Haute Hippie: Haute Couture Meets La Bohème

The outfits from the Resort Wear Collection in the windows at Haute Hippie on Madison Avenue have me doing a double-take. Straightaway, the word ‘Haute’ triggers thoughts of haute couture and Coco Chanel—especially since this week I'm reading Rhonda Garelick’s incredibly well-researched and engaging biography: Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History.

On the other hand 'Hippie’ brings to mind Haight Ashbury in the '60s—tie-dyed T-shirts, colorful head scarves, with sweaters and jackets layered over ankle-length skirts. This duo below in white deserves closer inspection.

The mannequin to the right, for instance, wears a Tuxedo-style dress in a soft white. Coco Chanel would approve the simple lines, double-breasted front-button closure and military references. She coined all of these ideas and stayed with them until her dying day. And she would have adored that gold mesh bib, shimmering with crystals and finished with fringe.

Championing costume jewelry, she felt it offered the masses a chance to buy spectacular pieces, pieces that looked as though they cost a king's ransom at affordable prices. She actually had jewelry that cost a king's ransom and thought nothing of knocking off cheap copies.

As for the outfit on the other mannequin, it's the embodiment of hippie chic. Note the chiffon floor-length skirt and ruffled blouse layered with a tailored jacket and the metallic inserts at the shoulders. It’s ‘hippie’ yes, but consummately feminine. Coco maintained that there's nothing new in the world of fashion, that it all goes back to the Greeks. Designers merely create variations on a theme.

Lovely variations, I might add. In another window sits the enchanting piece to the right above, but let's be practical: when would I wear it, other than on New Year's Eve? At this point I realize that the windows have done their job, got me through the door.

Between the softly draped fabrics, the sequin-spiked gowns, asymmetrical hemlines, and zebra print silk jumpsuits, the place drips with Old Hollywood glamour. Grace Kelly is sure to walk out of the dressing room any minute.

A sales manager says Haute Hippie was launched in 2008 by Trish Wescoat Pound to reflect her nomadic lifestyle. Is she French? She’s not. Originally from Oklahoma—note the longhorns and pony prints—she often travels to France and, indeed, all over the world seeking inspiration for her collections. In fact, all of the beading work is done in India.

What’s more the collections have themes. The fall collection was based on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and another on Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Haute Hippie offers luxurious well-tailored clothes for what they call the ‘Ro-Bo’—a rock ‘n’ roll bohemian woman. I doubt I qualify, but I can imagine myself wearing one of the leather jackets layered over a ‘husband’ shirt and a pair of slacks. Or a cashmere wrap draped over a long sweater with a pair of leggings. Either would look amazing when you're traveling. The clothing is designed to be comfortable, feminine, and with an edge, the saleswomen says.  "An edge," I ask, "Like what?"
"Like that black belt on the white chiffon outfit."

Dress to impress is the philosophy behind Haute Hippie, and their clothing—flirty, feminine, well-tailored—is meant to help you do just that. Wanting to see more, I went online to find the collections are sold at many places including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom. I fell in love with an ivory turtleneck sweater dress with camel-colored leather inserts at the shoulder; originally $595, reduced to $356. SOLD OUT. Then I took a fancy to an intricately detailed suede blazer with plenty of fringe. SOLD OUT.  Ah, there's always  next season.

So let me ask you, would you have been tempted by the windows to go in? By the way, what we call window shopping, the French call 'slurping the windows.' What's your style? Are you more haute or more hippie? Or a little bit of both?

Hope to see you back next week, mes amis. when I'll have the coffee ready...