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Habitually Inspiring: An Interview with Heather Clawson of Habitually Chic

Updated: Jun 1, 2021

I am in constant search of new ideas and inspiration. If there is any redeeming quality of the internet age it is the ability to make discoveries without leaving one's home. Several years ago I came across Heather Clawson's compelling blog Habitually Chic and became a quick fan. Since its inception in 2007 Clawson's work has been featured in Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and The Huffington Post just to name a few. In 2012 she published Habitually Chic: Creativity at Work where she documented and profiled the workspaces of creatives such as Jenna Lyons and Chris Benz. Additionally, her and I share a similar love of taking long walks on the Upper East Side and documenting the beauty around.

Clawson and I connected over Instagram, as one does, a couple of years ago and I recently had the opportunity to pick her brain. I am deeply fascinated by the minds of other creatives and therefore wanted to channel her thoughts on some questions I had. Please take the time to read her inspiring responses below:

I have been a follower of Habitually Chic for a number of years now and am so glad we have connected over Instagram. How did you begin Habitually Chic? Did you ever envision what it would become?

I was working for a high-end interior designer in 2007 when I started reading design blogs. Two that were based in Atlanta wrote about something that was a block away from my office and that’s when I had my ah-ha moment. I thought if they were writing about what was in my back yard, why I don’t I write about what’s going on in New York. I knew enough about marketing and branding from my previous work in commercial real estate to name it something original. I didn’t want to say who I was at first so I decided to create a name that matched my initials. I wish I could find the piece of paper where I wrote down all the possible name options for HC. I also knew that I wanted a lot of stories for people to read when they found it so I quietly posted for a month. When people did find it, it took off pretty quickly. At that time, the bloggers writing about design weren’t designers so I gave an inside look at projects as well as what was going on in the city. From the beginning, I also wrote about fashion, art, travel, and other subjects, in addition to design, because I think they are all related. I saw that one blogger was able to quit her day and blog full time so I knew that it was possible to make it a career but I honestly had no idea what amazing things Habitually Chic would lead to in my life. I’ve worked for myself since 2009 and met so many amazing people and traveled the world thanks to my blog.

What fuels your creative spirit?

What really fuels me is curiosity. If I watch a movie or tv show, I have to Google more about the actors and where it was filmed and who might have supplied the clothing or cars. I love going down a rabbit hole. I put together an entire post after watching the old film Still of the Night because there is nothing, I love more than a detective hunt. I always joke that I missed my calling to work for the FBI.

Still of the Night Directed by Robert Benton

Where in the in world do you feel most alive to create?

This year marks my 20th anniversary of moving to New York so clearly, I feel most alive here. You can go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and travel the world in one day and no matter how many times you visit, you will always find something new. The same goes for just walking down the street or meeting someone who turns you on to something new. There is so much energy and you can’t make it here if you don’t have a dream and the fortitude to go after it because it will chew you up and spit you out. That being said, Paris also feels like home to me. But where New York tries to make your life easier in every way, Paris tries to make it harder. I know how to play the game so I enjoy navigating their little tests at every turn. Paris really makes you slow down and savor everything from meals to museums and every time you think you’ve seen the most beautiful thing, you turn a corner and see something even more beautiful.

If you could be any shoe, what type of shoe would you be?

Probably a chic snakeskin flat or sandal. Something that’s sexy but still comfortable enough to wear while walking all over the city.

How important is beauty in everyday life?

Beauty is very important to my everyday life. There’s a famous quote from Bill Cunningham, “He who seeks beauty shall find it.” I’m someone who can see the beauty in anything from graffiti to decrepit buildings. Just yesterday I posted an urn with flowers on a pedestal in Central Park in my Instagram Stories. I thought it looked so pretty but someone replied about the dog pee on the base. I see the beauty and some people see the pee. Who inspires you dead or alive?

I’m inspired by women who chose to work when most women didn’t like American landscape designer Beatrix Farrand, French fashion designers Coco Chanel and Céline Vipiana, and advertising executive Mary Wells Lawrence. I also love women who are usually considered “just a socialite” but who also had depth in addition to elegance, such as Bunny Mellon, Jayne Wrightsman, and Deeda Blair. They also created, and continue to create in the case of Mrs. Blair, beauty in every part of their life from their flowers and fashions, to their homes and gardens. This also extends to French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy and Italian fashion designer Valentino. And of course, the one person carrying the mantle for all of them, Lauren Santo Domingo.

7. What are your go places in New York for a good antique find?

There really aren’t that many places left in the city. I am excited that the 25th Street Flea Market has returned on weekends. If money were no object, I’d be at Gerald Bland Antiques every week. I love his eye and how he mixes antiques with modern art. Most of the time these days, I pick up things along my travels or on eBay.

When do your best ideas hit?

I’d say the two biggest places from which I come up with ideas are surfing the internet, or watching a movie or tv show. One of my most popular blog posts was about the outfits that Jennifer Anniston’s character wears on The Morning Show. I also love finding old real estate photos to see how an interior designer transformed the spaces.

Do you have any advice for young adults just starting out in their careers?

Show up early or on time. Make sure you have a firm handshake and look the person you are meeting in the eye. (Post Covid of course.) Don’t make excuses. Don’t complain. Keep gossip to a minimum because it always gets back to the person. Volunteer to do things that other employees don’t want to do and make yourself indispensable. Do things that no one asked you to do like organizing the fabric samples. Send hand-written thank you notes and flowers when warranted. Have a good attitude. Keep up with current events. Read a lot and learn as much as you can about your industry. I’m always amazed at young designers who don’t know history. One person recently asked me if the Giacometti chandelier at the Musée Rodin was by a contemporary designer. Dress as well as you can afford. Look presentable when traveling and out on weekends. You never know who you might run into. I remember seeing a college-age girl at LaGuardia in pajamas with a pillow. I thought to myself, what if her dream boss was at the airport or on her flight. People definitely notice how you dress and present yourself in creative offices.

What is next?

I am trying to get back to my pre-pandemic plans which include starting a second book, moving back to Paris for a month or six weeks, and putting together a treatment for a television series. I’d also really like to get back to blogging five days a week again. The pandemic really sapped by motivation and inspiration. Now that things are much more back to normal in New York, I feel like my mojo has returned and I’m excited at the prospect of what’s to come.

I want to thank Heather for taking the time with me and offering such thoughtful insights. Creatives like Heather Clawson fuel conversation in spaces that may be otherwise silent keeping inspiration and ideas flowing.

x Natalie

Follow Habitually Chic on Instagram: @habituallychic

Follow Natalie on Instagram: @natalieealdridge

Images: Heather Clawson

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