Hester Bly is a luxury vacation brand created for the spirited traveller.
Founded in 2019 by female entrepreneur Gemma Street, the collection was inspired by two historical heroines Nellie Bly and Lady Hester Stanhope, both courageous feminists. Hester, a brave adventurer and archaeologist and Bly known for trailblazing in the fields of journalism, invention, and women’s rights.
The brand was created with these independent women in mind, embodying their unique style, strong spirit, and globetrotting natures.
Individuality, style, and ease are paramount. Eye-catching, glamorous, and comfortable to wear, the collection attracts the attention of strong, stylish pioneers who seek the ideal wardrobe for warmer climates and exceptional travel destinations.
HEROINES OF THE BRAND
Hester Bly is honoured to share its name with iconic heroines, Nellie Bly and Lady Hester Stanhope and hopes to capture their style, passion for adventure, humanity, individuality, bravery, and strength.
Founder of Investigative Journalism. Suffragette. Novelist. Around-the-World Record-Holder. Inventor. Charity Worker.
Born Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman in 1864 but known by her journalistic pen-name, Nellie Bly, Nellie’s life story is one of firsts. A pioneer of investigative journalism, in 1885, at 21 she spent 6 months in Mexico reporting on the lives and customs of Mexican people. After openly criticising the tyranny of the Mexican dictator, Porfirio Diaz she was forced to flee the country to avoid imprisonment.
Back in New York she joined Joseph Purlitzer’s New York World publication, investigating reports of brutality at Blackwells Women’s Lunatic Asylum. Going undercover by convincing authorities that she was mentally unsound, she successfully gained access as an inmate and experienced first-hand the brutal and inhumane living conditions there. After being rescued by friends after 10 days, she caused a sensation by publishing her findings, leading to the establishment of new and improved treatment and living conditions in New York State. A later assignment solidified her passion for adventure as she was sent to test Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”. With 2 days notice - and told that only a man could undertake such an epic challenge - she began a 40,000+ km journey alone. Piquing the interest of readers, a board game was created to guess how long the journey would take her. Travelling alone, en route she met Jules Verne, visited a leper colony to investigate its conditions and purchased a monkey. Unbeknown to her she was also competing against another journalist to race around the world. She beat the journalist and the fictional record set by Phileas Fogg by 8 days and became the world record holder of the fastest journey around the world.
On her return home to the US, she became CEO of the Iron Clad Manufacturing Company. Designing and being awarded two US patents and becoming one of the leading women industrialists in the country. She didn’t forget her journalistic roots and passion for equality, actively supporting the suffragette movement and the female right to vote until it was realised in 1920.
Lady Hester Stanhope
Adventurer. Archeologist. Traveller. Civil War Relief Worker.
The eldest child of the 3rd Earl of Stanhope and Lady Hester Pitt. At 27 years old she became the chief of the household for British Prime Minister, William Pitt. After his death and a scandalous romantic disappointment, Hester embarked on a long sea voyage, where it is noted that Lord Byron dived into the sea to greet her on arrival at Athens. En route to Cairo, her ship was shipwrecked, and Hester and her entourage were forced to wear Turkish clothing. Refusing the female veils and heavy layered items, Hester adopted the typical Turkish male’s wardrobe of turban, velvet robes and embroidered slippers. Having curated her unique travelling style, on horseback with a sword, she visited Greece, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. One of the first Europeans to travel into the deserts of Syria and Lebanon, dressed as a Bedouin she rode side-saddle with her entourage consisting of 22 camels and her wardrobe in tow. Controlled by Bedouin tribes, impressed with her fearless character and excellent horsemanship, Leader Emir Mahannah el Fadel received her, and she became known as Queen Hester. Her travels continued through Syria, where she undertook the first-ever stratigraphical analysis of an archaeological site, discovering a 7-foot marble statue.
Hester then settled in a remote monastery in Lebanon providing help, sanctuary, and support to the hundreds of refugees of the Druze clan during the civil war. She won their love and respect as a strong and brave protector. She continued to support the local people’s civil war plight personally, with her one-woman relief effort leading to her own financial ruin and eventual bankruptcy but she continued to refute the constraints of Victorian society and stay true to her own sensibility, including wearing a turban until she died.
One collection per year is produced, comprised of dresses, kaftans, separates and accessories. Each piece created in limited production runs of no more than 50 pieces, maintaining exclusivity and minimising waste, each one inspired by the travels of Lady Hester Stanhope and Nellie Bly. To add to the journey of discovery, each collection comes with a historical reading guide to inspire its wearers.
The first collection ‘Palm Springs’ was launched in 2019, with the zeitgeist of 1960s glamour and Slim Aarons in mind. Vivid colours, poolside cocktail silhouettes and modernist architecture all an influence, ideal for the decadence of dusk to dawn entertaining and scandalous Hollywood secrets.
In 2021 the second collection ‘Bora Bora’ was created. Inspired by the tropical lushness and dramatic scenery of French Polynesia, rich in mythical tales of seafaring adventurers. Vibrant colours, natural fabrics and beautiful embroidery reflect the exotic beauty of the islands, filled with ancient palms, deep rainforest valleys and acres of sweet-smelling flowers which have in the past captured the imagination of many artists from Gauguin to Matisse.
2022 sees the launch of the "Tigers of India" collection, inspired by the stories of five female Indian heroines and pioneers.
Collection fabrics include the highest quality silk crepe de chine, silk twill, cotton poplin, linen, and cotton voile. Feminine silhouettes, statement prints, and vibrant colours are magnetic and empowering.
Gemma worked for over 20 years travelling the globe as a strategic business management consultant in the FMCG and retail industries, then as an innovation strategy director in the technology sector, before founding and managing her own luxury brand experience consultancy, establishing a strong foundation and knowledge of the development of luxury brands.
In 2019 she founded her womenswear brand Hester Bly to create unique, luxurious resort wear for discerning travellers. In addition to having an eye for fashion, Gemma is an avid history addict and has a strong desire to help empower and celebrate female innovators, which has been a key component of the story behind her brand.
In 2021, Gemma founded Historymakers, an initiative in partnership with the Village Community Foundation in Tamil Nadu, India. Its aim to help to empower young women through education, mentorship, and skill-sharing.
Gemma received a doctorate from Manchester Business School and studied in Germany, Italy, Australia and in London at Central Saint Martins.