Canadian Designer Hayley Elsaesser Is Bringing Diversity to NYFW

She's dressed Miley Cyrus, Katie Perry and Kesha. Now, Canadian designer Hayley Elsaesser is shaking things up at NYFW

A pic of one of Hayley Elsaesser's trademark designs

Canadian-born streetwear designer Hayley Elsaesser is set to make her NYFW debut on Wednesday with a bright, bold and, more importantly, diverse show.

Her new collection, which is inspired by My Little Pony in collaboration with toy company Hasbro, will be modelled by women and men of all colours, ages and proportions, much like her previous shows at Toronto Fashion Week. “With modelling agencies you’re limited to the size and diversity of models,” Hayley tells us. She finds agencies typically offer mostly 5’10 blonde models.

“My brand is colourful and for lots of different people. My samples generally fit a size 6, which is one size up from the standard model size. So, for me that’s just not someone who exists in modelling agencies, especially in New York.” Last week, she put out a call on Instagram for diverse models, with no agency experience required.

Hayley says she’ll hire some professionals as well because she wants to support their work, but ultimately she “feels forced to look outside too.”

A pic of Hayley Elsaesser's signature style.

In the last year, Hayley’s bold designs have been worn by the likes of Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Kesha. She says it still totally makes her day when she sees stars and people on the street alike wearing her clothes. But after watching National Geographic‘s new documentary Uncensored with Michael Ware: NYFW—which sees the former Iraq war correspondent navigating fashion shows and events—she’s been thinking a lot about the role fashion has to play in our uncertain political world.

“For so many people, the fashion industry is their life, but there’s so much going on right now that’s more serious. It’s hard because this is my business and my living, but others may see it as frivolous. I do feel weird promoting my brand at certain times when horrible things have been happening. And I do think some brands take [fashion] too seriously. At the end of the day, fashion is to feel positive and good. If you’re having a bad day, certain clothes can make you feel happy. It has a real transformative power. It’s almost like an uplifting costume.”

“I also do think it’s important right now as a woman to use that strength and express who you are and not be pushed down by Trump taking control of women’s bodies [and reproductive rights]. During the protests, the pink pussy hats were an example of how fashion can make a huge statement. There can be power in what you wear, without really saying anything.”

With giant stars, dreamy rainbows and OTT makeup by M.A.C, Hayley’s show this week might be her most escapist and whimsical yet. It took the designer one and a half years of research to transform Hasbro’s iconic horses into a funky clothing line: “I used to play with them, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be designing a collection for them 20-something years later. I watched loads of episodes for inspiration and I really enjoyed it. It’s really fun and positive and there’s a lot about friendships.”

“The [NYFW] show is inspired by nostalgia and is going to be a fun sensory overload,” she adds. Sounds like it’s just what the doctor ordered.

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