Best Laid Plans | Cancel Patisserie 46. Katherine and Mark McMillan—the Kat and Mac behind overnight sensation Pierrepont Hicks—have a situation. Their 2-year-old daughter, Camille, can’t go to preschool due to an ear infection. Accustomed to juggling their men’s neckwear business and family, they simply shift our interview to Dunn Bros, which has a play area. Six-week-old Margaux is along, too. “She’ll probably sleep the entire time,” Kat e-mailed the night before.
Now Kat’s standing next to the table bouncing her wide-eyed newborn.
Birth of a Brand | The McMillans met in New York. Kat is from Brooklyn and had worked for Ralph Lauren and magazines including Elle and Gourmet. Mac, a Minneapolis native, worked in real estate development. A job offer for Mac brought them to Minnesota.
Kat was thinking about starting a line of women’s bags, but when she came upon samples of beautiful wools from S.R. Harris, she decided to make a tie for her husband, who had trouble finding one cool enough to complement his dark jeans and Red Wing boots. “I’ve always loved the way a man gets to keep things pretty simple, and accessories make the outfit feel complete,” Kat says. “The tie is so important when you think about it.”
A Tie for Twitter | That was 2009, when American heritage brands were bounding back into fashion. Even before Pierrepont Hicks ties hit stores, fashion blogs were gushing about their classic American style.
“We owe our entire initial success to Twitter,” Kat says. The ties are currently sold in just 12 stores as well as online, but they have been featured everywhere from GQ to The Wall Street Journal.
It’s not just about the nubby plaids and stripes, which work equally well on a distinguished professor and a 20- something indie rocker; it’s the quality at an accessible price point that earns raves. Every Pierrepont Hicks tie features a floral bar tack self loop to make it hang level. Neckties sell for $82 to $140. Bows start at $62.
The Juggle | Now Mac handles the money and Kat designs. They often conduct business meetings in the bedroom after 9 pm. The flexibility they relish can also be a curse: “I was on my BlackBerry in the hospital at 4 am while breastfeeding,” Kat confesses.
The brand is a hit as far away as Berlin and Japan. Pierrepont Hicks will debut its first silk ties later this summer. There’s a new microfiber pocket square that looks like silk but can be used to wipe a computer screen. Which will come in handy when Camille plays Cake Doodle on the iPad after eating a rice krispie bar.
The McMillans talk about outsourcing shipping or renting an office to get the business out of their south Minneapolis home. They want to grow the brand beyond ties, but they’re not rushing.
“Mac is always running to UPS or to meet with retailers, and he usually has a diaper bag in the back of the car or a stroller jammed in next to a huge box of ties,” Kat says. “It’s our life right now, and we love it.” pierreponthicks.com