When you're a model/DJ/all-around "It Girl" like Harley Viera Newton — a regular in the front rows of the biggest designers and behind the decks at the best fashion events — one would assume finding the perfect thing to wear would be a breeze. But even with her access to designer clothes, Newton, like any other woman, had a hard time finding pieces that took her from day to night.
"I would say 75 percent of my closet before my own line was made up of vintage dresses, and I think that's because there were these really classic, flattering shapes that you could wear in the day or the evening," she says. "I'd find myself so often being really busy during the day and not having time to change before work, so I'd just throw heels in my bag and dress it up at night, add a red lip and I was good to go."
Newton discovered there was a real gap in the market for high-quality, basic dresses available at a mid-level price point and, after about two years of research, decided she should launch her own line. Though she had collaborated on accessories in the past, this would be the first time she had a hand in fashion design. HVN is made in New York so that Newton can be present for every single decision made, from buttons to hang tags; and while her day job is actually a night job (not much DJing happens before 6 p.m. in New York City), she still found challenges while trying to produce the line. Fortunately, Newton was able to call on her designer friends when she was feeling stuck.
"I could call them up and say, 'Is this normal? It's all going wrong!' or 'Where's the best place to buy zippers?'" she says. "Maybe from the outside, people would assume the fashion industry would be sort of competitive within itself, but it's been the complete opposite, everyone's been so helpful and supportive."
HVN launched in June with five core styles, named after friends and family members. For resort, she's added a few new, special styles, including giftable robes and pajama sets. While Newton does see the line growing in the future, she doesn't intend to stray far from the style she started out with. "I'm a dress girl — that's my uniform," she says. "I think dresses will always be at the core, just because I think that's what I know best and what I feel best in, but I think there's going to be a very natural, very gentle evolution."
While HVN revolves around dresses, the prints are the true key to the brand according to Newton. Some prints, like the star print, are originals, but for the most part, she worked with a print designer to license vintage prints — like fruit prints, stripes, polka dots and gingham — and then tweaked them to make them feel more modern by changing color ways or playing with scale.
Of course, being famous and well-connected means that you have famous and well-connected friends who can wear your line. While Newton says it's "very emotional" to see people like her sister wearing her dresses, she also hopes her line finds a home with women like her who lead busy lives. "It doesn't have to be the most glamorous thing in your closet, it doesn't have to be a full fashion moment," she says. "I just hope it ends up being one of your favorite things in your closet you can throw on when you have five minutes."