Launched by siblings, inspired by a New England seaside destination, with a product that’s produced responsibly with careful attention to quality. Sound familiar? If Harding Lane were a person, it just might be Dudley Stephens’ BFF. So we were beyond excited to team up to create limited edition hats for grown-ups and kids, featuring our signature Dudley green pineapple. We talked to Harding Lane co-founders Sarah and Steve Gifford about their design process, and what it’s like to work together as siblings (a topic familiar to Lauren and Kaki!).
Tell us about the OG Harding Lane, your summer home.
Harding Lane is the street in Chatham, MA where our family's summer place is. It hasn't changed much in 100 years (for better or for worse!), which as adults we now appreciate. We first had the idea to start a company in Chatham, so we wanted to pay homage to the house by calling the company Harding Lane. We also wanted the company and the products we made to encompass that feeling of summer, since summers in Chatham had meant so much to us over the years. The goal was to make sure that when a customer put on one of our hats, they were immediately transported to that summer place they loved too. We also wanted to protect our summer home from over development, which inspired us to start a company that not only made well-made products, but also gave back (we give a % of annual profits to a land trust that protects over 27,000 acres of land in Massachusetts).
What's the best compliment you've received from a customer?
"Best fitting hat I own." It usually has to do with the fit and durability, which we were sticklers about when we made the first samples back in 2009. Steve was always buying these great hats, but they were way too shallow. So HL hats are made to be a deeper fit, which everyone really loves. One of the bartenders at Cisco Brewers a number of years ago told us that our custom hats for them were known as the "crack hats,” since they sold so quickly whenever they hit the shelves. We'll take it!
As sisters and co-founders we're often asked what it's like for us to work together. So we'll ask you, too!
In the beginning it definitely took a little time to separate the siblings aspect from our work when an issue came up; it needed to be about two co-owners having a discussion that was maybe frustrating, instead of two siblings. But that quickly was figured out, and now it's just basically running a company with your best friend and someone who you trust 100%. We've heard so many stories of co-owners having trust issues or a falling out, and feel lucky that we know something like that would never happen between us. We're always there to support each other, and more importantly, make each other laugh. We started the company when we were pretty young, so it's been pretty crazy basically growing up running this thing together.
How do you get ideas for your designs, and what’s unique about your design/production process?
In the beginning, it was about picking logos inspired by Cape Cod and New England. The Striped Bass, Seagull, Crab and Bufflehead Duck were our first four hats, all of them very specific wildlife to Chatham. We've since seriously expanded the design offering to include non-animal logos, but most of them are still all about New England. We hired our friend, Nina, a couple of years ago to be our Creative Director. She and I work really well together and have had the best time putting the last few years' collections together, and I have to give her credit for all of the recent collections we've done because it's been all her.
HL has also worked with the same hat manufacturer for the last 10 years, and they are extremely strict about fair labor, social accountability and pro-environmental practices—and that always makes us extremely proud to promote that aspect of our production process.
What's it like for you when you see someone out and about in one of your hats?
It's the best feeling! Most of the time we're hunkered down at our offices doing day-to-day work, so when we're out and actually see someone wearing a hat, it's a total affirmation for what we're doing. And after 10 years, it never gets old. It's all we can do to not go up to the person and say, "Thank you for supporting the cause!" For the customer's sake, most of the time we restrain ourselves from doing that. ;)