Katherine McMillan is the co-founder (with her husband, Mac) of Pierrepont Hicks and NorthernGrade, the first US-made pop up market. She recently moved back to New York after a stint in Minnesota and has been an instrumental supporter of the American-made movement…

I discovered Pierrepont Hicks a few years ago and fell in love with the passion and meaning behind the brand – it was incredibly inspiring to see local entrepreneurs use their previous experience to build a thoughtful business and retail brand. Today, I’m still in awe of the business Katherine and Mac are building and am grateful for the opportunity to learn more about the inspiration and motivation behind the brand… Thanks, Katherine, for taking the time to share your story!

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

The people in my Instagram feed inspire me. My sister Helen, my daughters. Freunde von FreundenAnd of course my city: New York.

WHAT MADE YOU START YOUR LINE?
for men: We loved the wool ties we saw in Scotland when we got married and I knew I wanted to make some with a twist. We started with a lot of two-tones with wool and silks.

for women: A creative urge while pregnant and some missing pieces out there in the market for women like me.

WHO DO YOU DESIGN FOR?

Men and women who have a classic sensibility but like to push the limits a bit.

WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR LINE?

I design for women who are athletic, thoughtful shoppers, trendsetters, sophisticated and smart. My shoes we make with Rancourt most exemplify this. I love a chukka and Rancourt does the best one out there.

pierrepont-hicks-inspiration-boards

WHAT DRIVES YOU?

I think we all have a natural need for purpose each day. I don’t know I just wake up and get excited about projects we are working on. I love to get really creative and hang out at my factory designing ties… which is probably weird since I am a woman. I mean I got excited about decorating my Christmas tree in a level that may be considered slightly abnormal.

WHAT MAKES YOUR DAY?

When my daughters eat broccoli… or anything green and good for them. It’s a struggle. Okay on the work front I would say my day is made when we get a nice email from a customer about how happy they are with the product. And of course getting flowers is nice.

WHAT ARE YOUR STYLE ESSENTIALS?

A good conditioner. My favorite lip gloss. My Mason Pearson brush. A nice soft tee shirt. Jeans. Boots. And I am never without my wool overcoat these days… it’s chilly!

WHAT IS NEXT?

Northern Grade NYC with GQ. We have some incredible partnerships in the works to head abroad with this thing. I hope it pans out. I am concerned because with any small idea, when you get bigger and have bigger companies involved the word ‘sell-out’ starts getting thrown around. We are never selling out, but we are trying to grow this thing. This means working with bigger brands and sponsors, who are interested in the domestic manufacturing thing, and want to support it. We are not a co-op where we trade selvedge denim for sweaters. We are a business and the ultimate goal is to create a vehicle for USA-made goods to garner visibility on a massive level.

pierrepont-hicks-america

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?

The best thing I have learned this year is to turn off my iPhone from 5pm – 8pm to really be with my kids for dinner, bath and bed time. I think in my late 20s I learned about attention to detail like nurturing relationships with work partners… and then in my 30s I am learning about strategy and long-term planning. I have learned who I want to work with and why… it’s mostly about working with partners who understand how to reciprocate and plan. I love a good communicator. In this day and age there is no excuse for not replying to an email… it’s just good manners.

WHERE DO YOU DESIGN?

In my head. No really I do. I do design at my factory at a huge table in the conference room when it’s go-time. And then other times when I am working at home I just spread out on my bed with old magazines and books. I have a lot of weird, obscure old magazines.

WHERE ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED?
In New York City. And honestly: on Pinterest.
mrs-p-hicks-chukka
WHERE DO YOU MAKE YOUR LINE?

We have factories in New York City, Washington State, Minnesota and Maine.

WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP?

Kaufmann Mercantile. Terrain Shop. Nonchalantmom. Steven Alan. Need Supply Co. Totokaelo.

WHERE DO YOU ESCAPE?

We go to the woods on Pennsylvania and up to New England a lot. My favorite beach is in North Carolina. I love the woods and the beach but in the winter it’s by a roaring fire in the country.

WHY DO YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION?
Because if I did not do something creative I would not be happy.

pierrepont-hicks-london

WHAT MAKES YOUR COLLECTION DIFFERENT?
I think we like to play with colors and themes. We put a lot of care into each item. We don’t roll out 20 ties a season without each style being a labor of love. I don’t really know how to answer that one but I know moving forward we are working on more subtle patterns and classic staples.

WHERE DO YOU MAKE YOUR COLLECTION?

We have factories in New York City, Washington State, Minnesota and Maine.

WHY DO YOU MANUFACTURE IN AMERICA?

In the hopes that we can add to our growing economy. For my kids’ future.

mrs-p-hicks-shoes

WHY IS AMERICAN-MADE IMPORTANT TO YOU?

Quality and convenience. Lots of quality products come from other countries too. It’s more about being a smart consumer.

DOES MANUFACTURING IN AMERICA BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS?

Yes and no. There are a lot of people out there who complain about higher pricing for domestically-manufactured products. I guess they have to ask why they don’t want to pay for the person who made this item to make a good living?  I think it’s good to buy a few things that are well-made and have less stuff. Sure we could make a lot more money if we made stuff in China. It’s just tough for me to think about even considering at this point. I love the people who make our stuff.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER MAKERS?

Take a leap of faith. It’s what life is all about and even if something does not work out, you will have learned from it and that means you’re growing and changing. If we’re stagnant, we’re nothing. Your instincts are usually right.

Use the tools out there. Keeping up with the tech out there can really help. Lumiary is one I use a ton for sales analytics.

mrs-p-hicks-2013Photos courtesy of Katherine McMillan / 1, 4, 5, & 6 via Collin Hughes

Follow Pierrepont Hicks:

What do you think?