Harvest Powell from Hope & Harvest on creativity and design

Hope and Harvest Empire Shirt Dress, Image supplied.

Hope & Harvest have dressed singer Casey Donovan, actor Rebel Wilson, and most recently created a swoon-worthy custom red carpet gown for Katrina Milosevic (Wentworth) to attend the Logies. As well as dressing some of the best and the brightest, this Australian plus size label creates gorgeous ready to wear pieces. We took a moment to chat with designer Harvest Powell about their AW17 collection Nocturnal and what inspires her.

How did you get into design, and how was Hope & Harvest born?
I have been a designer since I was 18. Predominantly doing Haute Couture, one off special occasion pieces and wedding gowns. I was always designing for the mainstream market and women would constantly ask me when I was going to create my pieces for larger sizes. Especially always being the size I am, in years to come I would realise how crazy it was that I wasn’t opening myself up to the curvy market. I created gowns for world renowned jewellers, luxe car companies, society women and made quite a name in the industry. I decided to move from the Gold Coast to Melbourne, to drive my business name to the next level, and within three months of moving, I had a horrible accident that left me almost paralyzed. I had to stop everything and concentrate on a long rehabilitation, on learning to walk again and recovering from a horrendous injury.

The day came where I decided that it was time to get back into the game. The career I had before had become obsolete, so I decided to start again. This time I was going to do something fresh. I heard all of those women’s voices in my head who had been asking me the same question for all of those years, and decided that it was time to bring something incredible and refreshing to the plus market. At this time, there wasn’t really much in the market other than kaftans and pieces directed at the more mature woman. I decided that if I was going to do this, that it had to be done right: clean lines and well-fitted garments with a solid understanding of the plus body; a deep understanding of patterns and grading for the larger size, not just some tiny sample that has been passed over to an offshore production house to be blown out in all the wrong areas; on trend design with a minimalist approach for longevity; well made and supreme craftsmanship; a name that didn’t concentrate on my size; high level service and approachable staff.

A week later my close friend Hope and I cleared out our old garage in Northcote, in the Melbourne inner suburbs, and we started making our first pieces by hand. Tireless hours, unlimited coffees, and the love of fashion pushed us to our limits, but the first photo shoot happened and the rest is history.

Empire Shirt Dress in Gravel (left) and Grid (right), AUD $139.00

If you had to describe Hope & Harvest in six words, what would they be?
Innovative, refreshing, classic, urban, mindful, transitional.

What inspires you as a designer?
Everything and anything in daily life. Sometimes pieces come really organically from a need in the market that I look at and think, “these things should be available for all women, why are they not readily accessible?”. Sometimes it isn’t even about re-inventing the wheel, it is about creating classic wardrobe staples that don’t exist in the plus world. I can’t get past the fact that for years, the industry has thought that because we are larger that we need different designs and different pieces to the smaller end of the scale. Just because I am a bigger person, doesn’t mean I want to wear a tent with flowers splashed all over it – I always wanted to wear pieces from designers such as Donna Karan, Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein to name a few. I was so frustrated that a stunning buxom woman with hips and boobs couldn’t walk into a shop and buy these pieces. I also do love to people watch. I love watching how two people can put together the same pieces of clothing in a completely different and personal way. I love seeing our customers putting their stamp on our clothing and seeing the great ways they style it up.

Relaxed Keyhole Top in stripe (left) and black (right), AUD $64.50

How does your own style influence your designs?
I have always been torn between two styles with myself. On one hand, I love the flamboyance and theatre of designers like Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier. On the other, I am a real minimalist. I like understated, clean lines in monochromatic tones; putting crisp white shirts with a classic pair of slacks and boots. Really clean but with a casual approach. I have been evolving the style of the brand since it’s inception and I think we are just now getting to a happy medium between the two. The brand needs to give its customers what they want and what they ask for, and we spend a lot of time listening to this feedback. It’s hard not to let my over the top “designer” flair influence pieces to somewhere that customers will not actually wear on a day to day basis. There has to be firm guidelines set for what we want the brand to be known for and the signature styling of our ranges, so sometimes even though I want to create completely ridiculous and out there pieces, the most important thing is to be able to bring through that individual flair whilst keeping in line with what our customer base has come to love about the H&H style.

