Becoming a Designer: Hannah Elise

I am so thrilled to introduce you to our next guest in my Becoming a Designer series – her name is Hannah Elise, and she designs the gorgeous Hetterson line. Her clothing is breathtakingly pretty, and I love all her gorgeous details! But not only is she an incredibly talented designer, she is also a complete sweetheart.

I know you will absolutely love reading her story! Once you’re done, be sure to visit her blog, and peruse her gorgeous lookbooks. You will fall in love with her designs. I know I did.

My name is Hannah Elise Peterson and I design + make Hetterson clothing and knitwear.

I have always had a passion for making stuff; my mother was a huge influence being the crafty person she was, and she encouraged and taught me when she could.  Over the years, I have tried:   sewing, doll making, miniature teddy bear making, soft sculpture needle felting, wet-felting, spinning, crocheting, tatting, knitting, weaving, screen-printing and dying.  At 13-ish I began making my own clothes, mostly because I was frustrated with the quality and styles available.   I had always made more…Um…freeform stuff previously and had no idea what I was getting into.  Clothing design had to be the most rigid, finicky, measurement obsessed medium I had ever worked in, but oddly enough the one I liked (and still do ) most.    I’ve always been hands-on, the only way I learn is if I see it done or come up with my own method.   Since there was no one to teach me when I started, I had to figure everything out on my own.  I came up with my own patterns, because I was unable to follow commercial patterns.   I was terrible at first.  I remember my first “real” sewing project was a skirt,  the waistband was too big, so my solution was to stitch it onto myself, at the time I was walking a paper route and midway through my walk the poor stitch job bust and half the neighborhood  saw my knickers…oops.  Sewing is like anything else, the more you work at it the better you get.  Over the years I refined my pattern drafting skills, learned how to grade, and honed my sewing and hand finishing skills until I felt confident enough to make anything I wanted.

When I was 17; while working part-time and attending my first year of college; I started Hetterson (then Bekväm).  I was a liberal arts student – I had NO idea what I wanted to do.  Since I was attending a community college, the classes available were very limited, but I was still able to try pottery, printmaking, drawing, painting, ballet, photography, Photoshop and a few business courses.  I never really enjoyed school, it was always too rigid, and even art classes were too structured for me. I like to be shown how to do something, and then do whatever I want with it.  I started Hetterson on the side because I wanted a creative outlet (and hopefully extra cash) that wasn’t limited by grade or materials.  Making clothing felt like the right thing.

May 28th 2009 I set up my first blog (then  It was pretty slow in the beginning.  I was an irregular poster, and my images were, frankly, not the best.    My plan was to launch a small collection of dresses (made from organic/mill end fabric) fall 2009.  I kept blogging about what I was doing and slowly people found me who liked what I was doing.   Right before I launched my collection, I contacted a couple of my favorite blogs with photos from my collection + a little info about what I was doing.  Thanks to those bloggers who posted about my clothing; the first collection of dresses sold out and the next few did the same.  My “on the side” business was suddenly taking over my life.  Because it’s just me behind Hetterson, I have to wear a lot of hats.  Besides designing and making all the clothing; I’m also the yarn and fabric dye chemist, textile source-er, graphic/web designer, official label maker and email person.  I basically do everything, which is both good and bad.  On the plus side it means I have complete control of my business, and on the not so good side, sometimes I get so exhausted I want to go crawl into a hole and die.

After I launched my SS 2010 collection, school and work became very difficult to manage.  Last autumn, after the SS season was over, I quit school.   I needed more time to work on Hetterson, and because I had no focus, school was becoming a waste of my time and money.  A couple months before the FW 2010 collection, I changed my line’s name from Bekväm (comfort or comfortable in Swedish) to Hetterson (a combination of my first, middle and last name).  I just felt that Bekväm was too confusing and that it didn’t represent me or my label as well as it could.  At the same time I decided to expand into knitwear (even though I had no prior experience).  After researching I realized the best way to do this was with a knitting loom.  A few weeks before my photoshoot, I borrowed a knitting loom, took a 2 hour class on the basics of working it, and designed and knit up two sweaters to include in the collection.    Things moved really fast after the FW collection launched.  The big things I remember was I had my first major retail offer (couldn’t meet the timeline/demand), got no more than 2hr sleep per night for a month, made a ton of clothing and attended my first trade show.

January 2011 I finally quit my job to focus on Hetterson full time.   As much as I love working for myself, it’s also a challenge because I don’t know when to quit, I typically work 16-18 hour days on a regular basis and more-often-than-I-would-like 24hr days.   I still love it.   This spring has been my best season yet, I feel so incredibly grateful to all my customers and just the blog world in general for being such a supportive place!  I still get such a kick out of seeing people wearing my clothes, it ridiculous how happy it makes me! Being a designer is really hard work and almost never glamorous (sweatpants + raggy t-shirt = work uniform), but I can’t imagine doing anything else.

If you want to get into this field…I would say work hard to make sure your skills are top notch, design what you like NOT what you think other people will like, have faith in yourself and what you can do, and then DO IT!!!!

Just a few snaps from Hetterson SS2011 – View the full lookbook here.

Lookbook credits
Anja Verdugo
Hair +makeup: Katie Groover
Model: Terra Lynn Cathey
Model: Meredith Adelaide
Market tote bag by Rennes

Becoming a Designer series by Megan Nielsen

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  2. Anna says

    Loving this series. Just to let you know, the links to the Hetterson website are incorrect and led me to a virus. It should be, not .com.