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Nicky Hilton on Instagram, Motherhood, and the Perfect Pair of Shoes
Though things have inarguably quieted down this past year, Nicky Hilton is just getting started. After a year spent teaching her two young children from home in New York City and sticking to an early bedtime, Hilton is gearing up to launch a collection of sustainable ballet flats for the footwear label French Sole. Below, Interview’s Entertainment Director and a longtime friend of Hilton’s, Lauren Tabach-Bank, talks to the designer about how she cares for the environment, her closet, and, most importantly, herself.
NICKY HILTON: Lauren?
LAUREN TABACH-BANK: Yeah.
HILTON: I have to literally sit on the edge of this couch and not move, or I lose service. Hold on one second, let me just get my coffee. I can’t record without drinking.
TABACH-BANK: Okay. So, talk to me. Let’s start out with the fact that you grew up in New York and then you lived in L.A. for a long time and now you’re back. What made you come back to New York?
HILTON: I love New York. I am a born and raised New Yorker. I think it is the best city in the world, hands down. And there’s nowhere I would rather be.
TABACH-BANK: What do you love about it?
HILTON: I love everything. I love that you walk outside of your apartment and there’s just so much action and excitement going on. What most of my L.A. friends don’t like about New York—they say they get anxiety here, it’s so fast paced. But I love all that. It keeps you on your toes.
TABACH-BANK: I do too. You’ve been in the media for a long time, since you were in your teens. How has social media changed the game, in positive and negative ways?
HILTON: Social media is an interesting beast. I think there are lots of great things from social media. I mean, for one, yesterday… I’m on the board of Animal Haven and Animal Haven posted a dog that had just come in that was completely burned, so ill. And they posted a fundraiser post on Instagram and within two hours they had already raised over $4,000, which is amazing.
HILTON: I know. I’ve discovered so many cool brands and restaurants and stores on Instagram, and there’s also a lot of amazing activism on Instagram. To be able to amplify your message to millions and millions of people with a click is pretty remarkable. But then there’s that other side—that photoshopped, Facetuned, edited side. It’s kind of hard to decipher what’s real and what’s not. But it’s a fun tool.
TABACH-BANK: I agree. You have two daughters. What do you think it would have been like having had social media when you were in your teens and early twenties? What do you think are the disadvantages of it, as a young lady growing up?
HILTON: It would’ve been hard, I think. There’s a lot of pressure on young people. I think it can be a competitive place. I hope that my children are not on it for a very, very long time.
TABACH-BANK: How old are your girls?
HILTON: Three and four. They love the filters. So they always say, “Give me your phone. I want to do funny faces.” And they do the cat ears and the bunny years and all of that.
TABACH-BANK: Which one is their favorite?
HILTON: They love the ones where you have the rainbows and the hearts on your cheeks. Oh, and they love the pickle one. Have you seen that one? The cute little face. They say “I want to be a pickle!”
TABACH-BANK: So cute. So you and your sister, Paris, were somewhat “it girls,” long before social media. What was it like being famous at such a young age, and how were you still able to come out on the right side of things?
HILTON: I mean, I was traveling all over the world with my best friend, my sister, working. And we were having the time of our lives. One week we’d be in Tokyo, the next week we’d be in Australia. We traveled the world together and got to go to so many interesting places, meet so many interesting people. And it was an incredibly fun time, with no real responsibilities yet.
TABACH-BANK: Exactly. And you were kind of just being paid to have a good time. It’s nice that you had each other to protect and trust.
HILTON: Yes. The fact that we had each other meant everything. And we kept our circle of friends pretty small. And we’re still very close with all of those people from way back then. Like yourself, like your sexy self.
TABACH-BANK: Indeed. Tell me, you’ve been in magazines and newspapers for probably the past 20 years, if not more. What’s the craziest rumor that you’ve ever read about yourself?
HILTON: I read about me on a date at the Chateau Marmont with this famous actor, having this huge argument and he stormed off and it was this crazy elaborate story, which never happened. I don’t even know the guy. I wasn’t even in the country at that time! And I was like, “Oh my god, I cannot believe that they run this stuff with just zero fact-checking. It was a “wow” moment.
TABACH-BANK: I wish you could tell us who it was.
HILTON: I’ll tell you later.
TABACH-BANK: So, you have two young daughters. How has motherhood changed your life? Changed your travel schedule? Changed your outlook on things? Especially this past year.
HILTON: Well, this past year I, unbeknownst to me, became a nursery school teacher, which I had not planned on. But this time I’ve spent with my family has has been the silver lining of this whole pandemic for me. At the beginning of the pandemic, when we were all on serious lockdown, I had breakfast, lunch and dinner with my family, my husband, and two daughters, every single day. I think it was for 96 days. And what other time in my life am I going to be able to say, I had, how many meals… what’s the math on that?
TABACH-BANK: A lot.
HILTON: A lot. It’s really amazing.
TABACH-BANK: It’s quality time that you were able to spend. But I’m sure you were pretty psyched when school opened.
HILTON: Yes. Very, very grateful when school opened. Both of my girls are in school full-time with their masks and they love it and they’re so happy to be back.
TABACH-BANK: And are they really close like you and your sister were?
