Harley Viera-Newton on Music, Building Her Own Brand and Designing the Perfect Dress

April 16, 2020

Look at any best-dressed list and we bet you’d find her on it. DJ, model and designer Harley Viera-Newton is known for her vintage-inspired style and her love of effortless, throw-on-and-go dresses. The London-born, LA native grew up rummaging through some of the best thrift and vintage stores around the world, determined to find the styles she had been dreaming up in her mind. It was after yet another unsuccessful shopping trip that she finally decided to take matters into her own hands.

Viera-Newton launched her namesake label, HVN, in 2016 and it quickly became a cult favorite with famous fans including Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Kate Bosworth. Read on to learn more about her design process, how music influences the way she gets dressed, and what her must-rent dress is from her collection. 

To start off, tell us about HVN and how it all began: 

HVN was born from my love of classic dress silhouettes and my obsession with conversational vintage prints. Growing up in LA, I was blessed with some of the best vintage options around, and since I can remember my closet has been packed full of fun and quirky patterned pieces.

But the problem with vintage is that there’s often a trade off: either the shape or print isn’t quite right, the fabric is itchy or deteriorating, or the gem you found simply isn’t your size. I dreamt of finding a simple button-down cherry silk dress and longed for strappy pink gingham styles.  I had really specific shapes and prints in my mind that I wanted to update and bring to life in luxurious fabrics. Before long, I found myself sampling my dream dresses at a tiny New York factory and wearing them to work…the rest was history. 

Describe the brand in 5 words or less. 

Classic. Effortless. Conversational. Versatile. Timeless. 

If you had to pick one, what is your must-rent dress?

This season I am in love with the tiger print Olympia dress. I love that this piece can easily be dressed down for the day with a sneaker or sandal, but it can easily make you wedding guest-ready with the addition of a heel and fun earring. It’s already become such a staple in my closet for all sorts of occasions. 

Viera-Newton in the Olympia Gown

More HVN styles available on Rent the Runway

What does your typical design process look like?

It always starts with the prints. I dream of prints pretty much all day long, and it’s my favorite part of the process. Most of our prints are licensed vintage patterns that I then rework, but often I’ll create them from scratch with my graphic designer. Once we have our print library for the season, that really informs the silhouettes.

Now, let’s get personal–give us your bio in one sentence. 

I studied archaeology and anthropology at NYU, signed with Roc Nation as a DJ upon graduation, and launched HVN in May of 2016. 

You started DJ-ing in college, how has your music career influenced your fashion career?

For me, music and fashion have always inspired each other. When you’re getting dressed in the morning, the song you’re listening to is going to influence the outfit you choose (whether you realize it or not). Music informs your mood and attitude, different genres/albums will put you in totally different creative spaces. 

How would you describe your style, both personally and when it comes to your music?

Classic and timeless for both. What’s better than an album that doesn’t get old 100 listens in and a dress that doesn’t go out of style? 

How do you get into the creative zone? 

Travel is key–I’m constantly inspired by everyone I see on the streets, especially in Tokyo, New York, and Paris. 

Any latest reads, podcasts or shows inspiring you? 

I’m obsessed with the How I Built This podcast. I actually just listened to the RTR episode, and what an amazing story! It’s so motivational to hear how these mega brands started out from day one, how they built their brands and conquered early stage failures. 

When the day’s over, how do you unwind? 

Easy question! On the sofa listening to a record or watching TV with my husband and cats. 

Rapid-fire Q&A:

  • First fashion memory: I’ll never forget the first time I DJed for Dior. I was able to pull a dress from their fashion closet, and I couldn’t believe I was allowed to borrow the beautiful blue silk gown I wore. 

  • Biggest fashion regret: My punk phase. I loved the music, but the look just didn’t work on me… it felt and looked very forced. 

  • Current fashion crush: I just purchased a pair of Amina Muaddi’s heels and they are amazing! I’m already on the hunt for a second pair… 

  • Personal fashion icon: My mother (Cristina Viera-Newton)

  • Favorite Insta handle: @thedodo 

  • Last thing you Googled: How to make a chicken pot pie 

  • Best advice you’ve ever received:  Act your age, not your shoe size (c/o: Prince)