Welcome to Into Labels, a Who What Wear column that profiles the designers behind the brands we can't stop talking about.
Sometime in early 2017 I first spotted a smattering of vintage-inspired prairie dresses popping up around NYC, and I instantly felt a fashion spidey sense kick in. This was my introduction to Batsheva, an NYC-based ready-to-wear brand that draws inspiration on the designs of the past.
Despite being a self-proclaimed tomboy, I'm obsessed with a romanticized historicism. I fixated on historical YA novels (hands up for the Dear America series), I watched Pride and Prejudice (the Kiera Knightley one—don't @ me), and I loved dressing up in my aunt's collection of Victorian dresses (many of which didn't actually fit because corsets). So as you can imagine, I was instantly intrigued.
Batsheva Hay launched her namesake collection in 2013, having designed pieces for herself only to find friends and strangers alike asking her about them. Now Hay produces an entire line (though she will do custom orders too) of cool country-to-city styles that manage to look cool on edgy and classic dressers alike. Ahead get a look at the New York label that I can't stop thinking about (trust me—you'll be obsessed too).
After a career in law, what prompted you to launch your line, Batsheva?
I left my job in a law firm not knowing at all what I was going to do. I got married and had two kids right away. I didn't know what the next step was. Honestly, I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) just dealing with my new life. I started making my own clothing about two years ago out of a sheer desire to dress myself—to make clothing that I wanted to wear and that I couldn't find in stores. I quickly became addicted to picking out fabrics and trying different shapes. I also wore the dresses everywhere, so I started getting attention from friends and strangers. That's when it became something not just for me, but it turned into an actual clothing line. I never would have guessed—even four years ago—that I would do this.
How would you define your personal style perspective?
I think what I am doing comes from a very real place, and people are attracted to that. I have always had my own style (prairie dresses in crazy prints), so I felt a real need to design to fit that. I grew up with Laura Ashley, with frilly vintage, and I knew that my aesthetic just wasn't out there at a non-Gucci price point.
Did you have any larger goals you set out to accomplish with the line?
I wanted to make accessible clothing that was fun and playful and sort of indulged a woman's fantasy of girlishness, but I flipped it around and made it smarter. I want to play with stereotypes by making dresses that look like they are for a dull housewife but are really for a really colorful, strong woman.
What has been most surprising about the success of Batsheva?
I am surprised at how diverse the women (and men) who like my clothing are. Since I started designing literally just for me, I didn't picture other people dressing like me. I often have people come to my apartment to try clothing on, and it is such an amazing mix of people—it's astonishing. Young and old, larger and smaller—and they all look good in the clothing!
What has been your biggest "I made it" moment to date?
Natalie Portman wearing my blouse recently. Or Erykah Badu leaving me a text message last week that she wants more dresses.
What has been your greatest struggle?
My greatest struggle is just figuring out the logistics of keeping things running smoothly. The design and fabric choices are all joy and excitement—the rest can be a challenge.
Your designs are romantic but still modest. Is there a specific woman you have in mind when designing?
I basically have myself in mind—it's true! I literally will not design something that I don't want to wear immediately. I always get excited by the next thing I am going to make. I try to design options for different body types too and create some separates for people who don't want to go full-on.
What are you looking forward to most?
I am really excited just to reach more women. I think it is great to have options to wear adventurous clothing that aren't too expensive and to just experiment and play with clothing. I would like to focus more on children's clothing. For now, I only have a few pieces, and they are literally made for my daughter. I think other women and girls should catch on!