bSMART Guide

Nicole Hanley Mellon is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of HANLEY MELLON, a luxury lifestyle brand co-founded with her husband, Matthew Mellon, to share their love of art, travel, and organizations making a difference.  With a women’s luxury sportswear line, Spring 2015 collection inspired by the organization Under the Acacia in Kenya, and their Fall 2015 collection infused with their experiences at the Fashion Academy in Antwerp, HANLEY MELLON is making its fashion mark for women who want to look sophisticated and chic, but feel comfortable on the go.  With a background working for Ralph Lauren and education at Trinity College and Oxford University, Nicole is sharing her fashion expertise, inspiration, and what prepared her to be a woman leader in the fashion industry.

Shop, learn, and be inspired by the HANLEY MELLON brand here.


We love to create and to collaborate.


Fashion Destination

Who is the Hanley Mellon woman?

The HANLEY MELLON woman is the woman on the go.  She wears many hats and wants to look sophisticated and chic, but feel comfortable at the same time.

How does the Hanley Mellon brand reflect what is most important to you?

HANLEY MELLON is the vehicle through which my husband, Matthew, and I live our lives.  When we began this venture, we thought about what our life and this business should look like for us.  It was important to us to travel, collaborate with organizations, and to create.

HANLEY MELLON provides us the opportunity to do all of those things.  Each collection is based on a different location around the world where we collaborate with artists and organizations.  As we build the collection, we infuse it with our own references from that experience.


Watch Nicole's bSMART interview here!

The HANLEY MELLON woman wears many hats, wants to look chic, but feel comfortable.


Can you tell us about your Spring 2015 line influenced by your time in Kenya?

Our Spring 2015 collection was our debut collection inspired by our time in Kenya.  We traveled to Kenya with Under the Acacia - an organization that seeks to meet basic human needs by providing sustainable infrastructures.  It was the sustainability aspect that Matthew and I gravitated towards with this mission and we came back with design references that were unique to our experience.

We had assumed we were going to see bold prints, but what we found was that the Maasai people wear Scottish tartans as there used to be a Scottish trade route that ran through Northern Kenya.  We also learned that the Massai red isn't an arbitrary color, but a practical color.  It was used so that an opponent couldn't see if they had wounded you. So, it really was a life or death color choice to wear.  Those are a few of the things that inspired us while in Kenya.


Each collection is based on a location where we collaborate with artists and organizations.


Can you tell us about your Fall 2015 line?

Our Fall 2015 collection was our sophomore collection inspired by our time in Antwerp.  What might seem like an arbitrary follow-up to our Kenya collection was actually the perfect second location.  It's not one of the fashion communities you typically think of when think of fashion in New York, Paris, London, and Milan, but there is a great fashion community in Antwerp. So we started with the premise of 'What's happening in Antwerp?'

We met some incredible people and learned how the students are trained at the Antwerp Six Fashion Academy.  The students are given paper and scissors and taught to take their own ideas and to create something and to stay true to that vision collection after collection.  

We also visited the Red Star Museum, an emigration museum that traces the history of migrations starting with the first human remains found in Kenya, up through Africa, into Europe, and then to New York City.  As we followed this same route from Kenya to Antwerp to New York City, our hub, it made sense for our collection as we learned from these experiences infusing our own sensibility without losing sight of who we are. 

Where are you traveling next in 2015?

You will have to wait until next fall to find out, but I can say we are off to our next destination in two weeks!

Under the Acacia is an organization that seeks to meet basic human needs by providing sustainable infrastructures.


What is your dream for the Hanley Mellon brand 10 years from now?

HANLEY MELLON launched as a lifestyle brand.  We started in Women's because that's my background and my husband's background.  But as a start-up business it's still one foot in front of the other.  We're a great team and we would like to open a store in the fall and move into men's, children, and home.  And of course, we love to create and the opportunity to collaborate!


 We learned from these experiences infusing our own sensibility without losing sight of who we are.


Fashion Navigation

Who are the fashion designers who have influenced you the most?

Hermès, as a brand, creates a lifestyle that I think is absolutely beautiful.  Everything they do is of exceptional quality.  I love to walk into their store and be able to live in that world even for just a moment.  I worked with Ralph Lauren for years and that's a brand that not only produces an incredible lifestyle (I can't think of a single ad we all wouldn't want to dive into and live that beautiful life), but more importantly his teams are so talented.  It was a real pleasure and honor to work there.  But every designer I've worked for is worth admiring.

I’m also very inspired by the style of the women wearing the clothes.  I greatly admire the style of Lauren Santo Domingo, Olivia Palermo, Leandra Medine, Camillie Miceli, Camilla Nickerson, and Micol Sabadini all for different reasons.


