ARTIST INTERVIEW: Hillary Justin of Bliss and Mischief
Bliss and Mischief was born from a desire to create designs that sparked emotion and defied expectation, clothing that felt both endearingly nostalgic and unapologetically fresh.
For creator Hillary Justin, the line was built upon her deep affection for vintage handiwork and her own experienced embrace of contemporary tailoring and manufacture. With over a decade spent in fashion design and as co-founder of a successful vintage business, Justin launched BAM in 2014, as way of exploring the sweet spot between her two passions. The result is an exquisitely made line of ‘classics to come’, timeless pieces that feel both sweetly nostalgic and refreshingly modern.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
After getting a degree in Psychology, I first came to California from Michigan to go to school for sculpture, but then got the opportunity to design at a clothing company (not a simple story but in an effort not to write a novel…) Then after designing for other companies for about a decade and selling curated vintage for a few years, I decided I wanted to create a brand where I could just focus on things that I loved without compromising on quality or following a set way of doing a clothing line. This lead to starting Bliss And Mischief as a line of western-style chain stitched embroidery on vintage and one of a kind pieces made from vintage fabric. We now have expanded to make all our own pieces here in Los Angeles with the same dedication to heirloom quality and sustainability.
I started it very slowly and without a long term plan. I worked full time for the first year and then freelanced for some time after that so pursuing Bliss And Mischief never felt too risky. There’s always risk in changing direction and in doing something creative but I find when I focus on the process and working on things that make me happy, it feels more exciting than risky, and usually people connect with it more.
Do you have a daily working routine? Can you describe it?
I love slow mornings (and usually extend them as long as possible) so that means making some coffee and breakfast, putting on a Neville Brothers record and answering a few emails from the couch. Then I head to the studio, downtown to visit our factories, or to a meeting. I find it easiest to do design work at my home studio on off hours, so that’s where you’ll find me most evenings and weekends.
How is your work inspired by or influenced by nature and your surroundings?
I share a studio with my friend Kristen of Moon Canyon Design. Her arrangements and the flowers she works with are endlessly inspiring to me – Many of our chain stitch embroideries are floral motifs so I’m always snapping pics of Kristen’s work at the studio for inspiration. I love referencing California landscapes (from the ocean to the mountains), the sun bleached colors of the desert, and the hand painted signs and advertisements I see on my commutes around LA.
Do you have any objects you like to keep around you as inspiration? What are they?
I love old family photos, especially of my mom in the 60s/70s, so I always have a rotating stack of those by my desk. I have a mood board where I hang vintage finds, old graphic tees, my embroidery drawings, and collected do-dads. A good candle (or 3) nearby also inspires and transports me.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
Getting in nature helps reset me – An early morning trip to Malibu to sit by the ocean for a bit, a drive through Joshua Tree to lean against a boulder, or even a hike in Griffith Park and a coffee at Trails Café all help me think a bit more clearly.
Do you think community is important to creativity? If so, how?
So important! When we launched our own denim this past spring, I invited a group of women that inspire me to model our denim – many of them who I know through EPCF. It was incredibly moving to me to see these women in our clothing because they each gave just ‘jeans and a t-shirt’ so much life. This community inspires me with the beauty that they make and their willingness to put their hearts out there with the work they do. They are such positive examples in my life of what it means to be a working creative woman.