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Cloth-aboration: A True Partnership with Hedley & Bennett

After months and months (ok, maybe a year) of collaborating over cloth with Hedley & Bennett, we were honored to sit down with its founder, Ellen Bennett and reminisce our project together. The “Apron Lady” really knows how to light up any room (Don’t believe us, just look at her Instagram feed).

1. If we were penning a love story about Otium and Hedley & Bennett, take us to chapter one. Where does it all begin?

Tim reached out to us when he was brand new to LA. Before meeting him, the team was intimidated by a young gun from The French Laundry, but when we finally met, were all really taken aback by how approachable he was, so nice and warm. And as we got to know him, we quickly learned, he was indeed still a bad-ass too. Most of the time these qualities don’t go hand in hand. But in Tim’s case, it’s who he is and we immediately fell in love with his persona and wanted to take him under our wing. That’s what this is all about- finding people you love to work with and then creating a true partnership.

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2. Like any great artist, your work is inspired by your surroundings, the community and its subjects. What got the creative juices flowing on this project?

Sometimes we work with restaurants that don’t know what they want. But again, Tim is a bit different. He wanted something very specific. He had a vision. He didn’t want to be like anyone else or any project we did before. The team would say, “Wow, he knows exactly what he wants.” Tim helped inspire our creativity so we could reach our goals together.

3. In a world of many aprons in the life of Ellen Bennett, what makes the Otium one so damn special? We are okay being your favorite child for the record…

Like everything with Otium, it is a piece of Tim. This is what I want, this is what I feel. Form and function are in perfect harmony. We made 7 samples of this apron, 7. That’s more than any other one we have done before. Marissa on my team even went out to source special fabric which doesn’t fit her normal job description. No detail was left untouched. And everything was done in a really nice way together.

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4. Speaking of form or function…form or function? Any key game changing factors on this apron?

Both. This apron is super cool but approachable at the same time. A warm bad-ass? Maybe like Tim? Everything is on there for a reason- not just part of the design. Normally the back side of the apron is just the back side of the apron. No one pays attention to it. But in this case, we used it as part of the design and to reinforce the straps. Look at those triangles closely and you really appreciate what went into it. The pockets are custom, we’ve never done something like this before.

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5. Speaking of custom…tell us about the shirt!

We created a new shirt for Otium. We don’t do shirts. Tim wanted a shirt and now we “blame” him for our new work shirt collection. He didn’t want a chef coat. Basically, we made a hybrid of all the best shirts I own or have seen. Functional, comfortable, good looking wand designed for the kitchen. Theory, Marc Jacobs, Brooks Brothers and Bittman to name a few. The chefs can cook and then leave the restaurant ready for the rest of their day and evening. It truly bridges the gap into lifestyle but is super efficient when on the line. Check out the back buttons that snap an apron in place so it doesn’t slide.

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6. If this apron was a spirit what would it be and why?

I don’t really drink but the drink that comes to mind is a Moscow Mule.

7. You recently moved your office and warehouse- kudos! We love the quotes you have on the walls. Always re-energized when we visit. Is it even possible to pick a favorite?

Two that I really like are: Wake up and fight. And outside we have one that reads: If the front door isn’t open, climb in through the window. That’s how we run our business- we’re scrappy enough to recognize that when you can’t get in the front door not to stop and to find another way. If it works, then go with it. And it doesn’t always have to be what Harvard says to do. Rarely is the front door open. There’s always a challenge ahead, otherwise everyone would walk right in.

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8. Rumor has it you were quite a bad ass chef too. What’s your go to dish…let’s say if Timothy Hollingsworth were coming for dinner?

Mexican Food…a full spread…tacos, salsas, grilled steak, chicken, octopus, the works. It’s my favorite food. It makes me feel comfortable. It’s what I grew up on. And that’s what I want to share with the very special people in my life now. It makes me feel good and I want others to feel good too. Side note: when most people come over it’s like an episode of Chopt. I throw them an Apron, we rummage through the fridge and make a mix of whatever is “in stock.”

9. Without giving away too much of the secret sauce, what makes Hedley & Bennett such a success?

We work really hard. No one is sitting on their laurels. I push people sometimes past the point they think they can push. I’m like a mom. And I try to push the baby which is Hedley more and more. I give a shit about everything. And when you have someone like that who truly loves and cares about every bit of it, standing behind it and leading it you have to be a success. Whether it’s eggs or aprons. I don’t know other companies likes ours that have 40 different people touching the apron. Yes, it’s quality control but it’s the love that we put into it that makes it so special. And we hold every team member in a very special light, it’s family.

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