“Life is very much dictated by my three sons - vanity doesn’t work with so many boys around - I have got to get on with it.” This is just one of the many surprisingly pragmatic remarks from designer, stylist and fashion-editor-at-large, Kim Hersov...
As an American in London (she was born in California), perhaps it’s that never-forgotten West-Coast ease. Laid-back is not how we’d describe her career however. The co-founder of the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Trust – a charitable initiative which offers business support to British-based designers through financial grants and mentoring – is a columnist at Net-A-Porter.com’s The Edit and one half of go-to bohemian-inspired womenswear label, Talitha.
Launched three years ago by happy accident when she was asked by an old friend, Shon Randhawa, to help make her range of embroidered dresses more appealing to a Western market, the label is fast gaining ground. Working closely with local master artisans in New Delhi, and combining Hersov’s own ideas on what she’d really like to wear (she has previously consulted for Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren and Celine) Talitha already has almost 60 stockists worldwide.
We caught up with the mother of four (she has three sons and one stepdaughter) at her West London home, where she lives with her partner, the artist Barry Reigate. And if you think her CV is impressive, wait until you see her house. Filled with art, drawings, and treasures from her travels – you’ll find work by British artists Pieter Hugo and Mat Collishaw, and Dinos Chapman all artfully mismatched on a vaguely rock’n’roll colour scheme – it’s elegant and eclectic and then some. We couldn’t wait to take a tour, find out more about her label, her life, and ask all-important questions like what a fashion editor really wears on the school run – oh, and to get a glimpse of that amazing shoe wardrobe.
Kim Hersov with son Aiden.
Can you describe the Talitha woman?
She has an independent self-assured character and spirit. She loves to travel, she has a unique, confident sense of style and is not a slave to trends. She appreciates quality and craftsmanship – she has a discerning approach.
How would you describe your label?
Talitha has a bohemian spirit and we emphasise hand embroideries wherever possible as well as hand loomed natural fabrics (like cotton, silk and ikats etc) and hand finishes. All of the tassels and knots are handmade and the trims hand sewn. We are also inspired by vintage and spend a lot of time sourcing interesting shapes – and then reinterpreting and updating these styles.
Where did your interest in fashion come from?
It initially came from my very chic grandmother. She was always incredibly stylish and was great friends with Oscar [de la Renta], Bill Blass, John Galliano – as well as the legendary California decorator Michael Taylor. My interest emerged later in life though – around university age. As a child/teenager I was more influenced by grunge and the hippie culture of the 1960s that defined San Francisco. I lived in plaid shirts, Levi’s and tie-dye T-shirts. It is not until I went to Georgetown, and later to NYC to work at US Vogue, that I developed an interest in fashion. And it was my grandmother who took me shopping and gave me her hand-me-downs.
Can you talk us through your career?
I did a bit of modelling throughout my teens, which also introduced me to fashion. I planned to go to law school after graduating from Georgetown but wanted a break for a year or two. I moved to New York and met a cousin of a friend who worked at Vogue. She took me to see the offices and there happened to be a vacancy (as fashion assistant to a market editor) – so hence the very fortunate start of my career in fashion. I worked there for about two-and-a-half years where I was promoted to associate editor and then moved to London with my new (now ex) husband. I worked briefly at Tatler, then at a PR agency, and then moved to Harper’s BAZAAR as executive fashion editor – eventually becoming editor-at-large under Lucy Yeomans. I joined her at Net-A-Porter when she became editorial director of the group and editor-in-chief of Porter magazine. I was/am a columnist for the Edit and editor-at-large at Porter (though I’m no longer very active in this role due to Talitha). I have also consulted for brands like Louis Vuitton (doing global digital styling projects), Ralph Lauren and Celine over the years. I also do select personal styling. Now my focus is on Talitha.
Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up as the eldest of five children (four girls and one boy) in Northern California – just outside San Francisco in a leafy, woodland town called Ross. I had a very wholesome /healthy /sporty childhood. I rode my bike to and from school. I swam competitively from the age of nine to 17, and did cross-country running as well in high school. We skied in Lake Tahoe most weekends.
Can you tell us about your own family?
I am now a mother of three sons – Alexander (18), Luke (16) and Aidan (7), and have a gorgeous stepdaughter Elfie (16). I was married previously (at 23) and had my two sons with my ex-husband. Aidan is my son with my new partner Barry Reigate. I never expected to have such a big family, but am delighted – and clearly prepared by my own upbringing!
Talk us through your morning schedule?
