In the mid 1980’s, on the Westside of Manhattan, where Jill Heller had her first professional experience in fashion retail, entering the jet set for her father’s clientele had to go right along with wearing it on their sleeves whenever possible. Conversely up in Westchester, as owner/operator of her own upscale boutique, she knows the search for subtlety is a better start for women who don’t necessarily want to shout, “Hi, I’m wearing designer fashion.” So from On the One at 153 Main Street in Mt. Kisco, Heller helps bring their fashion sense up a notch while still keeping it simple.
Then getting them to emerge in line with the current trends – only with a twist to conserve the classic look they’re after – “takes opening up to be a little more expressive in her clothes,” she says, “and not be shy about it.” Unless that’s what they want, but either way Heller knows how to get them there.
As for herself, she always knew she was there but not quite off the rack. Playing dress up as a young girl didn’t confine her to a closet, it opened up a corner of the globe. When her father’s clothing lines would arrive from the Far East, “I couldn’t wait to get in the box,” she says, “and I couldn’t wait to get old enough to wear it.”
Although, what elevated Heller’s discerning eye beyond your sister’s good taste had a lot less to do with the typical hands on approach most girls took in their mother’s closet. Her father’s business brought her in contact with the whole process of manufacturing fashion and working directly with the designers. “I just watched,” says Heller and saw it all come to light, as she would dissect the progression of sketch boards with fascination.
In turn, bringing upscale uptown to the suburbs hasn’t only gotten On the One attention on Main Street in Mt. Kisco. Madison Avenue has responded to her little shop close enough to the corner with press clips in national publications like Harper’s Bazaar, In Style, Oprah, Lucky and Cosmopolitan. “They considered my store to be a new specialty store like Jeffrey’s of New York or Scoops,” she says, but importing fashion up in this direction doesn’t have On the One heading south as much as it has the designers looking north.
Gabrielle Sanchez, Adam Lippes of Adam + Eve and Alvin Valley, among others, have all appeared at On the One as part of her “Meet your Designer” events. Not an unusual occurrence when your city never sleeps, but Heller had to sell them on something that went beyond just having customers going ga-ga over garment district greatness.
Designers think big city, says Heller, “but they sell all across America and America is not New York.” On the One has given their designers a firsthand education into the heart of a demographic that they had previously overlooked.
And with this curriculum separated only by a round trip ticket into Mt. Kisco, designers gain an intimate knowledge of this customer without racking up unneeded frequent flyer mileage. “It’s good for them to see the suburban clientele in Westchester,” she says, while customers can connect the inspiration to a real person instead of just a label. From there she can learn “how to carry that inspiration into the world,” says Heller and link the fabric to a body in motion.
Her body, that is, as Ms. Heller has added a dimension to establishing elegance with her years of study in Yoga, dance and Pilates. “We move, we’re moving beings,” she says, so she leaves synchronizing walking and talking to the individual and brings the fashion home by helping women understand how graceful locomotion can enhance the look.
Sitting pretty is part of the program too, because posture effects the way clothes drape a body, but envisioning it all comes naturally to her. “I’m a visual artist,” says Heller, although she has to see it on herself before she can see it on anyone else.
“I can’t sell something I don’t believe in for myself,” she says, and understands what choices Westchester women have made to arrive at this point in their lives. Either way, with family, career or both, she hopes On the One provides an outlet for them to express their creativity through personal fashion.
It also gives them a little time to slow down and put the focus on themselves before they go kick it out on the street. And when Heller compares this to the supermodel photo-ops she’s become familiar with, it means more to her as she sees women wearing her clothing line more than just here and there on the local scene. “I see them everywhere,” she says, and that gives me a better feeling because that’s real.”
It doesn’t end On the One though, as the name derives from the downbeat to one in the world of dance and music. “Everything explodes on the one,” says Heller, while she considers herself to be a work in progress – still evolving and always on the way up.
Rich Monetti interview of Jill Heller