Designing Sisters

Katharine Hable Sweeney, Mississippi, and Susan Hable Smith, Alabama, are biological sisters, Tri Delta sisters and business partners. The two started their business, Hable Construction, 12 years ago. Both sisters had worked for small women-owned businesses for a while — Katharine in New York, Susan in San Francisco. When Katharine took a couple of years off to stay at home with her children, Susan began looking for a new career path. After taking a trip to India, she was inspired with design ideas.

Katharine recalls, "I told Susan to give me something to sell, and I would sell it." That "something" was personal accessories which the duo created and sold to such customers as Barney's. But after a couple of years, they decided to shift their New York-based business to focus more on the home market, developing home accessories and raw materials such as fabrics. Their products include throw pillows, home storage pieces and other printed accessories. They recently designed a textile collection for the furniture line Hickory Chair and have launched a collection of fabrics for the interior design market.

The sisters' designs will also soon debut on the big screen. Their fabrics were incorporated in part of the set design for the movie "The Help," which was filmed Mississippi where Katharine attended school.

For the two Tri Delta sisters, Fraternity connections seem to permeate both Katharine and Susan's business and personal lives. Susan's Tri Delta big sister from the University of Alabama works as an interior designer, so Hable Construction created fabrics for her store. Not surprisingly, the pillows in one of the rooms at the University of Mississippi chapter house are a Hable creation. Most recently, the University of Georgia chapter house chose Hable fabrics for their curtains, without even knowing the sisters running the company were Tri Deltas.

Katharine says they were "tickled pink" when they the chapter house requested their curtains. She even wrote a note to be included with the order that told the chapter how excited she was that they were using Hable fabric in the house.

Another Tri Delta twist came a few years ago when the sisters created a collection of wool felt appliqué stockings for Christmas. St. Jude approached the company, completely unaware of the Tri Delta connection, and asked the sisters to produce a line of stockings using St. Jude patient art.

"We were touched that they would come to us," says Katharine. "And they didn't even know about our involvement with the philanthropy, which made it even more exiting when we started working together. They are just great to work with."

For Katharine, the constant Tri Delta connections prove how small the world really is. It also serves as a reminder of Tri Delta's permanence.

"Tri Delta follows you wherever you go. You have those connections forever."

For examples of Katharine and Susan's work, click through the slideshow below.

 

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