After years of friendship through their alma mater, Jennie Engelhardt and Emily Harrison created fashion line Hare+Hart in the fall of 2009. Today, Hare+Hart has grown into a collection of ethically conscious leather accessories and jackets and has received attention from names like Vogue.com and Who What Wear.
Jennie, a native of St. Paul, majored in American Studies at Carleton College. During her senior year, she studied abroad in Argentina and discovered a deep appreciation for the locals' cattle raising practices in free-roaming and grass-fed environments. Not only do cows and goats lead vastly improved lives due to humane conditions, but the leather industry is known to be one of the best in the world due to the cage-free lifestyle that prevents leather from marring. Jennie's been driven ever since to bring the same social responsibility to the States and find a way to incorporate it into everyday fashion.
Emily, a San Francisco native raised in the wine industry, followed her passion for the industry to the rich wine country of Argentina. After completing a Spanish degree at Carleton College, Emily moved indefinitely to Argentina to apply her background to a full-time career in the wine business. While there, she became acquainted with the local leather makers and her love of fashion sparked the pursuit of both passions.
Not being able to stay away from Argentina and her dear friend, one of Jennie’s visits back to the country inspired her and Emily to create a line by merging the craftsmanship of traditional Argentine leather goods with contemporary style. The duo's Spring 2012 collection marks their first signature collection of vegetable-tanned, cow hair handbags. The brand continuously evolves with each season and every collection offers more statement pieces for socially aware fashion lovers to choose from. Thanks to Hare+Hart, the women say, consumers no longer have to sacrifice the environment for style. The decision to shop consciously becomes easier than ever.
Concentrate on what's important and remember to ask lots of questions.
How did the two of you meet?
We met while attending Carleton College in Minnesota.
What made you both think, “We need to start a fashion line together?”
Emily :: When Jennie was living in New York, she came to visit me in Buenos Aires and wanted to have a leather jacket made. We worked with a jacket maker for what seemed like hours talking about what she wanted, but when we went to pick it up, it was a disaster.
Jennie :: It had football player shoulders.
Emily :: So we started drawing ideas of how we would change the jacket and what we would like to do and we realized that we had ideas for an entire leather collection.
You make the production process of your clothing and accessories very transparent on your website. Why is this so important to you and what feedback have you received because of it?
Growing up in California and Minnesota, we were both raised to appreciate local food and to really know where the things we purchase come from. We make our production process so transparent because we like knowing the background of the products we purchase. It’s what we want as consumers. And so far, our customers have been very appreciative of this extra information.
Where do you find design inspiration? Is that where collaboration really plays a special role?
Our whole collection is very inspired by traditional Argentine culture. They use a lot of natural haircalf and are known for leather goods with a rugged, artisanal look. We wanted to utilize the traditional materials and methods and make a modern product that suits our everyday lives.
What does your job involve and what types of responsibilities do you have on a daily basis?
It’s always hard for us to answer these types of questions because it changes so much depending on the day or time of year. Most of the time, Emily's working with our producers, sourcing materials and overseeing production in Argentina. Jennie is usually in New York handling the business end of things. However, we collaborate on a lot of aspects of Hare+Hart and our roles are constantly evolving to meet our company's needs.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of our job is being able to create a product that we believe in -- and actually want to use -- and to be able to do it with so close of a friend. We know it’s cheesy, but for us, it’s really the icing on the cake.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Jennie :: Everything. I’m a night person, so all of my ideas or worries come out at night. Emily usually wakes up to a barrage of emails I’ve sent in the middle of the night.
Emily :: And because I’m a morning person, luckily, I have time to respond before Jennie’s even awake. We’re both a little bit of perfectionists, so we worry about all of the little things, like whether or not something should be ½ a cm longer or 2 cm wider, as well as the big things, like finding a way to create vegetable-tanned jackets in Argentina.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Wine! Wine is probably what has kept us sane over the past couple of years.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?
Perseverance is what's kept us going. There are always going to be days when we feel like we’ll never get everything done and like we’ve taken on too much, but we keep at it. Maybe there’s a little stubbornness in there, too.
What one piece of advice do you both wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
Emily :: Concentrate on what’s important.
Jennie :: Remember to ask lots of questions.
Where do you see Hare+Hart five years from now?
We'd love a London office in addition to New York and Buenos Aires someday ...