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Hollis Kolmansberger is a Name You’ll Want to Remember

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FIT chapter.

For Hollis Kolmansberger, a successful future seems inevitable. While FIT is full of talented designers, something tells me that Hollis is going places. After starting her first clothing brand at just 14 years old, Hollis has hustled ever since, partnering with various charities and even selling her designs internationally. Her entrepreneurial spirit has also led her to adjust her business plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic to include a “design-your-own-mask” page that is coming soon to her site

Hollis has brought a sense of originality and creativity to the fashion industry that it has so desperately been missing. In the midst of fast fashion trends and an ever changing social climate, many designers have lost touch with their own unique voice – but not Hollis. Her designs blend the laid back, breezy styles of the West Coast with a distinct New York City edge. Years from now, I’m confident that Hollis Kolmansberger is a name that will be up there with other notable FIT alumni such as Rebecca Minkoff and Michael Kors. 

Her Campus: When did you first become introduced to the world of fashion design?

Hollis Kolmansberger (HK): I grew up in central Pennsylvania, where there wasn’t the biggest fashion scene. I would say my earliest exposure to fashion was from my mother when I was a kid. She would find the coolest clothes from these unique, smaller brands for my sister and I. I think I remember the process of finding the pieces, and the feeling knowing that they were so in-touch with our personalities, as equally as the actual clothes themselves. It felt more personal, and this attitude towards clothing and shopping is definitely something I have carried with me. 

HC: What were your earliest creations?

HK: When I was 6, I “hand-sewed” a mini bag, but my family and I laugh because I guess I got tired halfway through – I ended up duct taping the back of it… 

Other than that showpiece, my earliest creations were my first by Hollis shirts back in 2014. I heat-pressed designs (that I created in Apple Pages … Thank goodness I have been introduced to Photoshop since then!) onto little flowy tank tops for my friends. I would love to bring back the first-ever design soon, it was inspired by a tee Debbie Harry used to wear when she was performing. My design said “Camp Good Times” in collegiate style, with three palm trees in the center. It is still one of my favorites. 

By Hollis shirt
Photo by Hollis Kolmansberger

HC: Tell me about your brand, by Hollis.

HK: I started by Hollis (www.byhollis.com) when I was 14, because I felt a connection to fashion design and entrepreneurship and wanted to learn more. I wrote up a business plan and pitched it to some friends and family. After a few weeks, I had enough investments to purchase my own heat-press, supplies and blank tees. I started printing trial-and-error style (with YouTube tutorials by my side!), and soon I had a tee ready for the market. 

By Hollis shirt
Photo by Hollis Kolmansberger

In 2016, by Hollis switched to screen-printing. Now, instead of taking 20 minutes to print one shirt, it took 20 minutes to print hundreds. That was a big year for the brand- by Hollis had reached 40+ states and 5 different countries. 

New partnerships were also formed between by Hollis and numerous different charities, including the Four Diamonds Foundation for pediatric cancer, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Project Lyme to create limited-edition philanthropic shirts. Proceeds from each collection benefitted the charities. This year during the pandemic, I began sewing and selling masks with proceeds benefitting the Food Bank of NYC (we were able to donate 2,000 meals!) and The Loveland Foundation. I am so thankful for the opportunity to give back and grateful for the kindness of by Holliscommunity, who so readily jump on board to support. 

HC: What inspired you to start by Hollis?

HK: My personality is one that always needs to be stimulated. I tend to feel easily bored, so I have always found myself working on numerous projects and studying multiple different topics at once. I believe this curiosity is what really sparked the creation of by Hollis. 

The first year of by Hollis was ran entirely from Instagram. Once sales began to pick up, I decided it was time to build an e-commerce site. That summer, I took a trip to California to visit family, where we drove the coast from LA to San Luis Obispo. I credit by Hollis’ surf-shop feel to this trip. I felt so inspired by the coastal colors, surfing and easy-going feel, and I wanted to make sure this came across in the clothes.

