For Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser, fashion has always been about being bold and standing out from the crowd.
Elsaesser’s career started in Brisbane, Australia where she studied fashion and got the opportunity to showcase her eccentric designs at Melbourne Fashion Week. With that, the Hayley Elsaesser brand was born and has since become a go-to celebrity style favourite. Her designs have been worn by Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Lilly Singh and even by etalk reporter Liz Trinnear.
To celebrate her dreamy new collection ~ Verona Beach ~ in stores and online now, we caught up with her to learn more about the collection, her favourite pieces and what role diversity plays in her brand.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A DESIGNER?
I grew up in a small town – Cambridge, ON – and at that time there wasn’t a lot of online shopping and there wasn’t a lot of good shopping there, so out of necessity I learned how to sew. I really wanted my own unique clothing, I was really into being different and I couldn’t find that so I started making that for myself.
TELL US ABOUT THE AESTHETIC OF YOUR COLLECTION.
It’s strong because that’s how it makes you feel when you wear it, it gives you power and you feel confident.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PIECE?
My favourite piece is the beer print overalls. They’re just insane, I look like a cartoon when I wear them and I love it.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU AS A DESIGNER?
I’m inspired by pop culture. My most recent collection, Verona Beach, is inspired by the 90s version of Romeo and Juliet directed by Baz Luhrmann. It’s not a conscious decision – I’m just watching a movie or I see something or I have a memory from when I was a kid and it really just sticks with me and I start building around that.
WHAT ROLE DOES INCLUSION PLAY IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
Fashion is always known as an industry that is exclusive, not inclusive at all, and I think that’s really wrong because there are so many people in the world that love fashion. Look around Toronto; it’s such a multicultural city with so many people of different lifestyles, shapes and sizes so it just seems really unfair to only be targeting a certain type of person.
HOW DO YOU WORK TO COMBAT THE LACK OF DIVERSITY IN FASHION WITH YOUR BRAND?
I’m not your typical size so coming from that I know that it’s hard to get something that will fit you properly or something that’s suited to you if you’re different. I see all these people that want to wear my clothes and I really want to represent that and show them someone that they can see themselves in on the runway. They can say, “Oh, that model is my size and she looks awesome. I think I could wear that.”
HOW DO YOU USE CLOTHES FOR SELF-EXPRESSION?
My clothing is meant to be a tool to make you feel good and feel happy so I don’t want anyone to ever feel sad and like they can’t wear it because that’s the anti of what I’m trying to do. I never want someone to feel like they’re not good enough to wear my clothing.
WHAT’S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO A YOUNG DESIGNER?
Get as much experience as you can. A lot of stuff you can learn in school, but a lot of stuff you can’t so do as many internships as you can, you might have to take the job that’s not necessarily your dream job but you’ll get really good experience. Don’t be afraid of putting in the hard work to get the knowledge that you need to be where you want to be in the future.