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The WD Interview – Hollister Hovey, Blogger

May 13th, 2011 · No Comments · Arts & Culture, Design & Fashion, Journalism, The WD Interview

Featured in the New York Times and Elle Decoration UK, Hollister Hovey’s eponymous blog captures and documents the trend of what has been termed “new vintage” living. Its charm lies in the author’s distinctive chronicling of classics past and present, cheerfully ignoring that we live in disposable world.

Wallflower Dispatches met up with her in Manhattan.

The name Hollister Halverson Hovey conjures up the image of a long-suffering romantic heroine of an Edith Wharton novel.

In person, Hollister Hovey is more suited to be the female protagonist of an elegant 1940s Howard Hawks movie: tall, funny, personable and down-to-earth. And for those who are familiar with the allusions to the 26th President of the United States: Hovey is definitely more Rosalind Russell than Teddy Roosevelt.

Case in point No.1: When asked what makes her blog popular she laughs and replies: “In a way – and I sometimes I laugh about it with my sister – it is really pretentious. Because it is about all these fancy things and there are all these other concerns in the world, but I guess there always needs to be escapism and luxury and that’s why it exists.”

Case in point No.2: Describing her two-month stint as a columnist advising millionaires (with 10 million dollars or more) on personal financing: “Clearly I was not seeing eye to eye with my audience. Everything ended up being a complicated tax story. It was tedious and boring and nothing I was really interested in. I probably should be a bit more…”

Raised in Kansas, America’s Midwest, Hovey arrived in New York after leaving college, working for Dow Jones and aforementioned columnist job, before settling in a position in medical device and biotech PR, where she works today.

She started her blog for several reasons, including promoting her custom-made wedding invitations.

The other reason was fuelled by what she calls “this shopping thing”: “I just kept buying stuff to a taste that is very much my own especially growing up in the Midwest.” Today these finds form a large part of her posts and decorating feats of her Brooklyn loft.

Her frustration with regular travel guides added another dimension to her site: “There are no lists or travel guides that are organised by aesthetic or style. Whenever we travel we always go to the same kind of places, but that’s not how travel guides work. So I thought I will take all the places that sort of look alike and would put them all on one list.”

This practical idea has grown into the definitive list of old style shopping, eating and dressing not just for the greater Manhattan area, but for parts of the rest of the world as well.

The family part comprises “phenomenal photos from my grandpa” and regular visual updates taken with a Polaroid camera documenting Hovey’s and her sister Porter’s exploits’.

Contrary to other blogs whose creators use it as a vehicle to promote themselves, Hovey’s blog remains very intimate and personal. “I actually just wanted to organise my own thoughts,” she adds. “Then it got picked up by one blog…It’s still not wildly popular, but it is very niche.”

She stresses that she only tries to do things she actually loves: “So sometimes, I will go for days and days without posting which I hate, but I rather have there be nothing than a section I don’t like.”

Hovey thinks her blogs popularity is closely linked to this approach: “I hope it comes across that I love something for its beauty and I am not bragging about acquiring it. And I think other people get excited about some of my things. While the blog hasn’t got a huge readership, the people who do read really like it because they get excited about those things too. And I hope that’s what they think and there is probably a lot of people who think it’s really pretentious.”

Has the aim of the blog changed over time? “Before it was purely doing it for myself, but now that I have readers, there is a pressure that I am putting on myself and it has changed the way I view its content,” she says. “I still love doing it, but it causes stress because you don’t want to disappoint people and also you don’t want them to completely never come back.”

Hovey was one of the first to tap into the “new heritage” fashion: “While I have been writing my blog, the trend really has taken off around me and it has nothing to do with me. I think it’s just that these things were happening and I was writing about them and they are still happening because those restaurants are copying each other and it got bigger and bigger.”

But this development has brought its problems: “So writing about the new restaurant that looks like the other restaurant becomes less exciting even though those places are wonderful. But they are also the best restaurants in Brooklyn, so everyone else is writing about them.” She adds: “It’s not like a secret anymore. It’s harder to find material.”

She concedes that she hasn’t really developed a blogger attitude: “One of the things I have not really done is I don’t read that many other blogs. Which is like the death of blogging, because you always need to be commenting on everyone else’s blog.”

Hovey gives the impression that she won’t change that approach any time soon: “I feel I don’t like the distraction and I don’t want to copy other people. I want to keep it truly mine and so I really have to focus and stay in the vacuum of my brain.”

Her blog pays tribute to such a wide range of periods, is there any particular era she would like to live in?  “Aesthetically, it would be the war years, even though it was a terrible time, but the clothes are so great,” she says, adding. “My Mom is very passionate about the culture and music of the 50s and 60s. I think that might have been more fun, but for clothes, definitely the 1920s to 1940s.”

Could she ever see herself living in a white apartment? “I actually think I could,” she says without hesitation.

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