Since then, I have been lucky enough to study in Portugal and Italy for two years, where I was just soaking up inspiration like a sponge. Photos of the Italian coasts make regular appearances in my mood boards, as well as the patterns from Portuguese azulejos, or tiles. The buildings are lined with them- I just love it. I probably have hundreds of pictures of them in my camera roll.

Portuguese tiles
Photo by Hollis Kolmansberger

HC: What has running your own business taught you?

HK: What you put in is what you get out. I truly believe that if you have your head locked on the goal, failure doesn’t sting as badly. Discouragement can be turned into motivation. It has taught me to keep a strong mind, because it is so easy to listen to the negative noise. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am surely on the path, and have met so many supportive, inspiring people along the way. 

Failures happen too. I have had a ton of setbacks during these past six years, but it has taught me a new level of creativity. It is not enough to just grind and work hard, you need to be creative in your approach to the market. Know what is out there, what is needed and care about the feedback from your customers. 

I also believe that you can read, study and prepare yourself as much as you want on entrepreneurship, but the real education comes when you take the jump! Looking back, I am thankful that I committed to the idea so early, because there is a certain level of naiveness when you’re young that made me a bit more fearless in my decision making. 

HC: As a busy college student, what keeps you motivated?

HK: I have found that I am on my A-game when I am regularly working out, eating right, drinking enough water, staying organized and praying. During times where I am feeling less motivation, I am usually lacking in one of those categories!

However, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and overworked in college. Whenever I feel this way, I try to take an hour and do something creative for me. Especially for creatives, when your imagination becomes a job, the original energy and spirit for the work can feel lost. Doing something to ignite that initial, genuine passion can kickstart a revived and inspired energy within your work.

And of course, I try to keep everything into perspective. I believe there is a plan for my life, and though I don’t know it yet, I trust it. 

HC: What do you think is missing from the fashion industry that you’d like to contribute?

HK: With the rapid-nature of the industry these days, I think we have lost style. This is where, like I said earlier, I think my mom really engraved her mindset into me. Fashion is about personality, and therefore; it should be so different for everyone. For this reason, I am not too keen on trends. In my brand, I hope to carry the idea of building style. It is not an overnight thing, but rather a long process and beautiful compilation of interests, inspirations, travels, culture, history and aspirations. This authenticity of crafted style is what I want to revive in the industry. 

HC: What are your goals for the future?

HK: This question is HEFTY! Well, I can start by saying that I have always had a very concrete plan since I was 13 years old:

Start a brand, go to fashion school, study abroad at some point, graduate, move to Paris to work in fashion, move back to NYC, start a more mature company, get married at some point in there, build a beautiful office space with my mom’s help (she is so talented with interior design), do a TED talk… etc.

When people ask about my goals, and I tell them a general outline of my plan, they always tell me, “Don’t be so confident! That will definitely change around.” 

While I understand their concern, I disagree with the advice. Having my plan has given me an outline, something to always refer back on, something to work towards. While it has definitely shifted around already, and I expect it to in the future, it reminds me of the early fire towards my goals. Something I recently realized is that setting strict timelines on your plan is what needs to be avoided. Stay strict to your daily schedule, little tasks that inch you closer to the goal, but don’t set a time-constraint on your big goals. 

Hollis Kolmansberger
Photo by Hollis Kolmansberger
Career-wise, I hope to have my own bigger company one day. While I want it to be high-tech, especially in terms of sustainability, I want the focus to be around that concept of building style. I would love to keep traveling, learning and finding new inspiration. I am working on ways to introduce this company to the market in a totally new format, especially considering a post-pandemic world- things are most definitely going to be different, and I want to be on the front-end of that.

Follow Hollis on Instagram.

Carli is a 2022 grad of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and served as the style section editor for Her Campus. After being a national style writer for Her Campus, she launched Her Campus FIT. A born and raised Jersey Girl, she is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. In her spare time she loves running, jamming to Taylor Swift, and tracking down the best burgers. Find her on Instagram @carliannescloset.