Talking crop: with Erica Nelson-Sheehan, co-owner of hitchcock Madrona
I’m “Talking Crop” with the incredibly fabulous Erica Nelson- Sheehan, co-owner of hitchcock Madrona, a women’s accessories store in Seattle. Erica and her business partner, Dustin Nelson, not only curate, they create. Every time I go in, I feel special. Every time I leave, I feel empowered and brave. Today, Erica will give us imaginative tips on finding our own creative style, being courageous, and dressing for ourselves, not others. She has always known her own style, and she is eager to show everyone they can tap into their own.
Wendy: Erica, tell us how your artistry plays into your wardrobe. Anyone who looks at you, talks to you, knows you tackle style from the inside out. You are bold. Tell us what makes you tick.
Erica: You know, I view my life as a stage and what I put on every day, my costume. I love to mix things up, not only when creating jewelry and other accessories, but when dressing every day. I feel like dressing with my artistry lens on; I am really myself. I’m comfortable. And I feel like, because of this, I give women the courage to push fashion limits. My clients are often excited about what I’m wearing and I love to help women understand how the pieces can fit into their own wardrobe. I dress for women . . . well, and for my husband, because he, more than anyone, appreciates my personal style. I wouldn’t consider myself overtly sexy, but plunging necklines and short skirts are not what I find sexy in the first place.
Dressing up started early for me—five years old. It’s all fantasy. And while this fantasy and creating are a big part of me, I am also a serious businesswoman and that is the part of hitchcock I love most. Dustin, my business partner (and partner in crime), friend, and cousin is more the creator in the boutique. Dustin would love to be 100-percent art and I would love to be 100-percent commerce. The magic happens when we meet in the middle and share the roles. We are both passionate about what we do. We are excited every day to come to work. What more can you ask for?
Wendy: Take us through the history of hitchcock Madrona.
Erica: When we were brainstorming the aesthetic, personality, taste . . . the idea of “hitchcock leading ladies” came to mind. Tweed, pencil skirts, heels. Dustin said, “Let’s call it ‘hitchcock.’” It was ballsy, but turned out to be genius. People loved it, wanted to write about it. We added “Madrona” four years later. We feel that “hitchcock” is a vibe (hence the lowercase letter) not the person. In addition, we love vintage . . . so it all just worked. As for buying, we used to buy pragmatically, but now it’s just a visceral reaction we go on and it’s working.
Wendy: What limitations do you think women put on themselves? I personally think all women need to take chances and tap into their creativity. I know you do too!
Erica: Yes, I could not agree more. It’s almost like a reluctance to call attention to themselves or stand out, maybe because many women are uncomfortable underneath it all. Maybe they think calling themselves out with their wardrobe is being conceited, too bold—for instance, they feel like because they are just “mom” they can’t wear the cool necklace to pick up the kids, because it’s not “mom-like;” they can’t wear certain things to work because it’s not “professional.” There is so much judgement.
I want women to wear things that express who they are, what their souls looks like. I hate it when middle-aged women stop wearing necklaces and rings because their décolletage and hands look a certain way. I want to help women get past self-doubt and self-consciousness. Stop stating things you hate about yourself. News flash! You are the ONLY one who notices your ear lobes are sagging or your right eyebrow is higher than your left! I know I’m going to try to embrace aging. It’s so sexy, so attractive, when a woman owns who she is, owns where she is. It’s brave. I had a woman in her mid-sixties in the store recently who told me she feels invisible, feels ignored. It made me so sad. I encouraged her to start wearing color, wearing hats. Get noticed and command attention. I will combat “becoming invisible” by being as flamboyant, crazy, and styled as I can be . . . until the end.
Wendy: What are some of your favorite holiday fashion statements? (Erica’s face lights up at this point!)
Erica: WEEE! My favorite. The ball skirt. Always the ball skirt. Pair it with a band tee, a men’s white shirt, a white tank with an insane jacket. Pile on pearls and chains and VOILA! My favorite special occasion ensemble. I wear a fascinator every Christmas Eve. I wear sequins, glitter, anything sparkly. I stopped wearing glitter on my eyes a few years ago, but pulled it back out last year because I missed it. For more casual holiday gatherings, I love a vintage sequined top paired with jeans and heels. I love “lady-like” skirts with a rocker tee or a sequined kimono-perfection! I wear fur, vintage mostly, some faux. A bold red or magenta lip for the holidays is a must. This time of year is a fantastic opportunity to express yourself. Sparkle and shine! Walk in the room and just own it.
Wendy: How do you think someone who doesn’t consider themself creative can tap into it?
Erica: Oh, I have this one down! I’ve helped so many friends with this. First, go through a few magazines and tear out everything you’re drawn to and like. Lay them all out on the floor and look at them as a whole. Based on that, come up with a theme, and furthermore, a two-word mantra. My friend and I just did this and “Worldly Rustic” was her outcome. When you pick up an item, decide if it really speaks to you, or if it actually speaks to what society says you should wear—what others say is “on trend” or “the best.” Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fall into your mantra. Don’t buy into the fantasy of a store or an item that isn’t you. Buy with intention and attention to who you are. We all have a creative side but a lot of people are lost. Do this for each season. It’s amazing how much it wakes you up on so many levels.
Wendy: What inspires you most?
Erica: My business, my partner, my husband, my son, my style icons. All the people around me inspire me because they let me be me and they truly appreciate everything about me. Beyond that, collecting vintage, finding a piece (maybe a ring or a hat) and building the outfit from there. I surround myself with inspiration. We all should.
Wendy: Tell us a little about your son, his style . . . how you have helped to influence this?
Erica: I have gained so much confidence with motherhood. My son was born seven years ago and through that experience I grew into my own skin. My priorities changed and my time suddenly became more valuable than ever. His name is Ace and he truly fits his moniker. We have always bonded over “dress-up” and our new favorite pastime is going to Goodwill and other secondhand stores “looking for treasures.” As a parent, I try to foster his creativity and encourage his interests. Being a working mom is hard, but it’s so worth it. I show my son what a strong, independent woman looks like . . . and I know that’s what he will seek in a partner.
Wendy: If you had to pick three favorite items from your closet, what would those be?
Erica: Oh. . . that’s a tough one. But for my birthday a few years ago, Dustin made me custom patchwork jeans.
The love, thought, and creativity that went into this overwhelmed me. And I truly love them. Also, my hitchcock Madrona cuff (mine too, Erica!) and my Comme des Garçons cobalt blue skirt.
Wendy: Who are your style icons? (I personally agree with all of her responses.)
Erica: Without hesitation, Daphne Guinness, Taylor Tomasi-Hill, Jenna Lyons, Iris Apfel (I’ll be her when I’m eighty and I can’t wait) and Linda Rodin, to name a few.
Wendy: In what ensemble do you feel most like you? Most comfortable?
Erica: Easy. Vintage, ripped Levi 501s, Manolo Blahnik bb pumps in cobalt blue, a men’s Brooks Brothers’ oxford, pearls mixed with chains, my hitchcock Madrona cuff, a bright colored wool overcoat and red lips, and to top it off, an Ampersand as Apostrophe AS half tote in any and every color!
Wendy: Thank you, Erica, and so good to talk with you, every time. You know I’m your biggest fan. If I had to use two words to sum you up it would be authentically fabulous . . . and very kind.
Tune in next week for “Talking Crop” when I speak with the extraordinary Casey Gouveia, founder of GOBEYOU.