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Manayunk fashion designer is in the Louvre

Paula Hian hopes her new knitwear collection is a hit with buyers.

Fashion designer Paula Hian photographed in a stairway at her studio in Philadelphia on May 14, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )
Fashion designer Paula Hian photographed in a stairway at her studio in Philadelphia on May 14, 2013. ( DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer )Read more

PAULA HIAN IS a Manayunk-based fashion designer who splits time between Philly and France, where she makes her own line of knitwear for women. The sole owner of Paula Hian Designs rolls out her 2013 holiday collection for buyers next week in New York City. Hian, who grew up in Penn Valley and lives in Wayne, won an international competition in Paris for fashion students, and the winning dress is on permanent display in the Louvre.

Q: What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

A: It's the only thing I ever wanted to do. I started designing clothes at age 5, and it's the same as what I do now. The drawings are a little better.

Q: How do you top getting a dress into the Louvre?

A: The one great thing about being a fashion designer is there's always a new season and a new thing to create.

Q: What's the buzz about your 2013 holiday collection?

A: Buyers rarely write me, they don't like to talk to designers, but I've gotten emails and phone calls, and they say it seems like a breakthrough collection, particularly one of the dresses.

Q: Tell me about that.

A: It's a bronze/black cocktail dress with a mix of twill, cloque and knit. The structure has a very sheer sleeve. The look is smart, subtle and sensuous.

Q: How would you describe the typical Paula Hian customer?

A: It's not about the age, but more about the person, a professional woman who wants a dress that's original but without looking as if the dress is wearing her.

Q: Your clothes are worn by celebrities, but big-name recognition has been elusive. How do you up your game?

A: I've got to figure out how to do more PR, because you need to be out there in a much bigger way. That's a difference between me and other designers and people who are, to be perfectly blunt, spending tons on self-promotion.

Q: Why are your knits made in France?

A: Knitting is a special art in France, and they don't do it in this country. The factory I use was the original Hervé Léger factory. That's the fashion house that pioneered bandage dresses that would mold and shape the wearer's figure with bandage-like strips. It was founded by Hervé Peugnet [now Leroux], and Princess Diana wore his dresses.

Q: Where are your clothes sold?

A: Mostly in boutiques in the U.S. You can find them at Joan Shepp.

Q: How much do the knits cost?

A: Dresses and gowns are $650 to $2,000, jackets $750 to $1,400 and skirts and pants $490 to $890.

Q: How big a business is this?

A: It's getting there. It's growing, but I don't talk about numbers.

Q: Well, can you say how many knits you sold last year?

A: I'd say between 2,000 and 10,000.