Mia San Agustin likes to be known as only one-half of the Harlan + Holden equation alongside founder Eman Pineda. Formerly a PR communciations specialist for brands like Gucci and Stella McCartney, Mia's leadership has definitely molded Harlan + Holden's brand identity to what we see today. Read our meaty Q&A with this #GirlBoss marketer.
I LEARNED THAT YOU STUDIED FASHION IN MILAN. IN WHAT WAYS DID YOUR FASHION EDUCATION INFLUENCE YOUR WORK AT HARLAN + HOLDEN?
There was a lot of theory, but throughout the course we had speakers from the top management posts of Gucci, Prada, Ferragamo, Cartier, Ermenegildo Zegna and the like. We were also invited to see their factories and offices and we were assigned field projects in these companies.
I’d have to say my exposure to these companies and having worked for them has given me a hands-on and practical approach in how I conduct business today. You need to be strategic and plan a year in advance, but you need to be constantly listening to change, to what your clients and frontliners are saying. We also learned about the power of the Brand—businesses are built around colors, logos, one specific product, a store design—and everything you do needs to build on that. Don’t waiver and be true to your brand.
WHEN YOU TOOK ON THE JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WERE THE BRAND’S FIRST CHALLENGES, AND HOW WERE THEY OVERCOME?
The aesthetic of Harlan + Holden is very clear in people’s minds— relaxed, fuss-free and minimal; using light and breathable fabrics. However, I did not feel that people understood the reasoning for this aesthetic. I felt the first challenge was to communicate what the brand stood for, which was to allow people to save precious, limited time in making decisions of what to wear, without ever sacrificing style.
We had to explain why the clothes were created this way, and what Harlan + Holden could deliver to its clients through the clothes [it sells]. We wanted our clients to feel comfortable yet confident, to have a low-maintenance wardrobe where we delivered on ease: ease in wear, care and bear.
So we took our “tried and tested” pieces and developed our core line, which we called BC, which historically stands for “before Christ.” We chose this name because we wanted to communicate basics, before everything got so complicated, before mobile phones, before Google, before the colors oatmeal, marsala and sage, before Botox... We used that basic framework to put together a permanent collection of 15 pieces to compose your wardrobe. We associated Harlan + Holden with a uniform approach to dressing, to being your go-to choice when you want to buy key pieces that are not seasonal, not fashion-forward, but investment pieces that you can wear over and over without tiring of it, and without being high-maintenance.
Read the rest of the interview in our Feb issue here.
Photographed by Everywhere We Shoot