It may sound contradictory to describe a brand as both vintage and fresh; that is, until you get acquainted with the designs of Bliss and Mischief. Creator Hillary Justin built the LA-based clothing line upon her deep affection for vintage handiwork and her own experienced embrace of contemporary tailoring and manufacture. The result is an exquisitely made line of ‘classics to come’ with pieces that feel modern, yet timeless. We recently had a chance to catch up with Hillary to learn more about her design inspiration and how she created her dream job.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 5-10 YEARS AGO, BEFORE BLISS AND MISCHIEF?
HJ: I was working as a clothing designer for a small contemporary brand and selling curated vintage on the side.
IS BLISS AND MISCHIEF YOUR DREAM JOB?
HJ: It really is! Of course that doesn’t mean it’s easy – and during difficult times, I find myself thinking how simple it can be working for someone else. But I know for me that simple isn’t always satisfying. The freedom that comes with being my own boss is something I cherish and I love being able to react quickly to ideas, follow my inspiration, and express my heart through this brand.
WHEN DID YOU HAVE YOUR “AH HA” MOMENT OF BLISS AND MISCHIEF?
HJ: When I got back my first design of embroidered denim – It was a full on western inspired design with flowers and cacti running down the legs in a tonal deep navy and blue. When I first saw them I had the most distinct feeling – I wasn’t sure if they were incredible or awful! After trying them on and spending a bit of time with them, I realized that feeling meant I was on to something fresh. Now I trust that special uneasy feeling.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
HJ: I wanted to marry my love of vintage clothing with high end embroidery and clothing construction. When working for other companies, it was often about how we could reduce the details and construction to reduce prices, but I didn’t want to put any more garments into the world that wouldn’t make incredible vintage finds some day. My Uncle Phil inspired me to incorporate western style chainstitch embroidery into the line and I added classic pieces in a minimal desert-toned color palette. It was really an expression of everything that I love! I’ve been a clothing designer for over a decade and a vintage dealer for about 10 years, so I stuck to my wheel house. Even though I think of Bliss And Mischief as more than a clothing brand, it was the easiest entry point for me and of course I love clothing!
WHAT VINTAGE ERAS ARE YOUR FAVORITE FOR STYLE INSPO & WHY?
HJ: I’m consistently drawn to delicate Edwardian white blouses, the casual simplicity and romance of the early 80s, and embellished western wear of the 40s and 50s – the heyday of the Hollywood Cowboy.
DO YOU HAVE ANY STYLE ICONS? IF SO, WHO?
HJ: My mom showed me that style should be joyful and she never shied away from new trends – she didn’t take it too seriously and that was a great lesson. My Uncle Phil, a long time western wear collector, is always an inspiration because of his bold embellished-meets-classic western style (look up his IG @lonesomepinecone and you’ll see why!) Lastly, Joni Mitchell’s style as it evolved through laid back 70s Laurel Canyon to 80s minimal menswear always carries a vibrant and independent spirit that I love.
HOW DID YOU FUND BLISS AND MISCHIEF?
HJ: For the first year I had the business, I kept working full time. This took pressure off and allowed me to say no to opportunities that weren’t right for the brand but that I would’ve been tempted by if I needed the money. After about a year of working late nights and shipping packages at lunch, I switched to doing freelance to help give me more flexibility. I still take an outside project here and there, and I’m so grateful I didn’t make the leap all at once.
WHY IS HAVING YOUR CLOTHING MADE LOCALLY IN LOS ANGELES IMPORTANT TO YOU?
HJ: Besides the big ethical reasons of knowing first hand where our pieces are made and the sustainable aspect of a reduced carbon footprint, I genuinely like being involved in the process and witnessing how everything is made. I can directly see how my business is helping to support people in my community. I’m lucky to work with manufactures who take great pride in their craft and in delivering high quality.
NAME 3 OF THE SCARIEST MOMENTS YOU HAD WHEN DOING THIS.
HJ: 1) The first time I brought the line to editors in NYC. I felt extremely proud of the line but I wasn’t sure how the meetings would go and it was intimidating running around the city with a huge trunk and presenting to new people. But everyone was incredibly warm, down to earth, and excited about the line – I still rely on the advice and guidance of the women I met on that first trip. 2) When we developed our own denim and the production was nearly 2 months late. It was devastating to tell our accounts and go through the stress of it all. Getting production in on time is always a challenge in our industry, especially for a new category, but it’s not spoken much about so you end up taking it very personally. The bright spot was the denim fit turned out amazing and I’m glad we didn’t rush it just to meet the deadline. 3) Right now – ha! We’re making a shift in the business and putting the majority of our efforts towards our website and direct retail. It feels right and we’ve had so much support, but it’s still against the grain of the traditional fashion wholesale world. Focusing on our direct customers puts me at ease and gets me excited so I know my gut is leading us in the right direction.
WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
HJ: Well, to go back to how I funded the business, I would say keep working and flowing money in as long as you can stand it. Make sure you’re taking actionable steps and not just talking about it – the momentum of doing something will carry you through. Be a bit shameless about reaching out to people who can help you and asking advice but be thoughtful and prepared to have something to back it up, and make sure you can bring some type of value back to them.