Cactus Flower: Hillary Justin
Is anything better than the perfect pair of vintage 501s? We didn’t think so, until Hillary Justin had the brilliant idea of combining her passion for perfectly aged denim with Western-flavored chain-stitch embroidery. The result was Bliss And Mischief, an instantly iconic line of hand-picked, classic pieces and reworked vintage fabrics (think denim, army jackets, flight suits and bandanas), many with the label’s signature hand-stitched embroidery. Hillary was kind enough to share her unique vision and inspirations for the line -- and even the secrets to finding the best pair of vintage jeans.
First things first! We are obsessed with the craftsmanship and passion behind your line. What’s the concept behind Bliss And Mischief, and how did it start?
Bliss And Mischief started with my desire to indulge in beautifully made pieces that would become amazing vintage someday: pieces you love, save and pass down. From there, I didn’t overthink it -- I just started with all the things I’m always drawn to, like vintage Western Wear, the desert, indigo textiles, vintage denim and army jackets, and chain-stitch embroidery. I also really wanted the collection to feel modern, so that meant keeping the color palette elevated and the design references simplified.
What’s your design process?
It usually starts with random little thoughts or things I’m drawn to that I write down in my phone. I look through old family photos, snap pictures of color palettes I see out in the world, and go through my vintage pieces. Then I combine those elements on an inspiration board and start sketching. I’m lucky to work hands-on with my manufacturers and embroiderers here in LA throughout the development process to see all those random thoughts come to life!
What were your inspirations for the fall collection?
My inspirations tend to be a mash-up that turns into a narrative at the end. For Fall, one starting point was an amazing photo of my mom, standing near a river, from the ’70s -- it inspired my color palette and the nods to that decade. I also looked to quilt patterns from the late 1800s for embroidery motifs. In fact, my Wind of Plains denim is actually patched with authentic vintage calico quilt pieces from the early 1900s.
Do you have a daily uniform?
This is maybe not a shocker, but my daily uniform almost always includes vintage denim (often of the embroidered variety) and a white vintage t-shirt. I’ll slip on my Beatrice Valenzuela slides if I’m grabbing coffee or working in the studio, and throw on my Maryam Nassir Zadeh Roberta heels if I’m meeting friends for dinner.
Since you are a connoisseur … please tell us your secrets to finding the perfect pair of vintage jeans!
I always say the first thing to look out for is the wash and ask yourself if you prefer a light, medium or dark wash -- it really helps you eliminate options when you’re going through a large amount of denim. I love a jean with good “highs and lows,” meaning you can see where the denim color has faded out over time around the pockets, at the knees, etc. To find a good fit, it’s best to disregard the label on vintage since it’s usually not accurate, especially for modern sizing. If you can’t try the jeans on, just measure the waistband and subtract 2” to find your modern size. And remember, you can always size up for a slouchy fit -- it’s good to have both fit options in your rotation!
You live in LA. What are some of your favorite spots to eat, hang and shop?
For eats: Sqirl is consistently delicious and worth the wait. For hangs: I love to wander around the Huntington Gardens (hello, roses and cacti!), catch a movie outdoors at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery or go to the Hermosillo for a beer with friends. For shopping: The Rose Bowl Flea Market tops my list, and even though it’s only twice a year, the Echo Park Craft Fair is basically everything I love under one roof.
What are your holy-grail thrift pieces?
Usually my favorite finds are my most recent ones! A few pieces that stand out over time are a pair of very old hand-patched Wranglers, a group of perfectly worn Japanese boro kimonos, and a late 1800s French indigo farmer’s coat that actually functions like the most perfect baby-doll dress.
Name a favorite recent discovery.
I’m pretty obsessed with Eric Trine’s Rod and Weave chair that I had done in the most perfect salmon pink (and it just happens to match my website). I’m also really into this 1940s handbag with cross-stitched roses and butterflies that I got from the Pickwick Vintage show the other weekend. It’s very romantic and ladylike, which is a vibe I’m really into right now.
Any favorite Instagram accounts?
I love my friend Kristen’s account for her floral design company @mooncanyon. She has such gorgeous sense of color and composition that I find completely inspiring. Another recent favorite is @thefamilyacid, which is an epic collection of one family’s 40+ years of slide photography. The double exposures are particularly hypnotic.
What’s on your wishlist for fall?
I would love to treat myself to another Ryan Roche sweater -- her pieces are perfect with denim! My best friend Roman has the most gorgeous fine jewelry line, Santi Rom, and I’m hoping to pick up pair of his gold and rose-cut diamond cluster earrings -- I think I’d wear them with everything.
What’s next for Bliss And Mischief? Any exciting upcoming projects you can share?
I’m headed to Paris and London next month to take appointments for my Spring ’16 line, so I’m very excited for that. I can’t wait to introduce more of the world to Bliss And Mischief, eat croissants, go to museums, wander around the parks and of course do some vintage shopping!
Interviewed and edited by Kat Johnson
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