MY LIFE, MY STYLE
Designer Gabriela Perezutti Hearst.
Thunderous clouds hang over New York City when I arrive at Gabriela Perezutti Hearst’s Westvillage townhouse, but inside, everything is serene.the statuesque designer greets me makeup-free, her short blonde hair slicked back, and we settle down with camomile tea in the bright living room, where striking works by the Argentine artist Diego Gravinese hang on the wall. This is where Hearst unveiled her eponymous fashion label in February last year, with an elegant collection of modern, minimalist pieces crafted in the most exquisite fabrics — stiff twill capes, structured melton-cloth coats over floral-printed chiffon dresses, and chunky knits softened by delicate lace panelling.the entire debut was snapped up there and then by Jennifer Sunwoo, the womenswear merchandise manager at Barneys Newyork.
It may sound like beginner’s luck, but Hearst’s creativity shone through from an early age. Born into one of Uruguay’s oldest ranching families, she grew up on an estancia surrounded by horses and gauchos. She remembers watching Walt Disney’s Cinderella when she was six years old and taking the scissors to her grandmother’s collection of handmade silk and lace gowns. “I was trying to make my own princess dress like the birds and the mice in the film,” she says.“i was captivated by the power of clothes to transform you.”
This fascination led her to Europe and a short-lived career as a model. “My look was Blade Runner androgyny in the era of the Brazilian bombshells,” Hearst recalls. “And, at 21, I was already too old — in modelling terms, you’re a senior citizen.” Two years at acting school in New York followed — “my best performance was convincing my gaucho father to let me go” — and she has fond memories of her time at the Neighborhood Playhouse learning the Meisner technique and taking dance classes with Martha Graham. “I knew I wasn’t going to be an actress, because I just wasn’t good enough,” she says. “But we learnt to dig for truthfulness in a performance, and that has shaped me, because I’m always looking for authenticity in everything I do.”
Eventually she got a job at a designer showroom, and, realising she had a knack for it, launched a luxe bohemian line, Candela, with two business partners and a collection of maxed-out credit cards. “my dad was like, you either make this work or you’re coming back to sell cattle with me!” she says. Over 10 years, she turned $900 of seed money into a fully-fledged company, with fans including Diane Kruger and Alessandra Ambrosio. But it wasn’t enough. “Gabriela Hearst came from my desire to make things with quality, high-end fabrics,” she says of her namesake label. True to her roots, the brand marries femininity with a rugged practicality — her latest collection, for resort 2017, includes custom rose-gold hardware in the form of miniature stirrups, shirts with folkloric sleeves, red herringbone embroidery and sturdy stack-heeled boots.
Subtle nods to her Latin American heritage can also be seen in the warm and welcoming home she now shares with her husband, Austin Hearst, an entrepreneur who, among other pursuits, serves as an executive at Hearst Corporation and a trustee for Save the Children. They met in Buenos Aires and bonded over a love of horses. Austin spent his childhood summers riding on a 33,000-hectare stretch of oak-studded land tucked along California’s Santa Lucia Mountains known
The designer GABRIELA PEREZUTTI HEARST mixes Latin American influences with elegant minimalism in her Manhattan home. By LUCY HALFHEAD Photographed by FRANÇOIS DISCHINGER
as Hearst Ranch. On their wedding day, at New York City Hall in April 2013, the bride wore a short blush Valentino dress with eyelet lace over beige riding boots, and then, in June, at a party for 244 guests at the American Museum of Natural History, she opted for Dior couture.
The couple moved in two years ago after a renovation project in which they fashioned a library to house first-edition books by Mark Twain and James Joyce, and installed a family-friendly media room in the basement, complete with a popcorn machine. Hearst found out she was pregnant on the day she started designing her debut Gabriela Hearst collection — 18-month-old Jack is her first child with Austin. She is also mother to eight-year-old twin girls Mia and Olivia, and stepmother to Austin’s two older children from previous marriages, so it was important to create a home to suit their blended clan. “it’s very strange for me to bring kids up in a city,” she says, adding that she hopes to replace the hot tub left by the previous owner with a flourishing vegetable garden.
That’s not to say the house is anything but impeccable. “Normally, it’s pristine,” she says. “i’m very strict with order.”
The six floors exhibit a perfectly curated mix of family heirlooms, Cire Trudon candles and vintage furniture from 1stdibs and ebay, while even in the twins’ bedroom, the toys are lined up symmetrically on the identical pink canopied beds. The second floor is accented by an impressive collection of Latin American art, including figurines by Fernando Botero and colourful sketches by Julio Alpuy, and there are photographs at every turn, showing Austin’s grandfather William Randolph Hearst with Winston Churchill and JFK, and her moustachioed father on horseback.
Since creating her label, she has rarely felt the need to wear other brands, but a rummage in her wardrobe uncovers Stella Mccartney jackets, dresses from Sacai and Comme des Garçons, and vivienne westwood pieces. “i also love valentino — if I was going to get a gown, it would always be Valentino,” she says. Her main shopping habit is vintage jewellery, and she has also inherited gems from her mother-in-law, a former muse to the designer Charles James, including the Victorian diamond-and-ruby ring she is wearing today. “for centuries we’ve adorned our bodies with stones,” she says. “It’s an inexplicable human attraction.” But having lived in New York for 16 years now, Hearst admits the main influence on her style is the city itself. “when I dress it’s like a power play between being comfortable and looking sharp,” she says. “i’ve become the ultimate urban warrior.”
Gabriela Perezutti Hearst at home in New York wearing Gabriela Hearst dress, $2750, and shoes, $980; her own necklace. Sittings editor: YETY AKINOLA
Gabriela Hearst shirt, $1050, skirt, $2445, and boots, $1960. Left: at her ranch in Uruguay. Below, from left: with daughters Mia and Olivia; photos of her father and daughters.