Because of the age gap between the children, there are very different kinds of morning schedules in the house. It depends who is home! My eldest son Alexander started university at Georgetown so is only around for holidays and the summer. Luke goes to weekly boarding school at Wellington College and is home Saturday afternoons and Sunday and then sleeps until noon! Elfie is with us every other weekend and holidays – though from the age of seven to 13 she lived with us half the time (her mother moved to the country three years ago). For years there were multiple school runs and a lot of juggling! We had a baby’s schedule and three different school schedules to manage. We obviously now have Aidan at home with us so mornings start around 7am with breakfast and then the school run at 8am. Aidan’s school is a 15-minute walk from the house. Family holidays to California each summer are true ‘expeditions’ that require extensive planning as well as travel vans and a lot of grocery shopping! Both my big boys are 6’4″ and Elfie is 5’10” so we are not a petite bunch either.
What’s your approach to getting dressed each morning?
Spontaneous as I have an early start with the school run a few times a week – there’s always lots going on. Aidan, my seven-year-old, goes to Notting Hill Prep school which is a 15-minute walk away so I dress with this in mind but also for a day of meetings. Most of the year requires a warm cargo coat – or raincoat in the spring – and I seem to be perpetually cold. My outfit is usually layered so that I am warm enough for the elements and still dressed for a working day. My Talitha office is also in the neighbourhood and a good 10 to 15 minute walk again, so comfortable shoes are a must for getting around (that means flat biker boots or Adidas Gazelles at this time of year and sandals in the summer) but I am known to throw a pair of heels in my bag for meetings later in the day. I’m a shoe person so anything by Tabitha Simmons, Aquazurra, Gianvito Rossi or Alaia.
What do you wear time-and-time again?
I love textures, layers, colour and a bit of print. At the beginning of the season – or on weekends – I try to think up a few different outfit combinations so that I don’t have to spend too much time getting ready – I have three sons and a partner and they are all impatient. I suppose my fall-to pieces are jeans, leather trousers and patterned trousers. I love to wear jeans because they’re good for taking an outfit down a notch – and because I’m usually cold. My favourite brands are Current Elliot, Frame and I have some boyfriend jeans by a Japanese brand, Moussy that I love. I also wear a lot of shirts and blouses. I love dresses and shorts but I usually wear those in the evening or in warmer months, and my failsafe is tailoring – especially a well-cut blazer.
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic – although I prefer when people tell me what my style is! I love accessories – scarves and jewellery; shoes and great handbags. And I love a hat and beautiful vintage.
How do you keep everything organised?
My wardrobe is fairly organised but getting overcrowded and I hate getting rid of things. I keep ‘collecting’ and have a love for vintage pieces too. My obsession is avoiding moths (a problem in this country) and I am forever freezing and airing new vintage finds – and refreshing my hanging lavender – touch wood there are no issues so far.
Where do you love to shop?
I love Portobello Market – I love vintage shopping – and I have become quite an online shopper. I love Matches – they were my first stockist so I’m loyal to them they have a great personal shopping service. I love going into Joseph and the new Browns. I do have a couple of clients who I style in which case I’ll go into a store but I have mostly become a virtual shopper.
Do you eat well? What exercise do you enjoy?
Yes I grew up in California and have brought those healthy habits with me. I eat a lot of salad and fruit and veg. I like James Duigan’s Clean & Lean book and Calgary Avansino’s cookbook. I don’t have that much time to cook but I do enjoy healthy food. For exercise – I would love to hike but when I’m in London I go to BarreToned. I do weights, I go to the gym occasionally but I do find it boring. I like to go running – I exercise a few times a week. But I’m not as outdoors as much as I’d like to be.
Would you like to move back to California?
We talk about it – some day I’d like to – but we have Talitha and the children. It’s not going to happen right away but I do miss the quality of life and the light.
Do you travel a lot?
Yes a lot – I go to India for Talitha a couple of times a year, New York for sales, Dallas for trunk shows and we shoot our look book in LA. I also go home to California – I travel a lot.
Tell us about your beauty regime?
Exercise and sleep are key and facials. I like Sarah Chapman and her products. And I see Dr Anna Marie Olsen at Dr Sebagh to keep my skin toned. She has a wealth of knowledge about internal health and supplements – she has really educated me on internal supplements.
What about your approach to interiors – how would you describe your home?
It is much like I dress I suppose. My house is eclectic and I clearly love texture, colour and pattern. I collect – and there are ‘treasures’ and art items everywhere. Most pieces tell a story or have a personal significance and I inherited certain pieces from my grandparents.
What is your definition of success?
It’s a very personal thing. For me it’s the important things in life – I wouldn’t pin it on anything monetary. It’s having a family, a great partner, friends, feeling fulfilled and having a creative outlet – that’s really important to me.
What advice would you give young women starting out in fashion? Are there any secrets to success?
Passion, going the extra mile, a strong work ethic and understanding that you really have to pull your weight. When I started you had to work your way through a more traditional route – I began as a fashion assistant then worked my way up – obviously things are different now but there is nothing like true grit when it comes to getting ahead.
And finally, why do you think you have been so successful?
I think being out of my comfort zone as an American in London encouraged me to be open minded, embrace opportunities and be more flexible and fluid. I think that helped me evolve as a person and in turn helped my career.