Hikmete: Cracking the Dress Code
"IF YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING AND WOULD LOVE TO TAKE ON THE CHALLENGE, THEN START TODAY."
In honor of New York Fashion Week, we are excited to introduce Hikmete Morina, CEO and co-founder of HMÉTÉ. Hikmete was tired of the limited options for great and affordable workwear. She left her role as an auditor at PWC to develop and launch her brand, HMÉTÉ.
HMÉTÉ offers high-quality, well-designed and fair-priced workwear for the fashion conscious woman. Join Hikmete on Sept 8th and 9th at 437 Broadway for a NYFW event! Bring your friends, try on the collection, get a beauty makeover, and enjoy refreshments and bites! Details here.
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Hikmete, which is always a starting point to a conversation. Whenever I say my name, no one has ever heard it so I have to spell it and explain how I got the name. I am originally Albanian and I grew up in Switzerland. I speak five languages, which growing up in Switzerland is not hard to do. I studied Business at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland where I graduated magna cum laude with a bilingual degree (French and German).
I worked for a Swiss Bank in the first year after college and started with PwC after that. After being promoted to manager in Switzerland, I was sent on a two-year assignment to the US, which ended up being a permanent transfer.
As much as I am an analytical person, I enjoy being creative. Drawing and painting has always been my favorite hobby. I also volunteer with the NYJL on the fundraising committee. The NYJL has given me the opportunity to get to know some of my best friends in NY. I enjoy being a citizen of the world. As much as I love my life in NY, I am so excited to see my friends and family in Switzerland.
What was it like working in Switzerland versus New York?
I spent more time with coworkers outside of the office in Switzerland versus here in NYC. The hours were not as long as they are in NY. I think people here tend to get lost in conversations versus in Switzerland you get to the point faster and move on. Also, the hierarchies are more flat in Switzerland than here. You would never be sent to get coffee all the time even if you’re an intern.
What did you like and dislike about working in the corporate world?
I liked the structure and that you knew there was a path and if you did everything right, there was no way to miss the goal. I also got to know and work with some extremely smart people, which was encouraging and made working fun.
The fact that I also was able to transfer to the US was a great opportunity, which I probably wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t been in a corporate role.
What I didn’t appreciate were our extremely long hours during busy season and the fact that sometimes it was hard to create change. On one hand, it is good to have structure but on the other, it is a disadvantage when you need something to change.
What inspired you to start HMETE?
I love tackling challenges and always look for ways to make improvements. In Switzerland, our dress code at work was business formal, which sounds bad but to me it was easier to deal with. I knew I would either wear a suit or a dress with a blazer on top and those were pretty much the options.
When I moved to the US, the dress code changed to business casual which made the entire thing so confusing to me. If I was wearing a blazer, I was overdressed, if not I would freeze at the office since most dresses were sleeveless! If I was going to go out after work, I would always go home to change beforehand. Everything that I could find and afford would either be outdated or inappropriate for work.
I started asking myself how hard can it be to make something that you can easily wear to work and look professional while still looking young and fresh. It also had to be affordable as my target customer would be someone my age with similar income and would not able to spend $500 for dresses.
I spent months researching until I was convinced that there is an actual gap and need in the market for something like HMETE.
I read all about it, conducted a survey, interviewed several people and then started for real.
What is your mission with HMÉTÉ?
Our mission is to provide high-quality, well-designed and affordable workwear for women of all ages!
Being professional does not mean you cannot look great and modern. We combine professional designs with youthful details to make each piece just right for any occasion from desk to dusk.
What was the hardest part transitioning from working full-time to launching a brand?
I was employed at PwC until last month. I would work all day at PwC and then work on HMÉTÉ after work and during weekends. This was very difficult but once I started, there was no way back as I fell in love with the idea and felt passionately about it. Working past midnight after having a long day at PwC didn’t seem like actual work, it was fun!
Now that I am not at PwC anymore, the hardest part I would say is that there is no one to ask or talk to if I don’t know what to do. I am on my own and it is on me to make all decisions. It is challenging but exciting at the same time. I am definitely learning a lot.
How has your work-life balance changed?
While I would stop working at some point when I was with PwC, now I can work all night if need be. The difference is that it is my personal choice to work the hours I want. I love the flexibility. Now I can decide to go to the gym in the middle of the day if I wish.
Again, it has its pros and cons, and I am still learning how to manage my time in the most efficient way.
How did you come up with the designs for HMETE?
I have always loved fashion and followed the newest trends. As a professional, I would always think, well this is not something I can wear to work, the length would have to be different, it needs lining, it needs longer sleeves, etc. When I started designing the collection, I combined all of those influences and added my experience to it. I wanted to make sure everything is work appropriate but makes you look modern as well.
Where do you see HMETE going in the future?
I want HMETE to be the brand that comes to mind when you think about workwear for young professional women.
What is your favorite piece in the collection?
My favorite piece is the Silk Poppy dress. It is such a feminine shape with a little bit of color and it works on any body type. It makes me very proud whenever I see someone wearing it. It’s very versatile and can be worn to work, to a rooftop, or to the Hamptons and it’s flattering! I can see it styled with booties and a nice leather jacket during fall.
What is a must-have wardrobe staple for every woman?
The Classic Black Dress is a wardrobe staple. This was also the first design I created. I wanted a dress that looks professional, sexy and timeless. This is the dress to wear to an important meeting, to a first date, or to a cocktail event. It’s always classy and in style.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in starting their own business or brand?
If you are passionate about something and would love to take on the challenge, then start today. You will never know if you don’t start.