Isn’t it funny how sometimes your friends do incredible things while you’re not looking?
My friend, Patrick Herning, created an entirely new category in fashion.
That’s not hyperbole. And it wasn’t easy.
Patrick didn’t think it was fair that fashion was ignoring women of a certain size – department stores rarely carry clothing above a size 14.
So, he created 11 Honoré – where plus-sized women can buy designer clothing — and essentials — that actually fit.
He also – during COVID, no less – launched an in-house clothing line, so popular it’s now at Nordstrom.
Patrick hatched his big idea in 2016 while working in PR.
Which is where our conversation begins.
PATRICK HERNING: I worked on a project for Marina Rinaldi, [a luxury, plus-sized clothing brand]. That was my first experience with plus size, planted the seed.
ALINA CHO: What did you think?
PATRICK HERNING: I thought it was very expensive and not speaking to the modern consumer. That summer, I ideated the concept [for 11 Honoré] and brought it to a good friend of mine, Dana Settle, who is the founding partner of Greycroft [a VC firm]. I said, "Hey, I have this idea." She goes, "It's a great idea. Get your idea off the ground and come back to me." So, I got the idea off the ground and came back to her, and the rest is history.
ALINA CHO: Obviously, it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Did you ever have a moment where you were like, “That's scary. I'm doing something I've never done. I'm creating a business.”
PATRICK HERNING: Oh, it's awful. It was awful. Here's the thing, I wasn't a kid. I mean, I knew a thing or two. I'd had some success. But this raising capital, understanding how financing works, dealing with corporate entities and structure [is a whole new thing].
ALINA CHO: Let’s back up. For the person who's never heard of 11 Honoré, explain to me, what is it?
PATRICK HERNING: 11 Honoré is the first-of-its-kind retail platform [founded in 2017] that brings straight-sized designers like Tanya Taylor and Mara Hoffman and Carolina Herrera, extending their sizing for the very first time for the plus-sized customer. If you are above a size 12, you have the same retail experience [on 11 Honoré] as a straight-sized woman shopping on Net-a-Porter.
ALINA CHO: Not too many people know, 70% of U.S. —
PATRICK HERNING: 70% of the U.S. female population is a size 14 or higher.
ALINA CHO: Why have they not been served?
PATRICK HERNING: This is my philosophy in life, is where were we on gay marriage ten years ago? We, as a society, evolve and fashion, interestingly enough, for as progressive as it is, it's very archaic.
ALINA CHO: It was a skinny woman's game.
PATRICK HERNING: It's a skinny woman's game. I think [plus-sized supermodel] Ashley Graham opened a lot of doors.
But I think, more importantly, you have to evolve with the times or you're just not paying attention.
ALINA CHO: You mean size inclusivity?
PATRICK HERNING: Size inclusivity. I look at what we've done and when we started and look at the runways now. Precious Lee was all over the runways.
Paloma [Elsesser] is all over the runways.
Ashley, when she's not pregnant, is all over the runways.
And so, I think visibility on the runway is so important because then it trickles down, right?
ALINA CHO: Of course. Have you done a [fashion] show?
PATRICK HERNING: We did the first-of-its-kind designer curve show in February of 2019. We went right before Tom Ford, and it was epic.
ALINA CHO: What do you mean?
PATRICK HERNING: It was the first-of-its-kind, a half-million-dollar show, the best curve models. Laverne Cox closed [the show].
We showcased thirty-five designers from Monique Lhuillier to Brandon Maxwell to Cushnie to Roland Mouret. It was magical.
ALINA CHO: How did you come up with the name, 11 Honoré?
PATRICK HERNING: Back in the early days, [my creative directors were] like, “Let’s think of global shopping destinations.” And it’s like Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive, Rue Saint-Honoré. We’re like, “Ooh, Honoré.” Honoré means honor. So, it’s a destination where she’s honored. And eleven is my magic number.
PATRICK HERNING: I mean, private label’s always been part of the strategy. Honestly, if it weren't for our [11 Honoré] private label, I don't think we would have survived COVID.
