Mallet Hill clothing line inspired by polo
By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Horses are her inspiration.
Libby Lewis of Fox Chapel created Mallet Hill, a contemporary women's clothing line that's perfect to wear to a polo match — or anywhere, really. The line also includes T-shirts for guys.
After years of playing the game where you ride a horse while trying to strike a ball with a mallet and put it through a goal, Lewis wanted to capture her personal style and the feeling of freedom and energy that playing polo provides her.
“I really have a passion for polo,” she says. “And I want the line to be one that everyone can wear and enjoy, even if they don't play polo. I don't want to put an age on who can wear it, because I believe Mallet Hill is for everyone. I wanted to be a bit more conservative when creating it. It reflects a little bit of me — casual, preppy, bohemian and sporty.”
Lewis opened a studio in Millvale in January 2012. The name Mallet Hill came from a place called just that in Wellington, Fla., an equine enclave where the designer grew up. It also shares the name of sought-after communities in Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina.
Lewis was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Wellington. She went to school in London, where she played polo, spent a semester in Spain, and then came back to the United States to work in the film industry in Los Angeles. There, she taught polo lessons in exchange for free polo with the Will Rogers Polo Club. She has played polo in Saratoga, Palm Beach, San Diego, Dallas and Virginia.
She spent three months in Argentina to work and train on a polo ranch. It was there she noticed a bird that was screeching at the horses. That bird, which she uses as a logo on her shirts, represented freedom to Lewis, which she compares to the feeling of riding a horse.
Lewis combines her international exposure and experiences into chic, everyday wear for the fashion-conscious consumer. Mallet Hill bridges the world of country-club lifestyle and classic American sportswear, with an eclectic sensibility, at an attainable price point. It differentiates itself from other established labels with designs inspired by the sport of polo with bold colors and unique details. She eventually wants to expand into handbags and home goods.
Her clothing is made from 100 percent cotton pique and genuine leather in the United States and with eco-friendly ink. There are numbers on the T-shirts between 50 and 54 that reference the way polo mallets are sized to fit individual players and their ponies.
Some of the pieces include the Hilton Dress, a gathered jersey A-line dress with leather details and front buckle closures. The Kimmie Dress is a color-blocked jersey dress. The Saddle Blazer has edgy leather trim and color blocking. The Teros Tee has the bird that was discovered on Lewis' trip to Argentina.
T-shirts are $40 and dresses are $126 to $149.
Professor William Kofmehl wears the line. He says he was immediately drawn to her brand because of polo's history and his interest in horsemanship as well as in clothing.
The practicing international artist and sculptor teaches in the art school at the University of Pittsburgh and the media arts department at Robert Morris University.
He says he doesn't typically wear T-shirts out, but, once he tried Mallet Hill, he was sold. His students also noticed the shirt.
“I have an unwavering enthusiasm toward her brand ethos and the specificity of fit on my torso,” he says. “The material's suppleness simultaneously conforms to my body while undulating in concert with my varied body movements.”
Lauren Usher of Oakmont echoes Kofmehl's sentiments.
“I love my Mallet Hill shirt,” Usher says. “People are always complimenting me on it. The logos are unique and classy, plus Libby did a great job with the fit, fabric and colors. It's an instant favorite, and I can't wait to the see the next Mallet Hill collection.”
Lewis is taking time off from playing to concentrate on her line, but plans to participate in polo matches at Darlington, Beaver County, beginning the last weekend in May, weather permitting. She was accepted into Parsons The New School for Design in New York. She hasn't decided if she is going to attend.
She launched her first collection in January. Her goal is to get into showrooms across the country.
“I think what makes my line unique is it is made in the USA,” she says. “It is super-soft and comfortable. It is made of a jersey material, which is what you see on polo fields.”
You can purchase shirts online at www.mallethill.com and dresses at Equine Chic in Ligonier and stores in Florida, South Carolina, Indiana and California, as well as by phone (412-252-2507). Lewis' line will be showcased at the Spirit Fashion Show on April 13 at Carnegie Mellon University (www.spiritfashionshow.com).
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.
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