Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Heather Marie often traveled to Chicago for back-to-school shopping. The fashion designer remembers feeling enchanted while looking at department store displays. On those trips her mother showed her how to buy items from different boutiques and blend them seamlessly into an existing wardrobe. Today Heather Marie understands clothing is the vehicle she uses to express creativity. Her business, Heather Marie Designs, specializes in private label brands and gorgeous customized hats.
“Starting with my grandmother, fashion has very much been cherished by my family,” Heather Marie said. “Growing up I was never a size two, but my mother taught me to purchase clothing that complements my shape. When Hip-hop was televised in music videos and appeared in magazines, it influenced my style. In middle school I had to have a jacket like the ones made famous by the music group Salt-N-Pepa in their video Push It. Searching high and low for that jacket, I learned about fashion designer Dapper Dan and other artists he collaborated with. Seeing those designs at a young age continues to have an impact to this day.”
In addition to clothing, Heather Marie also loves fragrances. In high school she dreamed of creating her own perfume and decided to major in chemistry at Butler University (having her own line of fragrances is still a life goal). After graduating, Heather Marie moved to Dallas where she became an active member at Light of the World Church of Christ. She credits a spiritual awakening and reaffirmed relationship with God for inspiring the launch of her custom apparel line in 2013. The first products were t-shirts. However, with so many people making similar items, Heather Marie realized it was time to reinvent her brand. While chatting with friend, she had an epiphany that hats were unique canvases she could use to display creative ideas. In 2019, a line of fedoras ushered in a new chapter for her company.
The Power of Hats
“Hats can make life easier for women,” Heather Marie laughed. “So many of us are busy, engulfed in daily routines, but still want to be stylish. A hat equals no bad hair days. It signals confidence! And some men love to wear them too. One challenge I’ve heard from clients is their heads are too big for hats. I tell them no, the hats were too small. I recently purchased the materials and equipment needed to design hats completely from scratch so my line will have more variety in sizes and brims for customers.”
One design that particularly means a lot to Heather Marie is the one crowned Black Panther. When the Marvel movie BLACK PANTHER came out, Heather Marie recalls it was breathtaking, phenomenal, and moved her spirit as a designer and Black woman born in America. The very first version of the Black Panther hat has a place of honor in her home, while the second generation design continues to be one of her best sellers. Her affection for the brim has only grown since the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman, whom she considers was a real flesh and blood superhero.
As a successful business owner, Heather Marie notes it is imperative to have a few close friends, especially a “spiritual foundation” in your corner. Ones you can confide in and who want to help ensure your success both spiritually and physiologically. She also credits her faith and attests that when she needed help finding a path forward, God provided.
“Learn your purpose,” Heather Marie says firmly. “I learned as a child of God that He placed something in all of us that somebody else needs. We just have to find out what that is. Once you learn your purpose, you’ll begin to create. There was a short letter my mom sent me that I still have tacked to my fridge. It says, “Stay with it when you’re tired, disgusted, broke, hungry, sleepy.” Then there’s an ellipsis and “stay with it.” And she signed her initials. Every time I open my refrigerator, I look at that.”
Written by Erin Prather Stafford
Images provided by Heather Marie
Creator Spotlight features interviews with artistic women/girls and showcases their work. If you know an artist you’d like to see spotlighted, email Erin at erin(at)girlsthatcreate(dot)com.