Hanging Out with Hammocks & High Tea's Karen Young

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Eco-chic decor designer Karen Young, founder of Hammocks & High Tea, marries rich tradition, influenced by her Scottish-Portugese heritage, with modern and conscientious luxury.

Karen’s line offers an array of stylish eco-decor, ranging from kitchen towels to clutches, that inspire an appreciation for the beautiful things in life that, if well-cared for, will last forever.

Sleek, simple kitchen towel designs dress up your place setting. Photo Courtesy Hammocks & High Tea.

Carry Hammocks & High Tea’s holiday reversible clutches two ways. For a simple look, show the fine Italian leather exterior; for added texture and interest, display the black and white chevron print on the outside. Photo Courtesy Hammocks & High Tea.

In her quest to bring gorgeous, affordable home decor that will last generations into the homes of tastemakers everywhere, Karen pauses to reflect on the journey of her small company thus far.

To dig even deeper into Karen’s design aesthetic, check out this follow-up interview.

You have said that you are inspired by your grandmother’s style and your Scottish-Portugese heritage. How do you hope your line of products will inspire those who purchase your products? ? 

I use the word authentic a lot when in the design process. The patterns, colors and references are all authentic representations of the brand. There are some customers I find that become attached to certain patterns, re-ordering in different colors or products each season, and this is exactly what I’ve always wished to achieve. I hope that a pattern, whether it be in a pillow or a dopp kit, allows someone to connect with a memory, a sensation or just joy at seeing this bit of color and texture daily. Authenticity is in that connection.

Describe the creative process. Do you doodle? People-watch? Make pinboards and mood boards?

My process is a little strange for a creative one. Before I put anything on paper, I visualize how it will be used, how it will feel, what the materials are — sometimes for months before I start a mood board. The second step is creating the story for that season’s collection, and finally I put together a mood board.

Why is it important to you, your company and your consumers to use eco-friendly, natural and organic textiles and inks?

While I was working in fashion a few years ago, eco was a hot buzz word. Everyone had figured out some way to incorporate it into their collections, from fibers to tags, including the company I worked for at the time. However, it came with a steep learning curve as the eco-friendly consumer was highly educated on the process. It was more than a buzz word to them. I had to learn about fibers, process, dyes, waste and it changed my perception of fabrics for good. ??As a designer, the concept of being eco friendly is further along than the materials that are readily available to us, so in our studio we balance that by using materials that are recycled, biodegradable, water-based, plant-based, and recyclable. The choice to offer eco was a result of being educated by the consumer, and I couldn’t see why I would do anything but my absolute best — it only made sense.

What have you learned about building a sustainable brand — sustainable in the terms of environmentally safe and sustainable in the terms of staying relevant and afloat in a troubled economy?

Building a sustainable eco brand requires a lot of ingenuity and flexibility. Things you think should be available aren’t as yet, or if so they are cost-prohibitive. It has required me to learn how to be extra creative and at times, offset one aspect of organic in exchange for sustainable or eco-friendly. At the end of the day each product I offer must be functional, safe, sustainable and lastly, pretty.

Building a brand that is relevant in a troubled economy comes back to authenticity. All of our items are made to order, which can sometimes be a challenge when the average brand offers instant gratification; we require a few days to produce. I know that what we do translates when my customers write in with delight. These are the customers that will continue to check in, continue to collect new prints and the customers that I intend to grow with.