun, but who wants to be just like everyone else? Find your own style, and follow your heart.

FOF: What is your design philosophy or approach?

MHH: I love vintage silhouettes, feminine details and clean lines. I was raised in a Southern “ladylike” mindset and design similarly. I look to enhance women’s beauty by creating styles that make a girl or woman of any age stand taller and feel confident while appearing polished and modest.

FOF: What is your ultimate goal as a designer?

MHH: I have loved creating since as long as I can remember, and that’s what I want to do: create. Bridal is something I am very passionate about: it is that that got interested in apparel and it is still the most inspiring and personal field of fashion to me. I would love to stay in the bridal field, but at this point in my life (with another year of school and two internships ahead of me), it’s hard to say exactly where I want to be in the next 10 or even five years. I am still learning so much about the fashion world, and I know I will grow a lot in the time I have until I graduate. But as an ULTIMATE goal, I want to create beautiful clothes that bring out the “lady” in a woman.

FOF: What are you looking forward to in your internship at Macy’s private label?

MHH: I’m most looking forward to learning first hand about the fashion design process for such a big company. I have learned so much in school, and by talking to people who work in the industry, but I know it will be completely different to finally experience it first hand. I am also looking forward to expanding my knowledge of design and business and where that growth will lead me as I near graduation and finding a job.

FOF: What are you looking forward to doing and seeing in the Big City this summer?

MHH: I have been to New York numerous times, but I cannot wait to be living there on my own for two months. I have no clue what to expect, but I hope to create memories and friendships that will last a lot longer than just a summer.

FOF: Do you have any advice for other students seeking internships and careers in fashion?

MHH: Take advantage of every opportunity! Apply for a lot of scholarships, and when searching for an internship, shoot for the stars. Find a way to apply everywhere you can think of. It can be a very stressful and tiring process, but I promise it will be rewarding if you don’t hold back.



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