Victoria Hayes: Bold colors, details & a style you can see from a mile away

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Victoria Hayes is a New York City-based designer that is definitely one to watch, as I believe her extraordinary talent, as a designer will easily benefit her in making a mark in the world of fashion. She has already dressed celebrities from Lady Gaga to Cardi B and her designs have been featured in numerous fashion publications like WWD, Vogue Italia, V Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle Magazine, Nylon, and Paper Magazine.

She originally came onto my radar while I was attending the Parsons School of Fashion 2018 BFA Graduate Exhibition. She had graduated from the school in 2014 and had returned to present her Fall/Winter 2018-2019 Collection as a part of the alumni portion of the show. I love that Parsons does this because it creates a real sense of community and connection within the current and former students. Even in a show of so many different concepts, designs, and styles, her work immediately stood out to me. After the show I found myself obsessing over her clothes and going over every minute detail. Leaving me speechless is not easy, but between the superb construction, sensuous fabrics, and over the top jewelry I couldn’t speak.

I knew she was someone I wanted to meet and talk to so I could gain more insight into what was driving her work and the vision for her Collection. We met in her NYC showroom a few months later to do an interview and for me to sneak a peek at her Spring 2019 Collection and more. After the interview, I did get to go through her Spring 2019 Collection and take that peek as I was hoping for. The Collection is mouth-watering, and I say this because of the array of the color palette and the beautiful fabrications of the designs. Her design aesthetic is sophisticated, classy, and elegant and it shows through in every garment in the Collection. Once again she left me speechless.

 

ABOUT VICTORIA

Photo by George Pimentel

Victoria grew up in Toronto, Canada and realized how much her love of fashion meant to her during her final year of pre-med studies. From pre-med, she enrolled into Parsons The New School of Design where she not only graduated the BFA Program but also won the school’s most prestigious award, Women’s Wear Designer of 2014. Before launching her own label, Victoria honed her craft with internships at Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Suno, Etienne Aigner, Cynthia Rowley, and Lisa Perry.

When her label launched during the Fall 2016 season, it was done so with keeping in mind the ideal woman who would be wearing her creations. The women that she creates for want to feel empowered, make a fashion statement and definitely be seen. All of Victoria’s designs tend to have certain design signatures, which include attention to detail, hand painted prints, luxurious fabrics, embroidery, ornate 3-D hand sewn embellishments, and even sometimes finishing certain designs by hand.

I was so excited going into the interview as I had done my homework and knew all of this information but it still did not prepare me for what I was walking into. Victoria’s designs were what I would call a visual wallop because once you see any of her designs it will be engrained in your mind forever.

 

INTERVIEW

Victoria recently showed her first runway show in Toronto and I asked her how that compared to doing her lookbooks from previous collections.

“It was good. It was much more exciting than just doing a lookbook as it’s a lot more work, as you have to cast 38 models instead of one and I am the casting director. But I’m glad I did it. I think it was a nice hometown experience, as people in my life, like my family and friends who would otherwise never get to attend a fashion show, got to attend my fashion show.”

 

I wanted to know why she was inspired to be in New York because I knew she had been here for 8 years.

”Yes, I’m going on 9 years here in NYC. I moved here to go to Parsons and I really didn’t think further beyond than going to Parsons. It was the thinking that if you’re going to do fashion then you are lucky enough to try and go to the part of the world where you should be studying fashion. It’s one of those careers where you have to move for your career, it dictates where you are going to be even though you can be a fashion designer anywhere, you better have a foothold in some fashion capital.”

“Now it’s basically a matter of like “I don’t have a drivers license, I know how to make clothes in this city and I don’t know how to make clothes in any other city”. What we do is really dependent on the network of suppliers; factories, and seamstresses and we have all that here now. I know the garment district like the back of my hand and I would like to know it even more. I can find everything within a 10-block radius of here and I don’t want to have to move to another city where I would have to commute.”

 

For her Spring/Summer 2019 Collection, I knew she used a Retro-Miami Beach theme as her inspiration but I wanted to know if the inspiration was from childhood memories or just her love of the atmosphere and culture of Miami.

“I think that being from Canada, I’ve always kind of really enjoyed the times of the year where I got to be near the beach. I’m so used to being cold and wearing layers. So, yes I actually did go to Fort Lauderdale every summer or spring break with my family growing up.”

