WWD – The story of how Rooney Mara added “fashion designer” to her résumé is not unlike that of many who spot a hole in the market and aim to fill it: she couldn’t find what she wanted to wear in stores, and, believing others might feel the same, set out to create it herself.
A longtime vegan, Mara was struggling to find clothing that was both animal-free and at a quality level above fast-fashion.
“I’ve always loved Stella [McCartney] and I’ve worn Stella for stuff, but other than Stella there really aren’t many,” Mara says over the phone from Los Angeles. “In the last few years there have been a few other places that have popped up like Susi Studio, who makes a lot of vegan shoes, and Good Guys Don’t Wear Leather. I know a lot of them because I don’t wear or buy leather anymore, so I had to search around. But it wasn’t really exactly what I was looking for, which was how this thing sprang about. I had a need and I felt like there was a sort of gap in the market.”
Born from that was Hiraeth, a line of vegan and ethically made clothing, footwear and accessories, priced between $160 and $1,500, that Mara founded with close friends Chrys Wong and Sara Schloat. Launched this past February, the line has expanded into Barneys this August, with plans for further growth on the horizon.
“I’ve known Sara since I was little; we grew up in the same town and went to school together and have always loved fashion together,” Mara says. “We had been talking about doing something like this for awhile.” She and Wong, a former wardrobe consultant for Barneys, met around seven years ago.
“That’s how this conversation started; if we’re searching for that wardrobe we might as well make that wardrobe, and maybe sharing that wardrobe for people,” Wong says.
The line is inspired by Mara’s collection of vintage clothing, Schloat explains. “Rooney has this amazing vintage wardrobe full of vintage dresses, so a lot of this is coming out of her taste through the years,” she says. “Which goes back to this concept of our name, which is a Welsh word for a homesickness and a nostalgia for home. So it’s sort of all interrelated.”
Wong credits her experience working in department stores with giving her the insight to the customer’s interest in a higher-end vegan line.
“Over the years, you can slowly see that people are looking for clothing that is not leather, not fur, and not wool. But they like a look — they’re looking for quality items and beautiful clothes to start with,” she says. “More and more, I hear the resistance from people: ‘I love this fur, but I don’t feel comfortable wearing animal skin.’ Or, ‘I love this leather jacket but it seems so extravagant to be wearing this calf leather that comes from a young cow.’ All those things sort of culminated and no matter if you’re vegan or not, there are a lot of people looking for alternatives to animal-made clothing.”
Hiraeth also prioritizes transparency of their production, sharing photos of their Los Angeles factory on Instagram and vowing to keep things domestically produced, even as they grow.
“I wanted to make things that were vegan and ‘cruelty-free’ for animals and I didn’t want to then bring about cruelty to any other person,” Mara says. “Would it be much cheaper then for us to make our clothes farther away? Yes, but this provided us a chance to be more hands-on and to know the people who are making our clothes and know that there is integrity, and that people were making living wages off of it.”
“Production is done all in Los Angeles, so we are thinking we will grow out production with our small factories; they’re growing with us,” Wong says. “We’ll keep our production domestic and as close as possible.”
Schloat cites their pink corduroy suit, made from English cotton, as her favorite pieces, while Wong’s go-tos are the leather items.
“I wore a lot of leather in my previous life and the leather we are making is just as beautiful, if not more practical and more durable and more sort of cool,” she says.
Mara says she gets the most wear out of their handmade motorcycle boot, as well as the leather trousers.
“It really adds a sense of value to the clothing and the accessories, when you know the kind of craftsmanship and talent and skill that went into making each piece,” she says. “It’s not like we just ship it off to some unknown country; we’re actually seeing people, and we understand what it takes to be able to make a beautiful shoe.”