Fresh off a fairytale wedding held at Kensington Palace, Nicky Hilton is more than just a timeless beauty. The hotel heiress’ quiet confidence is furnished by insightful and creative designs, keen business savvy, and driven work ethic. Her elegance and grace make it all appear effortless, but there is much more than meets the eye.
By Dana Priggé
Hilton’s down-to-earth nature was on display upon her arrival for her exclusive BELLA photo shoot. There was no entourage, no publicist, no personal stylist or anyone other than Hilton dressed in a casual city style upon her arrival. She was just as confident fresh-faced as she was when her makeup was perfected and the camera started flashing.
Everyone starts from somewhere,
Despite her status as a socialite now wedded to the scion of one of Europe’s most illustrious families, the accomplished model and designer remains humble and approachable. “You have to work your way up, I know,” she continues. “Beginning experiences learning the ropes will really shape you into the business person you become.”
Hilton knows who she is, what she wants, and what she stands for. She may have been born into a well- known family and background, but she’s spent her adult life establishing her own unique identity as a multi-talented designer, stylist, and businesswoman.
THE RADIANT CITY
Hilton’s many business collaborations take her from Los Angeles to London to Paris and back to New York, but for her, Manhattan matters most. “I’m a New Yorker at heart. I was born and raised here,” Hilton says. “I’m addicted to New York. I love everything about it – the good [and] the bad. It’s one of the most exciting cities in the world – everything’s happening here.”
Hilton split her childhood growing up in Beverly Hills, the Hamptons, and New York, and attended the prestigious international college preparatory Dwight School on the Upper West Side. During her graduation, Hilton showcased her impeccable personal style and hinted at her blossoming future when she donned a custom-made dress designed by family friend, Vera Wang.
Instrumental in her fashion sense was her early exposure, along with sister Paris, to the New York and Paris fashion scene by her mother, Kathy. “I grew up modeling in New York City with access to some of the biggest designers and stylists along the way,” Hilton recalls. “I found my personal style in my late teens/early twenties. I started seeing what silhouettes and styles that I took to, and carved my own sense of style, which was pretty eclectic.”
STYLE SENSE & SENSIBILITY
Hilton has always remained the charming and demure counterpart to her notably more outgoing sister Paris. Fashion choices often reflect personalities, which is certainly the case with Hilton’s stylish and distinctive looks.
It is that sense of style that brought Hilton to publish her acclaimed book 365 Style. Despite never having employed (or let’s face it – needed) a stylist, Hilton says it was her being put in the role of stylist for others that served as inspiration. “When the social media craze kicked off, I had so many people asking for style tips for different occasions that I thought, ‘Maybe I should write a book about this.’”
Hilton defines her style as “sophisticated with an edge.” Her travels often influence her current style as she is able to locate distinct items in surprising locations. “I find my unique pieces when I’m traveling. That’s why I love going to flea markets and getting things I know that no one back home is going to have. I always call myself a style chameleon, since I love to change my look based upon my environment.”
For her five fashion must-haves, Hilton emphasizes that less is more, recommending “ballet flats, a blazer, an oversized envelope clutch, nude heels, and a black pump.”
While she says her looks between California and New York have a mix of influences, she emphasizes her supreme love of city fashion. “In New York, I love coats. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing underneath – as long as you have a fabulous coat on top, you’re perfect. I love wearing my boots, my coats, and my layers in New York.”
For men’s style, Hilton again emphasizes simplicity. “I don’t like it when a guy looks like he’s trying too hard. That’s anything but effortless,” she says. “I love men in the classics – button-down shirts, sweaters, and blazers. You can never go wrong in those timeless pieces.”
A DESIGN OF ONE’S OWN
With a successful career in fashion and beauty, Hilton has collaborated with some of the premier labels to create lines that are distinctly her own. Her recent partnership with Smashbox Cosmetics has yielded captivating cat eye kits. Upon being approached by Davis Factor, co-founder of Smashbox, to collaborate, Hilton says “I immediately said, let’s make a cat eye kit. Let’s not make one, but three of them.”
The new collection is nothing less than stunning. Each of the three kits is named after the cities where Hilton splits her time. There’s the LA Effortless Cat Eye, the New York Classic Cat Eye, and the London Ultra Mod Cat Eye. As for her favorite, Hilton says she wears the New York one the most. “I have blue eyes, so the brown shadows really complement them.”
