In these hardscrabble days in fashion, the greatest credibility one can bring to the business is a woman’s touch. Miuccia Prada, Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo at Celine and, to a growing extent, Hannah MacGibbon at Chloé are designers with fingers firmly planted on the pulse of fashion. The pulse is, after all, their own. Whatever they feel like wearing from one season to the next remarkably anticipates what other women feel like wearing too.
The “designing for women by women” formula is working for Calla Haynes, who debuted her own line this season in
Paris. The Toronto native has put together a focused spring/summer 2010 collection of daywear and cocktail that manages to be both chic and comfortable. Her trousers are slimmingly narrow through the leg but are cut to be forgiving at the waist. The absence of side seams makes her boyfriend jackets swirl around the torso, and they’re ultra-deluxe when done in Icelandic-perch leather, which requires 50 hours of cutting and sewing into patchwork. Her T-shirts have a “throw ’em on” quality that will please those who are stylish without being selfsacrificial about it. Haynes makes them in silk printed with abstract designs that call to mind
Balenciaga fall 2009, and sometimes she dresses them up with leather edging around the collars.
While studying fashion at Parsons The New School for Design in New York, Haynes headed to Paris on an exchange program in 2002. A stylist spotted her in a department store and asked her to model for a magazine shoot, which landed Haynes an internship with the little-known but well-regarded designer Robert Normand. She then worked with Olivier Theyskens for almost five years, following him from Rochas to Nina Ricci. “I learned a lot from Olivier,” she says. “I think I took from him the romanticism, the importance of luxury fabrics and my print work, which I developed there. But my personal style is more relaxed, so I combine two worlds: the way I dress and the world I work in. I’ll use couture techniques for an everyday jacket or do a T-shirt in amazing printed silk. As a woman, I approach designing differently.”
Circumstance and timing governed Haynes’ decision to launch her own line. “It wasn’t at all spontaneous,” she says. “I thought about it for months and months and talked to [designer] Thomas Engel Hart about it. Then a cheque arrived in Paris from my nana’s [grandmother’s] estate. The inheritance corresponded to the amount Thomas had advised me to invest in a collection — for fabrics, a new sewing machine, some help with the patterns and sewing — so I took it as a sign. I also thought that she’d be happy knowing I was doing something I loved with the money and that she’d watch over me.”
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