By Alannah Castro
Portraits by Kathy Russell
As a young girl, Hattie Gilpin took an unconventional route to the horse world: She got involved in competitive swimming at a very young age, and her assistant swim coach introduced her to what would become one of the loves of her life: horses.
Once swimming gave way to horses, Hattie started showing horses in 4-H, and by the time she was in high school, she graduated to showing on the A circuit. Like many other riders, however, her equestrian pursuits took a back seat in college. After graduating from Clemson University, Hattie landed her dream job working in the hospitality industry, but there was always a nagging feeling of wanting to do more.
Trip to Tiffany’s
That feeling dated back to a pivotal experience at age 13 when her mom took her to New York’s legendary Tiffany & Co. That trip set Hattie, a lifelong fashionista and jewelry lover, on the path to eventually creating Hattie Banks, the fine jewelry line that she designs today named after her maternal great-grandmother.
“I went over to the engagement ring counter and asked if I could try on this beautiful ruby ring. I gave them the doe eyes, and they let me try it on,” Hattie said. “I’m wearing this massive ruby and I don’t want to give it back. My mom had to take it off my finger. I was so upset leaving the store because I couldn’t take it with me. It was love at first sight. I think jewelry is a way you can express yourself, and it’s fun.”
Hattie jumped into the entrepreneurial world when she designed her first jewelry line, Sea Dipped, in 2016, but before the line took off she got creative in supporting herself. “I quit my job and designed my first line while I was living in New York City,” Hattie said. “On the side, I dog-walked to pay my rent and survive.”
Loving Fine Jewelry
After Sea Dipped became a success, Hattie decided to move into the fine jewelry market with the launch of Hattie Banks. “I’ve always had the problem that I would go into a jewelry store and only find statement pieces — they’re such a trend. They’re beautiful and I love them, but I wanted to find pieces that I could wear every day,” Hattie said. “I sleep in my jewelry. I never take it off. That’s what I wanted to create: jewelry that I could wear today, tomorrow and 30 years from now.”
These days, Hattie spends the summers based in Connecticut and winters based in Wellington, Florida, with her boyfriend, grand prix show jumper Nick Dello Joio, and his family, which offers her plenty of opportunities to ride while being convenient for her business. She frequently takes day trips to New York to oversee the production of her pieces, where her small team of two assistants and two jewelers is located.
“It’s so nice when we’re living in Connecticut because it’s only an hour train ride to the city, and when we’re in Wellington, I can take a 7 a.m. flight and be at work by 11,” Hattie said. “If I’m really busy with meetings, I’ll stay the night in New York, but otherwise I can be home by 10 p.m.”
Hattie frequently draws inspiration from the people she meets around the horse show circuits.
“There are very stylish and fashion-forward people in the horse world, so it’s a great way to see what’s in and hot right now,” Hattie said. “I’m always meeting new people, and I’ve made many new friends who turn into customers.”
On the Go
As an active lifestyle enthusiast, you won’t often find Hattie lounging on the couch. Whether at the barn or the beach, she’s always on the go.
“I go to my boyfriend’s barn and I’ll have horses to ride or go trail riding on. Sometimes we go to the Keys and go scuba diving or lobstering,” she said. “I’ve always loved a very active lifestyle. I can’t even tell you the last time I turned on my television. I’m very much an outdoor person, whether it’s gardening at our house or trying something new. You have to try new things to get inspired.”
Hattie hopes her lifestyle will always include the barn because having the horses as an outlet is an important part of the creative process for her. “My Hattie Banks designs are reflected in everything I do — horses, the ocean and my wonderful, stylish customers,” she said. “My equestrian background has definitely influenced the overall aesthetic of Hattie Banks.”
From swimming to horses to her own line of jewelry, Hattie has followed her passion, which has led to life as an entrepreneur. “It’s amazing how a trip to the barn and a trip to Tiffany’s changed my life,” she said.
For more information, visit www.hattiebanks. Clothes featured were provided by Hunt Ltd, where Hattie Banks jewelry is available during the season.
Photos by Kathy Russell Photography