Each set comes in a distinctive bag that doubles as a small clutch, mirroring Hilton’s own versatility and personality. “The kits come with a trio of shadow, mascara, and liquid gel liner. I went to the Smashbox headquarters in LA and sat in their lab for hours on end testing all of the makeup, pigments, and colors. When I was done, I said ‘I’m definitely designing a really cute kitty bag to go with it. It doubles as a purse, I wear mine out and throw my keys in it.”
THE LOVELY BAGS
The dual cat eye collection bag/clutch is part of Hilton’s distinctive accessory designs. She first began designing handbags at the age of 18, and most recently collaborated with handbag, belt, and leather goods company Linea Pelle to design a collection that will debut in September. The NICKY HILTON x linea pelle capsule collection features timeless, yet fashion-forward pieces for everyday use, says Hilton.
“As I got older with my design process, I wanted pieces to be in my wardrobe for years to come,” she says. “I tried to stick with timeless shapes in classic colors. In this collection, we did a lot of black and leopard – two strong color schemes for fall – with interesting shapes named after my favorite hotels. There’s the Waldorf cross-body, the Gallery fast pack, and the Mercer tote, among others.”
The distinctive designs are a reflection of Hilton’s personal style sense she espoused in 365 Style. The 6 pieces reflect everything a woman may require – a backpack, round crossbody, frame bag, and others – and brings a versatile collection to the market just in time for Fall Fashion Week. As she describes the thought process behind the collection, we couldn’t help but notice the parallels to her own personality and sense. “I just wanted to make classic, really pretty bags you can wear in your everyday life.”
PRIDE, PREJUDICE & PARTNERSHIPS
Hilton attributes her accomplishments to the lessons she’s learned during her lengthy career in fashion and beauty. In addition, her strong work ethic can be seen in her multitude of collections and designs. According to Hilton, her career in fashion began much like others – as an intern. “One of my worst jobs was interning for a glamorous magazine. On the first day, they told me I was going to take lunch orders and take out the trash, and I was fine with that.”
“The lesson is to never think you’re too good,” says Hilton. Her advice to those trying to carve their own niche in this modern and fast-paced world is similarly “Never be too proud. Everyone starts from somewhere. Those beginning experiences learning the ropes will really shape you into the business person you become.”
Those life experiences are what forged Hilton’s identity, she says, and provided her with a lifetime’s worth of insight and wisdom. The opportunities she undertakes are carefully selected and intentional. “I don’t believe in putting my name on a product I don’t believe in,” she explains.
Her collaborations are much the same. “A partnership in business is like a marriage. You have to spend a lot of time with your partners, and you have to like them.”
Hilton’s personal admiration for various designers goes beyond the superficial. “I think Diane von Furstenberg is such an inspirational designer and woman.” She continues, “Before reading her book, The Woman I Wanted to Be, I didn’t know her mother was in a concentration camp. With all the hardships she’s overcome, it’s so incredible what an inspiring woman she’s become.”
MEETING BY ACCIDENT
Much like other aspects of her life, Hilton’s recent marriage to James Rothschild was the result of being in the right place at the right time, followed by dedication.
Hilton met the scion of the Rothschild banking family at the 2011 wedding of Formula One heiress Petra Ecclestone.
“We met the old fashioned way – at a wedding – which I thought was sweet,” Hilton gushes. “He just came up to me and approached me after the reception. I was living in LA at the time, and he was in London – it was very long distance. We really enjoyed each other and just made it work.”
Ever the man of tradition, Rothschild reportedly proposed to Hilton on one knee while on a boat in the middle of Lake Como, Italy, after having asked her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
The fairytale continued, as the two exchanged vows at Kensington Palace in London this past July. Hilton wore a stunning Valentino dress and shared with us that she “dreamed of [Valentino] making a wedding dress for me ever since I was a little girl.”
A SECRET TOLD
Beyond her status as a jet-setting heiress traveling around the world, or her wonderful fashion-forward pieces, Hilton enjoys many of the simple pleasures. While a reservation at any table in the world is but a phone call away, Hilton says “I love to cook. I love making tacos or lasagna!”
“I am most happy when I am home,” she says, describing herself as a homebody who enjoys relaxing, watching movies, and reading books.
Given all that she has accomplished, Hilton has also worked out of the spotlight to promote many children’s charities, including the Make-a-Wish Foundation. She credits her upbringing as formative in her work with these causes.
“I think since my parents exposed us to these charities at such a young age, it was a natural instinct to want to be involved and give back,” Hilton says. “I know I’m very fortunate, and I love being involved in helping these great causes.”