Fashion trends may come and go, but it’s the classic, wearable pieces that become wardrobe staples. For sisters Hillary Glenn Riley and Jillian Glenn Altman, their one-year-old fashion line Glenn + Glenn fulfills what was missing from their own closets—clean-lined, multi-functional clothing with modern details and luxurious fabrics that could take them from an afternoon meeting with clients to dinner with friends.
The pair—Riley previously worked in fashion design in New York City, and Altman worked in corporate branding—launched their brand with an eight-piece collection in Spring 2019. For fall, they’re slowly increasing their offerings, with new fabrics, updated silhouettes, and an expanded range of colors, while continuing to focus on elegant simplicity. “We wanted to create a line that’s stylish, not run of the mill, big brand stuff, so we really focused on the quality of the fabrics and the color selection,” says Riley.
To see their latest line and meet the sisters in person, Garbarini will be hosting a Glenn + Glenn Fall 2019 trunk show on August 22 (you’ll even be able to nab a choice selection of carry-over pieces from their spring collection). Read on to learn more about the duo, the challenges of starting a new fashion label, and how they’d like to bring more fashion production to the Mile High City.
How did the concept for Glenn + Glenn start?
JGA: Hillary and I shared an office on Pearl Street and had our own clients [Riley had recently moved to Boulder, where her sister lived, and was doing contract design for lifestyle performance companies, while Altman was working independently in corporate branding and graphic design], but often they would overlap; we would have some apparel clients and some startups. We would sit in the office and be kind of miserable with our work because we realized it wasn’t our style or what we wanted to do. We talked about having our own company since we were kids, so eventually we reached that breaking point where we were like, “OK, it’s now or never.”
From what point did you start the design process?
HGR: We wanted to start this company to design—essentially—for people like us. We both have a pretty clean, minimal style. But, for example, it was hard to find a basic shell that you could just accessorize and wear for multiple seasons. So, that was a big part of starting and curating what styles we wanted in the first capsule collection, which was very difficult to narrow down to just eight pieces. But that was the main driver: What do we want to wear—what’s missing from our closet?
Are you expanding your offerings for fall?
HGR: The Fall 2019 capsule collection is nine pieces. We made a new and improved Alyster blouse, which is our best seller. It’s a little bit different in the front, but still 100 percent silk.
JGA: We’ve updated our structured dress (the Londyn). And we’re offering it in different colors for the season. We also included a pair of trousers, a jumpsuit, a jacket, a high-low velvet top, and a sweater.
I like that you mentioned updating certain silhouettes, but not completely taking them out of rotation. It really sounds like you’re talking about evolving the collection from season to season.
HGR: Since we only have two collections a year, we want them to flow and work with each other.
JGA: I feel like our idea is that this makes our collections more wearable—you can layer pieces and keep them in your wardrobe from one season to the next. Plus, the colors are neutral.
How do you choose fabrics for the collection?
HGR: I think we’re taking what we learned from the first collection and improving upon it. We’re focusing on those heavier Italian wool blends–they’re beautiful fabrics for the pants, jumpsuit, and that structured dress–and the Italian cupro, which is one of our favorites…And, of course, we’re keeping the silk; it’s another one of our favorites and does very well with our customers.
I know you spend a lot of time creating unique details to make each piece look special. Do they require a lot of time to think up and get right?
HGR: We wanted to focus on simple details that do set us apart and just have a little bit of that modern edge. I think we work through a lot of that in the design process. We hash out several designs before tweaking them in the prototype phase to get the fit right.
JGA: We’ve been blessed/cursed with quite a bit of perfectionism between the two of us. There are a lot of very late nights where we think we’ve come to a design decision, but then Hillary’s out there with her measuring tape again first thing in the morning. It’s also why we try our samples on people a million times and use several different fit models, including ourselves; then we make changes—maybe just a millimeter—but that can make a huge difference.
Hillary, do you think it helps that you worked for other labels in NYC, like Diane Von Furstenberg? So many people just want to be a “Fashion Designer,” but don’t want to invest the time in learning about the actual process.
HGR: I always tell young designers that if they want their own label someday, they really need to work for another company first. You need to work for an established brand because you have to do fittings, you have to know where to put seams, etc. It also helps working with an established patternmaker and factory.
And speaking of factories, the entire collection is made in NYC, right?
HGR: Yes. And we’re using two amazing women-run factories in the Garment District. One of them does Marchesa and the entire Yigal Azrouël collection. It’s essential for a small startup to have a close relationship and proximity with their factory. That said, for the fall, we’re introducing one factory in India that’s going to do two of our styles, and then our sweater will be made in Shanghai at a factory I’ve worked with on another client.
I’ve been asked why there’s not more fashion production in Denver, but we don’t have those top patternmaker jobs like in NYC or LA.
HGR: I think it’s starting to change. We’re trying to work as much as we can in Denver. That’s why we wanted to incorporate Manus Supply. We have all this excess fabric—the cuttings or small scraps left over once the garments are cut—and that’s a big part of fashion waste. We don’t want to throw away this nice Italian fabric, so we started to make accessories–first scarves, and just this summer we’ve launched a limited edition of clutches.