Lisa Hackwith is the founder of Hackwith Design House: an American made clothing label with a unique model—every Monday, they release a limited-edition design, producing less than 25 of each piece. Lisa has a lovely aesthetic (check out her Instagram) and a great approach to starting before you’re ready. I’m particularly into her philosophy about not getting hung up on good ideas, instead making room for the best ones.
“Prior to launching Hackwith Design House, I had been sewing at home for almost three years. I was making a little bit of money, but not enough to justify all the work I was putting in. There came a point when I needed to decide how I was going to move forward—I didn’t know if I should go work for a designer, or keep doing what I was doing. I set up interviews with people to get advice, and two of the three said I should get experience elsewhere. One person told me to stick to what I was doing, and I ended up going with that. My husband and I wanted to stay in Minnesota to try and figure things out. I thought, let’s see if we can make this limited-edition model work. I really knew the ins and outs of my business because I’d done every little part of it myself. After sewing for myself for so long, I wanted to create a different work environment for my seamstresses that didn’t have them working from the same patterns on repeat. I knew I couldn’t do the same thing over and over and didn’t want anyone else to have to do that either. The website launched in September 2013 and I had no idea if it would work—I hadn’t seen a model like this done successfully. I started with a new release every Monday, then gradually added more pieces when we started to take off. I ended up working 80 to 90 hours a week, and was literally at a breaking point by the time I hired someone. I think of that period as the dark time!
The early days are a bit of a blur, and sometimes I think, ‘Man—what did keep me going?’ I think a lot of it had to do with having parents who told me I could do anything, and my husband who has always believed in me. I was also super passionate about what I was doing, and new designs would give me fuel to keep going. I had this wonderful art professor in college who taught me that bad work leads to the good work, which has always stuck with me. I had this mantra of, ‘Just keep working, it doesn’t need to be perfect.’ I might produce 10 bad things but the 11th might be the good thing.
I didn’t have that pressure to get it right straightaway, and I think that’s what gets people stuck and prevents them from starting at all.
I feel really lucky to have my business partner Erin, who was a friend of mine before we started working together. It’s particularly helpful to have someone to make judgment calls with, like whether we want to collaborate with someone or not. Sometimes we’ll walk away from a meeting being like, ‘Something felt weird.’ We can usually pin-point something after talking through it. But we’re learning as we go—sometimes we don’t go with our gut and later we’ll be like, ‘We knew something was up, why didn’t we listen to ourselves?’ You’re almost always right, even if it’s just a little something, and you become more used to recognizing it. Sometimes you’ll connect with people on a level you can’t really explain, then with others you don’t have that knee-jerk reaction. We’ve learned what to look for—often you can tell within the first few emails whether a collaboration is going to go smoothly. There’s this quote that Erin says all the time:
Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.
It’s similar to the philosophy my art professor had. For example, we launched our swimwear line in January 2015. The idea came about in December 2014, when I was planning on adding swim to our limited edition model. A month before it was set to launch, I decided that swimwear deserved its own line. We only had a month, which was crazy, but it was one of those things where we knew it wasn’t going to be perfect and we were OK with that. We launched a basic swimwear line in one month, and have spent the last year or so improving it. But it launched on the premise that we knew it would get better, and we had to be open to the process of getting it up to our standard.
You can always learn, grow and improve. Erin and I have a concept meeting every week. Before we started doing it, the idea seemed impossible—we had so much to do and had no idea how we were going to fit it in. Sometimes it’s only an hour, sometimes it’s four hours, but it’s really good to set aside that time to look at the big picture and think about where we want to be in five years.
You don’t need to have the answers to everything, but you can start thinking about it and things naturally evolve from there.
I think it helps a lot to celebrate the small accomplishments. To always be moving forward is exhausting. Reflecting on what you’ve achieved helps you to see the bigger picture and deal with the day-to-day minutiae. Give yourself a little time to be happy before you have to move onto the next thing.”
As told to Amy Woodside, February 2015