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House of Hengst

A look from S/S10

While we dart about like little penguins, bobbing from show to show in our not-necessarily-fashionable, yet-practical winter wear, Susan Hengst is taking it easy in her East Village apartment. Her own collection for House of Hengst hangs neatly in her work space, with no plans to show it’s face this Fashion Week.

“We usually wait and do something a little later. There’s just so much going on right now,” she explains. Hengst is wearing a thicker, more structured version of a typical legging (she rolls up the cuff to show flannel lining), seams crossing her calves, and a black and white plaid coat. She looks like a Williamsburgian Betty Draper.

House of Hengst was born in 2004, but has flown under the fashion press’s radar for the most part since it’s inception. When I ask her how such a wearable line could go unnoticed she blushes. “I guess I just never really went after it. Just because it’s still very raw. And we’re still really busy designing and making everything. I put most of my attention there.”

The consideration she lends to her clothes is obvious; her latest collection is soft, flexible and made for travel. “Every piece fits in,” Hengst says. “The collection could be one wardrobe. And there are peaks of skin here and there in unexpected places.” The realistic fit and wearability of the line is undoubtedly due—at least in part—to Hengst’s technique. “I sew it to my body, I don’t do any sketches,” she says. Then rethinking: “Maybe a sketch later. But I sew it on myself first.”

Her inspiration seems drawn from natural settings; a large tranquil landscape hangs in her apartment and she escapes to the beach or park when she can. Commuting between San Francisco and New York, though, she would never trade the city for country life. “I’d get far too lonely,” Hengst admits.

But this week, dodging the headache of show planning, Hengst will be anything but lonely. Over her six years designing House of Hengst, she has formed friendships with other independent designers in the city and plans to support their efforts. “I surround myself with friends,” Hengst says, stretching said be-legginged leg. “You can’t live without laughter.”

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Hengst plans to open her first New York boutique this spring, but for
now her line is available online.

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