3 Fashion Designers on How Their Fathers Influenced Their Style

Ask women’s wear designers the origin of their affair with fashion, and chances are the story turns, sooner or later, to their mothers. Less often, however, will they reference their fathers. With Father’s Day this weekend, T asked three designers to reflect on their dads — a traditional gaucho, a denim maverick and a Savile Row regular among them.

Article by Kiki Georgiou

Gabriela Hearst and her son, Jack. Photography by Emiliano Granado.
From left: Julio “Lalo” Eduardo Perezutti; Perezutti with his daughter, Gabriela Hearst.

My dad had taste. It was gaucho, traditional and rustic. His gaucho outfit would consist of gaucho pants, riding boots, a button-down shirt, a faja — which is a woven belt with different patterns that you roll around your waist — and on top of that a big leather belt with these big silver rastras featuring the sign of your farm or your initials. He’d always wear a silk handkerchief. If he had a gaucho event to attend he’d wear a short blazer with a Mao-type collar and silver buttons. For perspective, during national holidays in Uruguay for the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha, the day of the gauchos, they used a picture of my dad in every public school for the kids to draw! When he came to New York he liked the idea of walking around Madison Avenue in this huge poncho. He liked his clothes. He didn’t have a lot of them but with the ones that he had he was very precious.

I see his style in my designs because I like uniforms. I think having grown up with a man with such a specific look and ideas of what elegance was makes me think of that all the time. There’s an ease in the way he dressed, nothing calling too much attention but enough detail for it to be interesting.

I inherited all his rastra belts, we divided them in half with my brother, and his ponchos. His ponchos would take a year to be knitted by these women in Salta, Argentina — it’s the nice thing that you do for yourself when you’re older and you’ve made a bit of money. Some people buy a Rolex, others buy a poncho! I have five or six and they’re pretty large. I want to frame them one day, but I never get around to it. I need a big wall. I inherited Santa Isabel, the ranch, when he passed away in 2011. Its sign is a heart, like an inverted heart, and when I moved to New York 17 years ago I actually had it tattooed on the inside of my wrist where we both have this little genetic bump. It helps me to always remember where I came from.

From left: Pierre and Olympia Le-Tan when she was a girl; father and daughter recently.

Olympia Le-Tan

I grew up watching my father draw, last minute and into the night, which is probably why I work like that too. I was surrounded by all his beautiful books, drawings and objects which definitely helped me develop my taste and my sense of style. It was his amazing book collection that first inspired me to make my book clutches, and his illustrations are printed all over my ready-to-wear.

When I was small my father was always wearing suits. The most casual that he could be was a Lacoste polo shirt in the summer — he’s become more casual now. He would go to Anderson & Sheppard on Savile Row to have them tailor-made. He would always start having a suit made and he would pick it up maybe three or five years later! He’d order it at one point and then he’d be broke so he had to wait to get a big job to pick up his suit.

He’d get his shirts at Hilditch & Key on Jermyn Street too and he used to sleep in a nightshirt, mainly blue striped, that he’d also get from there. I always used to ask my mom, “Why does Dad have a nightdress?” I remember going with him to the tailor and looking at the fabrics. I liked it, it seemed like something from another century, but I could not understand why it would take so long to have something made.

He gave me a few shirts that he got from Charvet in Paris when he was 20, in 1970, some of which I gave to my boyfriend at the time. I kept some but they’re probably dead now, they were so worn. Now I’m drawn to Harris tweed and seersucker more than silks. He taught me about nice fabrics and traditional tailoring and he always seems to know everything — the best tweed and the best cotton, so I learn from him.

From left: Chloe and Tony Lonsdale when she was a girl; father and daughter more recently.

Chloe Lonsdale of MiH Jeans

Even from the age of 5 or 6 years old, my dad’s approach to dressing was a very strong visual in my mind. Denim was his uniform — but there’s more sensitivity to it than that. Clothes lived with him; they wore, faded, got washed. He had jeans for cutting wood, cutoffs for sailing, jeans for smart occasions. Jeans found their way into any occasion. Nothing was ever disposable in my father’s life, whether it was an old cap that he had for years and he’d keep safe, or T-shirts he would always wash and press and keep together. It was how he wore them — sun-faded, treasured, respected — but a uniform, as well. My Dad still has the pairs he had 40 years ago!

My father was a slim man so me and my sisters would wear his jeans to school with rolled-up hems. That age (I was around 14) really sticks in my mind as a turning point, the realisation of what a strong identity his style had and how much it had permeated me without me even realising. I’m only comfortable when I’m wearing jeans and when I’m wearing blue. I don’t wear black. I look back and everything in my childhood is blue! My mother, sweetly, kept all our clothes and they’re all blue and white apart from maybe one or two little faded yellow T-shirts and yellow, apart from blue, is one of my favourite colours. I was a blue girl, even all my bed linens were blue with tiny little dots. (Those same sheets are on my son’s bed now.)

My parents would throw this big party every year, and my father would have the most amazing pair of really straight-hipped vintage jeans (what our MiH Marrakech jeans are based on) with a soft faded Maverick denim shirt — which I still have in my wardrobe. He’d wear a leather belt and bare feet. This was the late ’80s/early ’90s but he just looked cool walking across the lawn to sort out the bouncy castle.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.