Spring is in full bloom for fashion plate Hunter Bell (hunterbellnyc.com). With her eponymous brand’s latest collection full of flirty frocks, punchy prints and dreamy silhouettes, this design darling continues to reign supreme.
Designer Hunter Bell sitting pretty in her signature Lawton polka-dot dress. PHOTO BY CODY BESS
Did you always see yourself in the fashion industry? I grew up in the theater watching my mother perform onstage in musicals. My sisters loved being onstage while I was more intrigued with the costume department downstairs in the theater’s basement. I was mesmerized with watching the seamstress create costumes, and I loved the fabrics and trims that occupied the costume room. From a young age I was interested in fashion and would beg my mother to take me out of school to go shopping. Going into college I knew that I wanted to major in design. I actually started out studying interior design before I quickly realized that I wanted to shift my focus to fashion design. In college I moved to NYC during the summers to intern for two designers I really admired: Nanette Lepore and Rebecca Taylor. During my senior-year internship with Rebecca Taylor, I had a pinch-myself moment while at a fitting with Rebecca and Beth [Bugdaycay, her business partner]; the room overlooked a Hudson River sunset, and it was in that moment that I knew I wanted to launch a clothing line one day. In 2003 I moved to New York City after graduating college and worked as an assistant designer for almost three years before launching Hunter Bell in 2006.
Available at Tootsies (tootsies.com), the spring ’21 collection features a selection of breezy dresses, gingham prints and romantic blouses (below). PHOTO BY CODY BESS
What has been the most rewarding thing since launching HB? Watching the brand grow across the United States during COVID was amazing. During the shutdown, my staff and I were scared we would have to close the business, and fortunately we saw growth. I’m super grateful to our brand’s followers who want to see more from us.
Who would you say is your biggest champion? My husband has been by my side since starting this company in my early 20s. There have been so many ups and downs, and he continued to push me to keep going when I felt like giving up. The excitement from my staff members with their passion for the brand drives me continually.
PHOTO BY CODY BESS
What has been the biggest surprise over this past year? High fashion is still relevant despite the pandemic, but the paradigm has shifted to the consumer wearing Hunter Bell to stay-at-home dinner parties versus larger events such as weddings. At the same time, our consumer is wanting more casual items from the brand, so we are having conversations on how to fill this void for women working from home and wanting comfort over anything else.
What is your hope looking forward? Continued growth and expansion in the United States and beyond. Introducing more categories such as accessories and possibly a swim line! I’ve always wanted to introduce this category for our customers.