It’s hard to miss a piece designed by Hayley Elsaesser. Using only the brightest colours and animated patterns in her clothing, Hayley’s mission is clear: make fashion fun. Hot off her first New York Fashion Week, we chatted with the Canadian designer about living (and dressing?) outside your comfort zone.
Photos by Maya Fuhr for Hayley Elsaesser SS17.
My name is Hayley Elsaesser, and I’m a Toronto based designer. While I grew up an hour outside of Toronto in Cambridge, I’ve lived all over the place! From BC to Australia, as a young adult it took me a few years to find my path and my place. I originally started off studying Psychology, but I was always into clothing in a big way — I started sewing my own stuff as a teenager.
Eventually I moved to Australia to study fashion and that’s where I stayed for about 5 years. I had lived there for a few years as a baby and a teenager, and again for a gap year when I was 19. It’s kind of like a second home to me, but making the choice to drop what I was doing and pursue fashion was pretty daunting (but very worth it.)
This time around, the move really helped me figure out my colourful, fun aesthetic and develop in a bigger way as a designer. I’ve always loved loud clothing, because growing up I was incredibly shy so my outfits allowed me to get noticed without having to say anything. For me, Australia is very in line with my aesthetic so I felt much more at home creating there. I also think it’s always good to be a small fish in a big pond, to really push yourself to grow, which was definitely the case for me.
Anyone considering making big changes or moving overseas should just do it. Getting outside your comfort zone and experiencing a life totally different than you have lived makes you grow in a huge way. When you realize how different we all are, and how different the world is outside of your own, it really opens your eyes for the better. I know it allowed me to be the best designer I can be.
When you realize how different we all are, and how different the world is outside of your own, it really opens your eyes for the better.
I’ve always loved pop culture, especially movies, so this has really spilled over from my personal life into my designs. My upcoming SS17 Collection Verona Beach is directly inspired by the 90’s movie ‘Romeo and Juliet’. I very purposely design with a sense of humour, and an intent to not take myself too seriously. The real world itself is not always a very nice place, so I think you should strive for positivity in your day to day life whenever possible.
In general, the fashion industry takes itself very seriously which I think is a shame. What you’re wearing can be an amazing tool to lift your mood, and putting on a vibrant, bold outfit can make you feel very powerful. That’s not to say my clothes have no purpose — each collection has a very well-thought out and layered inspiration that helps me develop the prints.
Putting on a vibrant, bold outfit can make you feel very powerful.
I think that sometimes these brands, [with self-deprecating slogans or whatever it might be], are slightly glamorizing mental illness, even though they may have had those struggles themselves. While I think it’s always great to openly discuss things to help get rid of the stigma, it is still something that seriously affects people’s lives so I am a bit wary of it [for fashion’s sake].
For me, I’d rather focus on positivity and using fashion for good.