Every designer I've worked for is worth admiring.



What is the key to a successful creative and business partnership?

I've found that the key to a successful creative partnership is from the people you choose to surround yourself with.  A great team makes all the difference.  To work with individuals who are talented, have complimentary skill sets, and have a shared vision is not only the recipe for success, it's successful living because what you do becomes enjoyable every single day.  Even in the trials, working with a great team is so rewarding because you're doing it together.  That is incredibly rewarding for me every day.

Working with talented individuals who have a shared vision is not only the recipe for success, it’s successful living.


What are your biggest lessons learned creating your own fashion brand?

I love this question because with a little bit of hindsight and now having my own line I can see that all of my experiences have been important.  In fact, some of my lowest level positions prepared me the most.  When I started at Ralph Lauren I was the assistant to the Senior Vice President of Children's Design at Blue Label and learned the entire fashion calendar.  From that experience, I learned what needed to happen and by when for running my own business.  My advice is to learn from each experience you have and understand that you might not know where it's taking you, but you don't necessarily need to know that right away.

Before I started my company, I looked over my resume and my various roles of working in the fashion industry that didn't make sense - until I started my own line - and then I was so grateful for all of the experiences I had.  It truly was the lowest level positions that prepared me the most for having my own business.  


Some of my lowest level positions prepared me the most for having my own business.


How can bSmart members live a fashionable life on any budget?

I've spent a lot of time thinking about style and I've come to realize that it's really about the life that you're leading and life will always precede style.  It's about knowing who you are, knowing what feeds your soul, and even where you're going on any given day.  If you're taking care of your body and your skin is clean, then that will automatically translate into whatever you're putting on your body.  

Fill your spaces, whether it's your cubicle or studio apartment, with things that make you feel relaxed and at home.  It feels funny to give my style advice because it really is about the individual and knowing who you are, where you want to go and the things that make you feel good.  

If you're taking care of your body, then that will translate into what you're putting on your body.


How can bSmart members discover and cultivate our personal style?

To cultivate your own style, examine your life and ask yourself, ‘Where am I going?' and ‘What's important to me?'  Understand your body and the proportions that make sense for you.  What looks great on someone else isn't necessarily going to look right on you.  This is something we've explored with HANLEY MELLON - offering a range of women pieces that help them balance proportion, texture, and color.  

Look for unique color twists that can pull a look together.  If you're wearing jeans and a blouse, and your blouse has a little yellow, play with threads of color such as wearing a bangle with a little bit of yellow in a subtle way and play with different textures to keep a basic outfit feeling fresh.  I’ve found that the older you get and the more you know yourself, then the more freedom there is in expressing your style.


Life will always precede style.


Spotlight on Nicole Hanley Mellon

Neighborhood: Upper East Side

Occupation: Co-founder and Creative Director of HANLEY MELLON 

Women I Admire: 

My Mother, One of the first female vice presidents on Wall Street
Jess Teutonico, Founder of Under the Acacia
Nancy Hunt, President of the We Are Family Foundation
Morin Oluwole, Luxury Client Partnerships lead at Facebook
Stephanie Horbaczewski, Founder and CEO of StyleHaul
Hadeel Ibrahim, Founder of the Africa Center in NYC

Dream Mentor: I already have one! Marie Griffin

Ultimate Accessory: Great hair and a hint of a tan

Favorite Store: Oh my, depends on where I am or what I'm looking for…

Go-to Outfit: HANLEY MELLON core knits

Must-have Shoes: Manolo Blahnik

Favorite Nail Polish: No polish on my fingers and dark red on my toes

Can't Live Without Product: Avene cold cream for the body and Aquaphor for the lips and Tata Harper for my face

Salon Recommendation: Barneys Blow Bar 

Signature Scent: Chanel No.5 and Rose

Beauty Essential: Water and Moisturizer

Cocktail of Choice: Champagne 

Best Date: Any date with my husband

Current Craving: Skim latte and chocolate croissant from Sant Ambroeus 

Best Advice: 'Ego says: Once everything falls into place I will find peace.  Spirit says: Find peace and everything will fall into place.' - Marianne Williamson

Favorite Quote: A word from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling app is usually what I needed to hear.

De-Stress Technique: Reading or swimming 

On My Playlist: Wagner to ColdPlay to Bocelli to Lily Allen to currently the Begin Again Soundtrack

Favorite Apps: Most used: Uber and recently Postmates

University: I played Squash at Trinity College and studied PPE (Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics) at Oxford University



Hair: the Valerie Joseph Salon at Barneys
Make-Up: Suzana Hallili

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