HILTON: Yes, oh my god. They’re so close. I’m so happy that they had each other during this pandemic, for their sake and my sake.
TABACH-BANK: Totally. So, obviously we’re very good friends and I follow your Instagram and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting your two cats, Mac and Cheese, in person, which was a delight. They’re beautiful. You’re a cat lover, a cat lady. And I know you had lots of animals growing up because both you and your sister love animals. But I also know you do a lot of charity work for animals. Tell me about how you got involved in that and why it’s such a passion for you.
HILTON: I love animals. I’ve grown up in a house full of animals. And I just feel like we impulsively care for them because they are unable to speak for themselves or help themselves. I’ve been working with Animal Haven for many years now and I love the work I do with them. It’s so rewarding. And animals, they’re just the best company in the whole wide world. Even if you’re just coming home and you have a shitty day and just sit on your couch or your bed, and they just come to you and comfort you, they’re just the best. And they ask for nothing in return, except for some food and water. And they’re so loyal and the greatest.
TABACH-BANK: And why are they called Mac and Cheese?
HILTON: Because I love Mac and Cheese. I like the combination name, and I like the singular names as well.
TABACH-BANK: And you like to eat.
TABACH-BANK: Obviously, you’ve been involved in fashion for many years, and I know you’ve designed for different companies, but your footwear company, French Sole, I believe it’s about to launch its fourth season, and it seems like this is the biggest collaboration that you’ve done thus far. Tell me how you got involved in it and what it’s all about.
HILTON: Well, I love ballet flats. I kind of fell in love with them years ago, just seeing those old images of Audrey Hepburn and her cigarette pant, her turtleneck, and her chic ballet flats. I love the effortless elegance of a ballet flat. I went to an all girls private school on the Upper East Side, a Catholic school, which was very strict. You had a uniform; we were not to wear makeup and nail polish. The only way of expressing ourselves was through our shoes. And anyways, I stumbled upon this French Sole flagship on my walk home from school one day and I just fell in love with the shoes. So, the collaboration was pretty organic. I’ve been a customer since I’m a teenager and now I’m a collaborator in my adulthood.
TABACH-BANK: And you’ll be launching sustainable footwear this spring. What made you want to go into that direction? What is the process?
HILTON: Well, I consider myself a pretty eco-conscious person. I’m not perfect, but I try and do my best. This past year, I became a vegetarian for a bit and I’ve pretty much given up red meat. When I leave a room, I’ll turn the lights off. We bring reusable bags to the grocery store. My daughter’s actually so cute—on Fridays they bring home their artwork in these big plastic Ziplocs, and today we were getting ready for drop-off and she had a big canvas tote with her and she said, “I’m going to bring this to put my art in. I don’t want them to give me a plastic bag.” That made my heart smile. So I practice this in my personal life and it’s something I’ve wanted to incorporate into my professional life for a while now. But, more recently, there’s been so many new, amazing, sustainable materials to use. The options are endless. I mean, they have soles made out of used tires. Mine are plant-based, and we found this amazing factory in Spain that specializes in sustainable materials.
TABACH-BANK: You have amazing clothes. Where are your favorite places to shop?
HILTON: You know what? I like a department store. I like a one-stop shop. I am not an online shopper. I mean, call me old fashioned. I like to go into the store to touch it, feel it, try it on. Online shopping is really not for me. I love a department store with a great cafe, like Bergdorf’s or Neiman’s. Let’s pop over.
TABACH-BANK: What’s your most treasured clothing possession that you own?
HILTON: I love the vintage Zandra Rhodes that I inherited from my mom and the vintage Alaïa.
TABACH-BANK: Do you have a lot of pieces from your mom?
HILTON: I do, because Paris doesn’t give a fuck about fashion. So I got it all. Now she’s going to read this.
TABACH-BANK: Did you ever have a crazy experience at a fashion show?
HILTON: I think this was in high school—Paris and I were sitting at a show front row and Sacha Baron Cohen came and sat with us and was talking to us. He was being that character, the interviewer, that just is so annoying. He’s coming up to us, interviewing us, annoying the shit out us, like will not go away, asking the most annoying questions. And then I remember he popped up on the runway too. And I didn’t realize it was him until years and years later. I just thought he was some annoying reporter. Someone sent me a clip—it’s somewhere.
TABACH-BANK: And in between motherhood and working, and just being a busy human, what would you do on a perfect day?
HILTON: I love waking up before my kids and just having that moment to breathe, and then just going into the kitchen with my husband, having coffee, and just talking about our day and getting all of my boring work calls and stuff out of the way. Right now, the weather in New York is so fabulous and I’m loving the outdoor dining situation. So I love going to lunch at one of my favorites in the neighborhoods, like Ruby’s or Lore, and seeing friends. And then I’d like to go and pick my kids up at school, take them for ice cream in Washington Square Park. And my husband’s an amazing chef, so he loves cooking us all dinner. And I’d just have an early night. I mean, I went to bed last night at like 9:30. It was heaven.
TABACH-BANK: You’re truly turning into an adult. It’s so beautiful.
HILTON: Oh my god, I’ve never been a morning person ’til I had children.
TABACH-BANK: I can attest to that.