ALINA CHO: Interesting. Because the price is a little lower, it’s more democratic, or what?
PATRICK HERNING: 100%, all of those things. But more importantly, when you think about retail, the multi-designer retail market is challenged.
ALINA CHO: Too many choices?
PATRICK HERNING: Too many choices. Too many ways to get the product.
ALINA CHO: It's everywhere.
PATRICK HERNING: And so, for us, it was very important to start this conversation, really pinpointing what she wants from us, which is to deliver great fit at a great price. That is the future of 11 Honoré. We launched middle of last year.
ALINA CHO: Middle of COVID.
PATRICK HERNING: Middle of COVID.
ALINA CHO: I mean, how?
PATRICK HERNING: But this is the divine timing. Our second drop was entirely sweats, which by the way, was developed in 2019.
ALINA CHO: Pre-COVID.
PATRICK HERNING: This year, [11 Honoré private label will account for] 40% [of our entire business].
ALINA CHO: That’s amazing.
PATRICK HERNING: It's huge. And now that we're able to manufacture, we can create these exciting capsule collections.
ALINA CHO: [Speaking of capsule collections], let’s talk about Lena Dunham.
PATRICK HERNING: Lena was like, "I want to pick your brain. I want to pick your brain." We had this big meeting, and she had this idea for a brand. But it's like, stick to your core competency. Lena is one of the most talented creatives of our time. Building and running a fashion company is incredibly difficult, incredibly expensive.
ALINA CHO: She wanted to start her own brand?
PATRICK HERNING: She wanted to start her own brand.
ALINA CHO: And you said what?
PATRICK HERNING: “Great. How can I be helpful?" Then, as we got to know each other over a year, year-and-a-half, I said to her, "Do you really want to do this? Like, wouldn't you rather partner with us? You'll have full creative control, but let us manage fit, infrastructure, supply chain, all of those things."
ALINA CHO: What did she say?
PATRICK HERNING: She's like, "I think you're right." From there, she was such a great creative partner because she was so clear on what she wanted.
ALINA CHO: What did she say about what she wanted?
PATRICK HERNING: She comes from this very artistic background. Like the print on the dress was a print her dad made.
And just her story and what she saw growing up in Soho. Just things down to the scalloped edges on the suit.
All the details were so, so important to her.
ALINA CHO: Why did she want to start a brand?
PATRICK HERNING: “Cool girl.” She wanted affordable, "cool girl" fashion that didn't feel like "fat girl" clothes.
ALINA CHO: Sold out?
PATRICK HERNING: Sold out. I mean, I think we have a little on the site. Stuff that had been returned. But I think we hit 80% sell through within the first 30 days. For anybody who knows retail, that's a huge win.
ALINA CHO: So, you're going to work on another collection with her?
PATRICK HERNING: This is how I positioned it. I said, "You're an actress. If you do a show, a film, a movie, whatever, and it's successful, do a sequel, do a second season." I said, "If this is successful, we'll have a second season.” And so, it can happen, whenever it works with [her] schedule. I think we’ll figure out something for next spring.
ALINA CHO: Tell me about your new company.
ALINA CHO: What does that mean?
PATRICK HERNING: 90% of all brands we carry are BIPOC-founded, whose products are for people of all colors. It's not Black for Black, it's BIPOC-founded for people of all colors.
ALINA CHO: When did you launch?
PATRICK HERNING: We launched in December... like, Gwyneth [Paltrow] invested, Diddy invested, Naomi Watts invested. An incredible launch.
ALINA CHO: You launched during COVID… again!
PATRICK HERNING: Yep. We went from 13 brands to almost 80 brands [in the] first quarter, and then J.C. Penney came to us. And we’re launching Thirteen Lune shop-in-shops in each J.C.P. door.
ALINA CHO: And you just launched.
PATRICK HERNING: We just launched. And they came to us 90 days in, it was nuts.
ALINA CHO: Amazing — you’re on fire!