LF: What has been your personal journey with fashion and how has it influenced what you do with your brand and its business?
RH: Growing up, my father was in the raw material cashmere business, working with the best manufacturers and cashmere brands in the UK and Europe. Through him, I was exposed to all aspects of the industry, seeing the evolution of the product from raw material to the manufacturing and selling process. This was inevitably the foundation of my interest and appreciation for fashion and style. I started my career in fashion working with small designer brands on both the creative and business development side, working hand in hand with creative directors and designers on branding, marketing and strategy. I thrived in the process and absolutely loved working with other talented individuals to help actualize their vision.
My experiences have helped me fine tune and strengthen my aesthetic awareness, and they have shaped how I envision to grow my own brand. It’s always been a dream of mine to have my own line, but particularly to be working with cashmere. I grew up in the cashmere industry and in a way it’s always guided my personal style. My father built his business off of his long standing personal relationships and that always stuck with me. I have been fortunate to have met and connected with such great people in both the cashmere and fashion side of the business, so it’s a privilege to now be able to collaborate with them through Active Cashmere.
LF: Tell us about your brand’s origin story. How did you decide it was time to launch your own brand?
RH: We launched Active Cashmere originally as a pure technology brand. My brother and I wanted to see how we can enhance the natural qualities of cashmere by creating a more functional cashmere without sacrificing the inherent quality of the material. It was important for us to maintain the integrity and beauty of the product, while adding features that can reinvent the way people can wear cashmere. We launched with a few exclusive collaborations with some of my favorite retailers like Barney’s New York, Isetan in Japan and Bird Brooklyn, as well as a few brands. Throughout this process we also designed and curated our own collection, which we are now selling via wholesale channels as well as directly on our website starting this Fall.
Launching our own brand was always important for us because we would like to bring our global vision for cashmere to fruition. Our goal has been to bring awareness to quality and the notion of creating cashmere that lasts; highlighting both the beneficial features of cashmere as a commodity and fiber, and providing functional characteristics that can create a new perception of cashmere in the luxury market. We felt the time to launch was right at the point when we had built a solid foundation for our product and our technology, as well as a fully developed global network of manufacturers. We stand behind our product from all aspects of quality, function, modern design and sustainability.
LF: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in driving the success of your business? Also, any unfavorable personal qualities you’ve been able to turn into an asset?
RH: The biggest lesson I have learned since launching Active Cashmere is that you really need to remain malleable and be able to constantly adjust to a situation, remaining flexible to evolve the strategy as you grow your business. As a brand, I think it is important to stick to your core values, and at the same time, have the foresight and ability to adapt. Personally, I have learned to put myself out there more and have confidence in my creative abilities. There are times where I doubt myself and can be shy or insecure about my skills. I’ve translated that into just being sincere, modest and transparent with everyone I work with. As I continue to grow our brand and business, I’ve learned to appreciate my own skills and put value behind the opportunities I have to work with people that believe in me and who can help me fine tune and expand my vision.
LF: What’s in the way of real change in the industry right now?
RH: I think adapting to a new way of working is much easier said in theory. Having numerous conversations with colleagues in the industry, everyone believes that change is important and the way people have traditionally worked does not resonate with consumers. For smaller brands to succeed, I think we need support all around from retailers, factories and mills. I think wholesale is still extremely key to a successful small business, but the production and order systems need to adjust. For this to happen, there really needs to be a joint and coordinated effort all across the supply, manufacturing and distribution chain. If those pieces cannot align, then change will be hard to execute. From a financial perspective, the way payment terms are organized and financed also needs to be adjusted if we want smaller businesses to succeed because affordability will be the toughest element of creating more streamlined processes.
LF: What do you hope to contribute to the space with your platform?
RH: I’d love to be able to be part of a new generation of entrepreneurs in the cashmere business who can speak to the new age consumer and appeal to the needs of our fluid and ever evolving lifestyle. As part of CCMI, the leading organization in the cashmere industry, I hope to stay at the forefront of sustainability in cashmere. My long term goal is to continue to educate other brands on cashmere and to help them source responsibility in order to produce the best quality products, while continuing to grow my own brand. What excites me about what I do is that I get to be in a position to continue my father’s legacy in the cashmere business, while creating my own path and presence in the industry.