“If it’s summertime I want to be wearing a lot of color, of course, I’m going to revert back to darker colors for the winter but, summer is the celebration of color. So, I just picked a happy theme. It’s a celebration of summertime, color, and South Beach with my starting point being my love of vintage beach tees, which gave me the opportunity to do graphic tees for the first time.”

 

Photo by George Pimentel

 

I had to know if her work reflects her personal style.

“Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. I like to joke that I design most of the collections and most of the jewelry while listening to ‘Tool’ or the ‘Deftones’. I revert back to a 15-year-old all the time. You would never be able to tell that literally at this table I’m listening to some pretty alt-rock stuff while gluing and bedazzling. Yes, my line has taken on a much more feminine vibe then how I actually present myself. I sometimes try and close the gap or sometimes I celebrate that there is a distance between my work and myself. I’m usually just wearing jeans and a tee shirt of some kind. When it’s really, really bad is when you just don’t care. I spend months on end sometimes, as my joke, wearing this Champion hoodie that clearly a middle-aged man would wear to hockey practice. It’s really not cute, it’s not a cool hoodie, and it’s just an ugly Champion hoodie. It’s just like I don’t care what I look like, I’m just a vessel for work, and the only thing that matters is the work. So my personal style I would say has suffered since being a fashion designer.”

 

I did ask her if she could have dinner with one fashion designer dead or alive, who would it be and why?

“Alexander McQueen. Likewise, I also would say that I never would have done fashion had I not seen that man’s body of work. His work and his existing have changed the course of my life, I probably would have become a lawyer. That was the impetus to be like, wow look at that, that’s so amazing. He had more talent in him than thousands of people combined. I saw the McQueen documentary and I cried and it was really powerful. I would just like to sit next to him for like an hour. I don’t think that’s the kind of person that you could ever really get to know over dinner. You just enjoy being near them and observe being how they are.”

“He died a year before I moved here. He died while I was waiting to find out if I got into Parsons or not. I remember being very upset by that. And then in retrospect now, it doesn’t really surprise me. If you almost collapse under pressure with nobody looking at you doing two collections for nobody to see, I can’t imagine what it would be to do 30 collections at the top of the world and everyone is just looking to pull you down. That’s a hard place to be when you’re already in a line of work where your emotional instability is probably what’s making your work so magnificent. You don’t get to be that level of genius without pain. I believe pain and genius are inextricably linked. I felt for him.”

 

I was interested to know if she could change one aspect in the fashion world, what would it be.

“The need to present work so frequently. It doesn’t make any sense to me why you would have to have a whole new product line every three months. This is too much product, it’s forced through, it’s done too fast.”

“If I could do one body of work that I had a whole year to work on, it would be exceptional and I wouldn’t always be behind the ball, always struggling to catch up because the season tells me I have to have something new. I understand that there is always a need for fresh new product to sell but as a young designer, it’s really hard.”

“This is the first collection where I’ve had an assistant designer. I’ve done everything by myself, which means I have made every single design decision. I have 50 look collections and I’ve designed 130 garments by myself in a 4-month time span. So, then you don’t do anything but work. You wake up and realize you have wasted years of your young life really trying very hard and then for what? You are still a tiny little designer who is competing for 15% of the budget of a retailer and there are thousands of really talented designers.”

 

To end the interview on a high note, I asked Victoria where she sees Victoria Hayes in 5-10 years?

“I’m in a bit of a hesitate spot right now. I want to really get the label off the ground as I think I’m not off the ground yet. I’m still spinning my wheels. It’s not related to the product development, which I feel more comfortable with, it is with everything else about being a small business owner that I have no experience in. I need to build a team as there are a lot of things that overwhelm me that aren’t related to fashion, it’s just business. I think doing this kind of work is really hard and I respect anybody who is making a go of it in fashion whether I like the clothes or not. It’s a hard business to be in and it’s a hard business to do well in. In five years I would like to still be in business and in a position where the things that scare and overwhelm me no longer do. I want to have a viable brand and be in a place where we are doing very well. I am not looking to grow very fast, as I am quite anxious and like to do things at my pace. I would like the label to be attainable. I have no interest in being the next big thing but I do want the label to be attainable.”

 

Spending that brief time in her showroom talking with her and viewing her Collections was amazing because as I left her showroom my gut was telling me, “this one is going to make it”.

So, please make sure you check out her website at www.victoriahayesnyc.com and follow her on Instagram @victoriahayescollection

 

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