From coast to countryside, the American Dream particularly sings through the cedar shingled homes and main streets of the small towns that cluster together on the East Coast against time, most having been settlements dating back to the 17th Century when it was once proclaimed “The New World.”
Today, traditions on the East Coast run deep and unchanged, celebrating the sophistication yet practical charm in American pastimes and aesthetics. Influences from the whaling heydays and rustic farms of New England, to the adventurous pursuits in sports like rowing and baseball from the 20th Century, have never really left our hearts when we think of how far we’ve come in chasing the American Dream– even if, such a dream can only simply come true by just our style. There is a humbling elegance to what we know as classic American Prep: the warm knits, pearls, oxfords, sailor stripes– the riding boots. Our sense of adventure and determination only make for magnificent inspiration, especially when looking to legends like Dooney & Bourke and Ralph Lauren.
In Long Island, Melanie Sperin continues on the traditions of classic prep styling through her very own Hampton Ivy designs. Founded in 2014, Hampton Ivy– a combined ode to the beautiful Hamptons and the Ivy Leagues schools that embody American prep– creates exquisite and affordable accessories from printed gold cuffs to illustrated headscarves, and takes its most pride from being quintessentially American, made in the one and only USA. Her life on the shores of the Hamptons reflect beautifully and true to the world she is fortunate to be inspired by, nearly unchanged and continuously admired by those who visit from across the nation.
Melanie spoke with Marjorie about keeping the flame for classic American beauty alive in her jewelry, and finding new ways to reinvent the American spirit in beautifully crafted collections.
Hampton Ivy was founded in 2014. What inspired you to create your own jewelry?
I’ve always loved jewelry. Ever since I was a little girl, I would always rummage around my mother’s jewelry box and see which pretty bracelets or rings or necklaces I could try on. To me, jewelry is a necessary part of every outfit; I feel kind of naked without it. In 2014, my style evolved and I was searching for a new wardrobe. I was able to find all of the pretty clothes I could want, but not any jewelry to really match. I wanted pieces that were fun, but classic too and high quality. After an afternoon of shopping with my mother, we sat down on our living room couch and were just chatting about how hard it was to find the type of jewelry I wanted and joked about how I should make my own, and that’s where it all started.
As your brand is heavily inspired by prep tradition, where do you find the prints and materials to make your bangles and charms?
I source most of my materials from within the U.S., such as my metal which comes from a fellow woman owned small business in Washington, my beads come from New York and Oregon, and my leather is from Washington too. My velvets, however, are from France and my cashmere is from Ireland. Most of my prints are designed by me, but I also love to buy prints from Rossi1931, and some prints are from vintage art that has become public domain. Then everything is assembled right in my home office, with love, by hand!
We love your style inspirations, like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn! Do you have a favorite film or iconic look from them?
Well, of course, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the first to come to mind! But I believe her other most iconic look is when she’s wearing that absolutely gorgeous white gown with black floral embroidery in Sabrina; it was jaw dropping. And I’d say Grace Kelly’s most iconic look was her wedding dress; so many brides wanted to look like her and were inspired by her beautiful gown, my mother included. I also absolutely loved her gorgeous blue gown in To Catch a Thief.
Tell us what your perfect fall outfit staples consist of (stripes, a trench, or a headscarf?):
It usually consists of either a plaid skirt or classic denim jeans, knee high or over the knee boots, a cream cable knit sweater, a plaid scarf and either a cute headband or hair barrette, and of course Hampton Ivy jewelry to match!
On Hampton Ivy’s website, you mentioned that you went through various style phases before circling back to the classic preppy look. Why do you feel that the prep aesthetic is something still emulated today? Why are you still drawn to it?
The silhouettes, the color palettes and the patterns are just timeless. They’re flattering on everyone and they represent simple elegance and tradition. I personally feel my best in classic and preppy clothes. Trendy can be fun as well, and my wardrobe definitely has a good mix of different styles from current trends to bold vintage 70s items, but it’s mostly items that have modest cuts, sleek silhouettes and patterns that we’ve come to associate with preppy style; it’s just what I love and feel most comfortable and fabulous in.
Describe the woman you envision wearing your collection. Would you ever consider a brand ambassador program that is very popular among lots of young women today?
She is a lady who’s confident in her own skin, at any age. She knows what she likes and she wears her outfits with a sense of pride. She’s as timeless as her wardrobe, and though she loves classic designs, she also loves a little fun and knows that accessories are the perfect way to add a statement to any outfit without overpowering it.
I actually had a brand ambassador program a little while back that was very successful, but we’re taking a break from it. Maybe one day in the future we’ll bring it back!
What’s your favorite item to make?
Oh, that’s a hard choice. My patterned bangles might be my favorite items to make, because the process of making them is very peaceful and I just love the designs that I create. I always feel very proud when the final product is all ready! My beaded bracelets are a close second, though.
Where have you seen Hampton Ivy being worn?
I’ve seen my pieces being worn by equestrians and coastal style influencers, mostly in New York, but also everywhere across the globe. Thanks to social media I’m able to see people proudly wearing their items from all over.
Growing up on the north shore of Long Island, how influential has home been to your brand? Are your products sold locally or at trade shows, or strictly online?
Long Island has been incredibly influential to Hampton Ivy and my designs. I love this island and all the different parts of it. We have the best of both worlds, in my opinion; we have country-like landscapes and coastal seascapes. The Hamptons are a big influence especially, because they represent what I believe my brand represents as well, which is casual coastal style, elegant timeless style, and equestrian style. I sell my products primarily online on my website and on Etsy, as well as at tack shops all around the globe and occasionally local fairs and events too.
Tell us more about Long Island!
I’m pretty confident in saying Long Island is my forever home. I love being so close to the water and beaches, but also close to farms and vineyards and only a short train ride to Manhattan. There’s a lot going on at all times on our not so little island, so there’s never a dull moment. There’s always a fair or a new restaurant or shop to go to. The best part to me though, are all the beautiful little villages and hamlets dotted along the north and south shore of the island.
Tell us more about yourself, and what you look forward to the most this coming season for Hampton Ivy and fall:
I’m always with my family, especially my mother and grandmother. We love going out to lunch or dinner, exploring towns across the island and traveling everywhere together. I love to spend my free time doing exactly that, exploring new places. I have a mile long bucket list of all the places I want to go and things I want to do in the next few years. I can be adventurous and spontaneous, but I’m also a happy homebody too, perfectly content cuddling with my dogs and watching movies!
This coming season for Hampton Ivy I really look forward to getting my line into more stores, working with influencers, expanding my product line and really testing my creativity. For fall, I just can’t wait for the beautiful leaves, the crisp cool weather, the clothes and of course the food and drinks! It’s really hard to choose a favorite season, but I think mine would be fall.
Find more of Melanie Sperin’s designs at hamptonivy.com