Grid Wrap Top, AUD $98.00

Describe your creative process, how do you get from your initial idea to putting clothes into production?
The process is a lot faster these days than I would like sometimes. The brand has grown so rapidly in the last couple of years that I don’t have the same amount of time to sit down and draw pretty pictures of garments. I usually will build the next season over a period of time – most of the time I’ll get ideas while I am out somewhere drinking coffee and jot down scribbles on napkins, backs of envelopes or whatever seems to be around at the time. Then starts the long process of putting all of these ideas together. Getting a cohesive range, nutting out the pieces that aren’t needed or adding in something we have overlooked. This can be a very long process. Then we go into fabric manufacture. We start searching for great fabrics and have even starting printing our own. Whilst all of this is happening, I always find that the range will go where it wants to. It will organically change and evolve as we are working on it. This used to stress me out, but now I let the creative process take me to those places, and we add in and perfect as we go further into the process. We then go into sample production. The fit and sizing of our garments is such a high priority. There’s no sense in having an amazing garment if it is uncomfortable, if it rides up or falls of your shoulder, pants falling down and having to yank them up. Comfort and effortless wear is such an important factor in our pieces. I put so much effort into the design of a garment, so that you can put on a piece that looks intricate, but has such an easy wear component. We implement this into all of our pieces and we also make all of our pieces an easy ‘Desk to Dinner’ quick switch. You can change your shoes or add accessories and you can go straight from work to play with an easy, no fuss transition.

Once our samples have been approved and perfected, we then go into production. Choosing colours and fabrics, to match well with the season, while still having a classic longevity so that they can be worn again and again. We then go through the final process of what we want the collection to portray and the name and vibe of the whole season. We search for models who project the look we are wanting to put forth, they must also be of a good plus size. We have never ever shied away from using bigger, beautiful women in our campaigns. I make clothing for plus women, so I want models of all sizes and shapes. The brand stands firmly behind our designs and they look stunning on any size, we don’t feel the need to have to shoot on smaller models to sell our clothing. We want our customers to be able to identify with the model and know that those pieces will look great on them also. We then go through the process of getting all of our shots together, creating look books, selling guides, advertising materials and website updates. A lot of things go on behind the scenes to get ready for when the clothing arrives in the warehouse. Once the clothes arrive we need to be ready to launch them into stores and our online platforms immediately.

As soon as that happens, we start all over again. The beauty of our job: it never stops.

Hooded Wrap Dress, AUD $159.00

Tell us more about your AW17 collection, Nocturnal. What was the inspiration behind it?
Nocturnal is a collection that is ticking all of the boxes for what our clients have been asking for the last few years. We have put a lot of time into the designs for this collection. The pieces have our signature look: clean lines, great fabrics and patterns. Easy-wear pieces that look effortlessly put together for any purpose.

I was worried at first that the name would be too dark, but my gut said go with it. I was spending a lot of time in the country, getting out of the office after dark and driving on the quiet, misty, beautiful country roads. It had a dark mysterious feel, but with it came a freedom and peacefulness that I was craving. I have always felt that late at night, the world stops. You can have that time just to yourself, to do the things that you want to do without the constant list of jobs that accompany us through the daylight. So, I brought all of these feelings into the collection. Simple, harmonious and fluid lines. Freedom in the wear, with an elegance on the wearer. Dark florals, darker colours and prints for winter, with an effortless mix and match capability. Jewel tones, pattern clashing, darker, elegant hues and palettes. I paired this together with a new model to our brand, Lucy, who has a natural beauty and dark features which really sets the tone of the collection.

You will also see Suzie (our smouldering red head) return in this collection. Bringing that really strong high end look. Mixed with the vibe of Nocturnal, she brings thoughts of Julianne Moore wearing Gucci in Hannibal. So classy, bringing the darkness into the light. Can you tell I am excited about this collection?

I know it’s hard to choose favourites, but what is your favourite piece from Nocturnal?
It keeps changing! There are so many great pieces, I don’t know if I could pick just one. I think if I was going to choose a staple it would have to be our new tweed, Paperbag trousers. They are so on trend and such a great wardrobe piece. I also love the Cardicoat (we are bringing in knits!). There is also the Empire shirt dress that we have done in a couple of colours. I also love that we are doing effortless tees to go with the more trend pieces. Ugh, I have failed at this question. I can’t pick one!

Winter Fern Empire Shirt Dress, AUD $139.00

What is one thing you think every woman should have in her wardrobe?
Hmm. A shirt dress, a great “go-to” transitional dress, and a pair of bottoms are a necessity. Whether it be jeans or a slick pair of pants. Also a great tee to throw on. This is four. I am not doing well at the “pick one thing”.

What is your top trend pick for AW17?
Dark moody florals. Strong Monochrome. Jewel tones. I think this will also lead into next year as well. I don’t think that this current trend is going anywhere fast.

You can shopHope & Harvest in sizes 12-26 via their website, with select pieces available at NZ store Isla-Maree.

Meagan Kerr also writes at This is Meagan Kerr.

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