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Hill House Home’s Plan to Extend the Nap Dress Trend Beyond Quarantine

The direct-to-consumer brand, which saw its signature style go viral during the pandemic, is expanding its apparel offerings and opening a holiday pop-up.
Hill House Home's holiday pop-up runs through Jan. 15, 2022. Courtesy
Hill House Home's holiday pop-up runs through Jan. 15, 2022. Courtesy

When it comes to pandemic-era success, few fashion brands fared better than Hill House Home.

Last year, the direct-to-consumer label’s “nap dress” became one of the defining products of the Covid-19 era. Hill House Home successfully pitched its signature style — a dress featuring smocked chests and straps and wide, flowing skirts in a variety of prints and fabrics — as a wardrobe staple that could be worn from bed to brunch. Interest spiked in July 2020, just as the first lockdowns were letting up, and has not yet subsided.

Other brands experienced a similar bump last year but weren’t able to keep up the momentum, including Scott Sternberg’s basics label Entireworld, which announced it was shutting down last month.

Hill House Home is determined to avoid the same fate. In 2021, Hill House Home experienced its third consecutive year of triple-digit growth as it expanded its apparel offerings into skirts, coats, cardigans and basics like bodysuits and tights. Today, fashion represents 90 percent of Hill House Home’s overall business, an unlikely transition for a label that got its start as a purveyor of sheet sets and duvet covers.

“People find us through fashion and then they move into home,” said Hill House Home’s founder and chief executive Nell Diamond. “Their first two or three purchases are in fashion, and then when they need new towels or new bedding, they convert into those categories.”

Most recently, the brand opened the doors of its holiday pop-up shop, located at 112 Mercer Street in New York City’s Soho neighbourhood. The store, which is open until Jan. 15, is the brand’s second venture into brick-and-mortar retail. It operated a 500-square foot store in New York’s West Village until February 2020, when it shuttered the location in hopes of expanding to a larger space.

Of course, that timing turned out to be fortuitous, as Covid-19 lockdowns would have shut the store’s doors within weeks anyway. Plans to open a new location were put on hold until the worst of the pandemic had passed. That moment is here: the pop-up’s opening coincides with the start of a holiday season where shoppers have returned to stores en masse and businesses are facing unrelenting supply chain constraints in e-commerce, creating a more dire need for a place where ”people could come shop and then take things away,” said Diamond.

On Nov. 4, the shop’s opening day, an event Diamond and the brand both touted on Instagram (there, Diamond, who has over 66,000 followers on the platform, has become the brand’s best ambassador), a line of customers began trailing down Mercer Street even before the store opened its doors, a real-life example of the brand’s dedicated fan base, which has spawned Facebook groups for nap dress trades and earned its own name: “nap dress nation.”

The differences between the pop-up and Hill House Home’s previous location illustrate the shift the brand has undergone over the past year. The West Village store resembled a well-curated bedroom, with a bed as the shop’s focal point and home products stocked throughout, with just a small section dedicated to apparel. The holiday pop-up, located in the shopping mecca of Soho, on the other hand, primarily stocks apparel and accessories, such as headbands, hair bows and notebooks, and features four fitting rooms.

“We’re using the store to figure out exactly what our customer wants,” said Diamond, who added that the brand aims to open a permanent storefront in New York City within the next six to 12 months. “Do they want to see more of the home stuff in person? Or is it better to have a selection here and ship to people? We have a ton of questions, and we’re trying to take advantage of the pop-up in order to answer as many of those as we can.”

Those learnings will be used to determine how to design a permanent New York City location — just one of several growth plans Diamond has in store for the brand. Next week, for customers who cannot make the NYC pop-up, the brand will debut a new colourway of its “Ellie” nap dress exclusively to shop on Instagram. Stores in additional markets are on the horizon, and there are plans to debut three new product categories in 2022 as well.

“Every new category we go into, I want to push the boundaries of how you can make something comfortable and beautiful at the same time,” said Diamond.

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