By Allison Kugel, Senior Editor
Kathy Hilton has spent decades splitting her time among the New York and Beverly Hills social set and overseeing the happenings among her brood of four children, Paris, Nicky, Conrad and Barron, with husband Rick Hilton. She simultaneously plays protector and mediator to her two younger sisters, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stars Kim and Kyle Richards, while lending herself to a myriad of charities.
After decades spent traveling the globe, occupying front row seats at fashion shows and walking red carpets, Kathy Hilton has harnessed her access to fashion’s finest and her own creative inspiration to create her debut fashion line, The Kathy Hilton Collection. The line of “special occasion dresses,” as Kathy puts it, ranges from shorter cocktail dresses to floor length gowns, all designed with meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship.
From baby doll chic and long flowing chiffon to layered fabrics and classic LBDs, Hilton’s collection offers looks that are right off of 5th Avenue and Rodeo Drive, at a more down-to-earth price point.
During our conversation, Hilton was clear that The Kathy Hilton Collection is not a vanity project, but a labor of love for the Hilton matriarch. From working her own trade show booths to hours spent pouring over samples and fabric swatches, Hilton is committed to a specific aesthetic and high level of detail for each dress that is stamped with her brand name. Hilton also tells me that she loves her one-on-one interaction with customers, and that she takes their input to heart when designing the next season’s collection.
Of course we also managed to squeeze in some talk time about Hilton’s two famous daughters, Nicky and Paris Hilton, her younger sisters Kim and Kyle Richards and how the media’s scrutiny of her family over the years has taught her to live life on her own terms.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Since you grew up in a home filled with girls how did that affect your personality and your style sensibilities?
Kathy Hilton: I would say growing up with two sisters, and my mother, who I loved and adored, and who was so elegant and loved fashion, we all love fashion yet we all have different tastes and style.
PR.com: What did you learn from your mom, and what do you emulate about her sense of style to this day?
Kathy Hilton: She was very glamorous. There are times I like to dress glamorous but then there are times I like to just be a little bit more... a little simpler. I have many different personalities, as you’ll see in my collection (The Kathy Hilton Collection).
PR.com: I’m not much of a fashion person. I’m usually in sweats and a tank top (laughs), but when I saw your dresses I wanted to reach through the computer and grab them. They are so beautiful! Your collection doesn’t show too much skin. The dresses are just very feminine and ethereal.
Kathy Hilton: They are very lady-like and feminine, and there are some that are very sexy. But I’ve also traveled a lot and I understand different styles. This all started because we have to go to a lot of events, and going into the stores and seeing the prices and how expensive things are; everybody is cutting back from this economy. I really wanted something for me, for my nieces, for my sisters, for my daughters, for all of their friends and for women that love beauty [and] quality. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel and wear all of the very wonderful designers and go to all the shows, and so I really love fashion. But I wanted something for everyone.
PR.com: Do you think people would be surprised to hear you say that you’re uncomfortable with some of the prices in the high-end stores?
Kathy Hilton: I think my friends who know me understand. Everybody feels like that. It’s just gotten out of hand. And it’s kind of, not cool to be doing that.
PR.com: Of all the countries you’ve visited, which country’s fashion has inspired you the most?
Kathy Hilton: I would have to say France and Italy. [The clothes] are just very elegant, very lady-like. You look at some of these dresses and it’s like everything [but] the kitchen sink is on the dress. There’s just too much going on, and I feel like you should wear the dress, the dress shouldn’t wear you. And I love to accessorize, too. I love to take a dress and be able to wear it in the day if I have to, and then dress it up and take it into the evening, like with my short dresses.
PR.com: I love the shorter cocktail dresses in your collection that have the layering with eyelet fabric coming up to the neckline.
Kathy Hilton: The eyelet, yes, and then there’s the beautiful silk charmeuse underneath. I love layering it like that. I’m glad you noticed that.
PR.com: Loved it!
Kathy Hilton: We’re doing a lot of layering for fall and for the holidays.
PR.com: Are you picking out all of the fabrics yourself?
Kathy Hilton: Oh yes! I’m not a professional drawer but I have all my little samples and then there’s certain samples that are too expensive to buy in America, so we send out our wish list, and then from China they send back to us the different colors to get as close as we can get, so we can keep to our price point.
PR.com: And your daughter, Nicky, didn’t she study fashion in New York?
Kathy Hilton: She did. I have not, but, you know, I’ve lived it [through] traveling and wearing the clothes. I got married at nineteen so I was thrown into that world and I was on the charity circuit. [I was] married young and going out to dinners, and going out to events almost every single night of the week.
PR.com: Do Paris and Nicky collaborate with you at all or is this dress collection strictly your thing?
Kathy Hilton: This is my thing, and I like to surprise them.
PR.com: How many dresses do each of them have from your collection?
Kathy Hilton: I would say they each have maybe, oh, six dresses, eight dresses… maybe a dozen.
Kathy Hilton: But then I have to grab them back sometimes for photo shoots.
PR.com: I read in a New York Post article that you actually named certain dresses after your daughters Paris and Nicky and after actresses Angelina Jolie and the late Audrey Hepburn.
Kathy Hilton: Well, Audrey Hepburn was an inspiration, Carrie Underwood, and then I have [a dress] that is one of my favorites, and it’s called “Dinner at La Grenouille,” which is my favorite French restaurant in New York. When I’m drawing something it could start with being outside. It could be at a museum. I could be looking at a frame on a 17th century piece of art and see the lace in that, and literally start scribbling it. And then I’ll see a color. I just looked at a beautiful jewelry catalog from Gump’s with the most beautiful colors for next spring. I don’t go with the trends. A lot of these are vintage inspired and classic. I don’t want to be trendy. I want [the dresses] to be classic, and I want someone to feel like a million dollars in my dress without breaking the bank.
Kathy Hilton special occasion dresses are available at select Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue locations and at boutiques nationwide.
Visit kathyhilton.com to view dresses from The Kathy Hilton Collection (Twitter: @KHiltonDesign) and to find local stockists. Follow Kathy Hilton on Twitter @KathyHilton.