I recently had the opportunity to interview the lovely Hattie Moll of the boutique Hattie Sparks on Adams Street in New Orleans. Hattie and I met through the interwebs years ago through mutual friends, and I’ve always admired her sense of style, zest for life, and love of New Orleans. Without further adieu, meet Hattie!
Please tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up?
I am originally from Houston, but my family moved to the mountains of Colorado when I was in 1st grade. We spent 10 years in a small town outside of Aspen, which was an incredible place to grow up. Our Texas ties were very strong, though, and we traveled back and forth quite a bit before my parents decided it was time to move back. The summer going into my junior year of high school, we moved to Kerrville, a town about 45 minutes west of San Antonio. I started high school at a small private school in Colorado (Alpine Christian Academy) and finished up at the big public school (Tivy High School) in Kerrville, which was an interesting transition but I feel like I got the best of both worlds in that situation. My private school really helped me build a strong intellectual foundation and work ethic and because of the way things were structured there, instilled in me independence and an actual desire to learn. The public school, while it was strong academically, also allowed me to have that fun, classic high school experience–very ‘Friday Night Lights’, homecoming court, prom court, big time athletic programs (I played soccer) so that was kind of fun to have at the tail end of my high school career.
I went to TCU in Fort Worth for college where I pledged Kappa Alpha Theta and majored in Art History/Business. I actually thought I was going to major in History and eventually go to Law School but a trip to Europe after I graduated high school made me fall in love with Art History. At some point I decided to apply to graduate schools just to see what would happen and was also applying for jobs in Houston. I really wanted to stay in the South, but all of the schools I kept getting into were in California or the Northeast, so for a while it didn’t look like that was going to happen. A week before my final interview for a position in Houston, I got an email from Tulane offering me a full scholarship to get my Master’s in Art History. It was an easy decision to make, so I moved down here about 2 months after I graduated college and went through the two-year program. My focus was Contemporary Latin American art, and I wrote my Master’s Thesis on this really cool artist Victor Ochoa who was very influential in the San Diego public mural projects as well as the Chicano art movement.
When did you decide that you wanted to open up a boutique in New Orleans? Tell us a little about the process of opening up your own business.
I don’t really know when it was, but sometime in college I had this idea for a store that was kind of a hybrid boutique/gallery and I started keeping notebooks of inspiration. Over time, and as these ideas grew, I realized that I could actually make this a reality. At that point, the idea had evolved more into creating a place that was a hub for independent and Southern designers, as well as a place for people to find something unique. I felt like I kept seeing so much of the same thing over and over again and found myself wishing I could create a place that had a really strong point of view and aesthetic. I don’t think I was necessarily trying to break the mold of what retail is here, but I definitely saw a niche that existed for more of a lifestyle type of store – one where you can outfit your home, closet, and life. It makes me incredibly happy when I hear customers say that they always know they can find something different and special at Hattie Sparks.
The logistical and operational side of opening the store was, of course, not glamorous and required many, many late nights and thoughtful decision making. There were a lot of things that I just had to figure out on my own (thanks Google) but that’s always been where I thrive, under pressure, learning as I go. It definitely helped that I had all of those years of notebooks with inspiration and notes because when the time came to actually do it, I already knew almost exactly what I wanted – from brands I wanted to reach out to, down to the color scheme and what I wanted the racks to look like. I know this may sound vague, but it was really a product of not just dreaming but documenting those dreams.
What are some of your favorite brands that you carry in the store? How did you choose to feature them in your shop?
Jolie and Elizabeth was the first brand I ever placed an order with so they will always occupy a very special place in the store. (See here for a darling J&E dress.) I love what their line stands for and the girls have been so supportive of me. My other NOLA brands are all very near and dear to my heart as well: Saint Claude jewelry, See Scout Sleep, Krewe du Optic, EllenL Jewelry, The Grove Street Press, Lionheart Prints, Blackout, Amanda Deleon, & Loomed NOLA; not just because they all create really amazing, quality things but because of the relationships I’ve had the good fortune to build with the people behind these brands. They’re all bringing new and fresh perspectives to New Orleans and that’s something I think is so important for our city.
As far as deciding which lines to feature at the store, I gravitate towards those that have a special element to them that sets them apart from the pack. Whether it’s an aesthetic feature or something that’s part of the production process, I really love things that tell a story. I think these products speak to the conscientious consumer; the one that really cares about what’s behind the brand rather than someone who just buys something because it’s trendy or looks good.
Fall in New Orleans is a little unique as it is still quite warm until much later in the year. What are some of your top picks for Fall Fashion for NOLA ladies that they can wear now? How can you adapt them to the cooler temperatures later in the season?
I’m a big fan of buying pieces that can be layered up as the weather gets cooler. For example, when I’m buying a daytime dress, I’ll try and imagine what it will look like paired with tights, boots, and a cardigan. That way it can carry me through several seasons rather than just one. Of course, some things are season specific but it’s always nice to have those items in your closet that can go from Summer to Winter. Sleeveless tunics in solid colors, thin cardigans, fun scarves, and a few great vests and lightweight jackets all help create a layered look that’s pulled together but still appropriate for the New Orleans weather.
Any fashion tips for busy NOLA ladies/moms on the go?
You’ll always hear that you need to invest in quality staple pieces and build your wardrobe around them. While I am huge proponent of this and try to abide by that rule myself, I also think it’s equally important to know what works on you and figure out what your go-to “uniform” is, because it really helps take the stress out of deciding what to wear if you’re pressed for time. For me, it’s a pair of skinny jeans, riding boots, and a tunic. Throw on one statement piece of jewelry and I’m out the door in no time.
Visit Hattie at:
New Orleans, LA 70118
Photo Credit: Maile Lani Photography