CANADA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET
Victoria Hayes is without a doubt Canada’s best-kept secret. While she has already presented her collections at NYFW for two years now and is the 2019 recipient of the Fashion Group International Rising Star Award for Womenswear, she has still to be introduced to many. Indeed, Victoria Hayes is a pleasant discovery and with her many impressive credits, she is definitely a designer to look out for.
By Luisa Tarantino
Photographer Tereza Janáková
Hayes officially launched her label in 2016. Since then, she has garnered the attention of big celebrity names and has had the pleasure of dressing stars like Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Alicia Keys, and even Madonna for high-profile events and red carpets. This year, the international spotlight was on Hayes as she presented her spring/summer 2020 collection at New York Fashion Week. Her runway debut was closed by none other than Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha, a fan of the brand.
As one of our favourite designers and a designer we believe deserves recognition, Dress to Kill had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria about her runway debut, her inspirations, and what’s next for the young designer.
Your path to fashion has been an interesting one. When did you make the decision to transfer from pre-med to fashion and what was the transition like? What challenges did you face? I made the decision to transfer from pursuing medicine into fashion in my final year of pre-med studies. I had taken a summer course at Parsons School of Design in New York City and I loved it so much that I decided to apply for a design BFA there instead of applying to law school, which was my original plan post pre-med. I knew I never wanted to be a doctor or work in a hospital. I was 20 years old when I moved to New York City to attend Parsons. There have been a ton of challenges related to choosing such a “high risk” career, but I am very fortunate to have been able to take these risks. I don’t regret my decisions. I think having an introductory background in a completely unrelated field has been an asset to me as a designer.
While you’ve worked with global superstars like Lady Gaga and Madonna, you’re still fairly new on the scene. How would you describe your brand to those who don’t know it? Our line is made for women who want to be seen and turn heads with their unapologetic fashion choices. We believe in the entertainment value of clothing and the entertainment value inherent in dressing and curating one’s personal style. The line is focused on luxury fabrications, embellishments, colourful prints, and striking silhouettes— with a lot ot suiting (my favourite garment category to design!).
You had your runway debut at this year’s New York Fashion Week, with Coco Rocha closing your show. What was that experience like? The experience was surreal. It’s something I have always dreamed of doing. Preparing for a runway show is like planning a wedding alongside finishing an entire collection. I’m proud of the collection we showcased and it was a huge learning experience to go through all the facets of preparing for a show – from venue selection to model casting, music choices, hair & makeup, nails, and styling. In my life, I’ll look back on the experience fondly but I know we worked incredibly hard and were in a state of panic for several weeks before the show in order to pull it off!
Your incredible spring /summer 2020 collection at NYFW drew on your interests growing up, from basketball to ’90s trends. What do you think defines the collection? The collection was inspired by Space Jam and the fact that I played basketball for several years after seeing the movie as a kid! The choice of inspiration was also largely motivated by the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship in the spring of 2019 — a momentous event for my hometown. This collection is defined by its sport inspired vibe — my first time referencing sports/athletics in my designs. We were able to do our first attempts at tracksuits for instance, while staying true to the cornerstones of the brand: luxe fabrications, bold prints, and embellishments.
What I personally love the most about your designs is that they are so feminine and chic, yet so powerful and subversive. To me, your pieces inspire confidence and self-assurance for today’s modern, kick-ass women. What do you want people to feel when wearing a Victoria Hayes piece? Thank you! That’s exactly what I want people to feel when they wear my designs — bold and confident! I think the greatest personal contribution you can make as a fashion designer is to assist in ensuring that the people who wear your clothes feel like the best version of themselves. I want to design clothes that allow you to literally become your alter-ego, aspirational self. Also, with regards to designing womenswear in particular, I want women to take up space and not apologize for it or shy away from being powerful. The idea of femininity being modest and demure is antiquated and quite frankly, bores me.
More generally, what are you biggest sources of inspiration? What gets you excited to start designing a new collection or new pieces? Recently I’ve been drawing on my adolescence as a source of inspiration. My last two collections have referenced specific times in my young life and “phases” I was in as a teenager. In general, when developing a collection, I find two genres of inspiration to work from: a storytelling — based inspiration, with inherent meaning and significance to me, and accompanying visual inspirations (objects, art, architecture, travel, history.) that help articulate that story. I get excited when I come up with an idea for garments “I can’t wait” to see in front of me.
As 2019 comes close to an end, what would you say you’re most proud of having accomplished this year, and what do you want to accomplish in 2020? I would say the completion of my first ever NYFW runway show this year would be the stand — out accomplishment for 2019. In 2020, I’d like to work towards living a more balanced lifestyle (laughs). I’m not kidding, but that seems almost impossible in this industry.
What’s next for Victoria Hayes? What should we be looking out for? Hopefully the launch of our costume jewellery/earring line in the near future!
Lastly, we love to celebrate our homegrown talent here at Dress to Kill. What’s your opinion about the Canadian fashion scene? I think the Canadian fashion scene is growing really fast and that Canadians are incredibly supportive of their homegrown talent! Organizations like CAFA do a great job of promoting Canadian designers and providing a platform to reach a wider audience. My first dreams of being a fashion designer were all born in Toronto!