Picture the scene – a billowing red dress worn barefoot, on a wide sweeping landscape… When we asked Hansine of what her #accessFASHIONdaydreams scenario would be – this was it. And it’s clear why she started a feel good and luxury resort wear collection. We’ve been fans of HANSINE for a couple years and it was time to get to know more about Hansine Johnston, the brand and the woman behind some of favourite pieces.
Tell us about your journey in to the brand of HANSINE? How did it begin?
I was working as a radio presenter presenting and producing a show called Style File which I had done for 15 years when I finally decided to launch the brand. For years I had developed my own style inspired by my, slightly confused, multicultural roots – Greek, Danish and some Irish for good measure – and travelling all over the world from a young age. I was known for always wearing maxi dresses and for layering and I collected vintage pieces. People started asking me to make them and I realised there was nothing like it on the market. At the time I had become passionate about ethical fashion and had run several features on my show involving the Ethical Fashion Initiative in Geneva, where the show was based, so I went to see them and they connected me to my manufacturer in Como. I worked closely with Italian suppliers during my years with Armani and Valentino and I speak the language, so it seemed like a natural fit. I love the Italians sublte take on colours… and so it began…
How would you introduce HANSINE for those who are new to the brand?
A collection of beautiful, flattering maxi dresses in delicate prints and slouchy knitwear that is bohemian and sophisticated at the same time. The range is produced ethically in London and made with bespoke Italian fabrics. Its a capsule wardrobe of beautifully made luxury pieces you can wear and wear again and layer all year round. Each piece has signature design details that can be worn from beach to bar to boardroom and look fabulous with trainers, heels or sandy feet.
Where do you get your inspiration?
For the fabrics, each print has a story based on my childhood or travels. The eye print is inspired by the Greek evil eye which I strongly believe in. I was brought up at a young age by my very fashion conscious Greek YiaYia. I had an old painting of the eye from a market in Athens and we developed the print based on that.
You have a core collection of designs. What made you decide on these styles and silhouettes?
We started with just four shapes inspired by old favourites and vintage dresses that I had loved for years and adapted those. For me it is important to be able to live and to move in the dresses. Each dress has a beautiful design touch on the top half such as the sparkle trim or straps or ruching detail and none of them are tight at the waist or below. As the FT once wrote they really are dresses you can “eat an ice cream in and still feel beautiful.” I wear the dresses all year, literally layered with leggings and various coats and trainers and of course our gorgeous slouchy knits… We now have 9 designs and are growing. We host many events and so we really listen to our clients and adapt our fit accordingly.
The Dalai Lama once said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
How do you accessorise your HANSINE look? I love battered looking gold jewellery. I have a few signature pieces that I have collected across the years and in the Summer I layer it up with beads. I love skull necklaces from a lady on a beach in Mykonos and the eclectic beaded range of a good friend of mine Blythe Bruckner Art.
HANSINE is a sustainable brand. We’d love to know more about what makes you sustainable? Sure! Having run features for a few years on my radio show about ethical fashion and the impact of fast fashion and in particular the human element to it, I knew that when I launched my brand it was important to me that we made it ethical. As I mentioned – the fabrics come from a family run business in Como Italy with strict working conditions. The collection is then produced by a London based manufacturer called Apparel Tasker who I found on an ethical forum when I first started and who are now the UK’s largest sustainable manufacturer. They have had the SMETA accreditation which means that every aspect of their business is regularly monitored for sustainable practices such as the staff’s wages and working conditions, the recyling, solar panels etc.
How has COVID impacted your business? Hugely! Before being a radio presenter I worked for years in wholesale distribution with brands like Armani, so I have worked super hard in the last 3 years to sell the brand to some of the world’s leading retailers such as Liberty, Neiman Marcus and International luxury boutiques and resorts . Then Covid hit and suddenly everyone was shut and the majority cancelling their orders. We’ve had to rethink everything – but it’s actually been super positive as so many people have gone directly to the site and we’ve built a real community online of loyal clients during this time.
What has this time taught you? Every order of every dress to every person is important and that I should follow my instinct always.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own fashion business? Think carefully about what you want to get out of it, what is important to you and how much money you really want to invest!
You also moved in to knitwear. Do you have any new announcements or collections planned? Of course! The idea is to build an entire capsule wardrobe that you can layer and restyle and that fast become your beloved go to pieces. The cardigans are so addictive: I have many clients that have 4 or 5 as they are super easy to layer over the dresses and because of the delicate fine weave, you can still see the movement of the body… Coming very soon is a tea dress – midi length with the sparkle details in our prints, plus more separates in the silk with stunning new exciting prints and a new collection with golds and sky blues for SS21…
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not designing? Eating good food, watching addictive box sets, laughing with my girlfriends and kids and travelling whenever I can or whenever we will be able to again. My very funny dog Wilson who makes us all take things a little less seriously.