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Hayley Elsaesser X Twik

11 Oct 2019

Canadian fashion is important to us, which is why we’re once again highlighting a homegrown designer from our amazing country. This season, Hayley Elsaesser has stolen the spotlight. Charmed by her bright, colourful, and authentic energy, we dived headfirst into her world and were totally transported by her new collection designed exclusively for Twik. What was her inspiration? Her childhood and growing up across Canada in the ’90s. Curious to know more, we asked her some of our burning questions, which she was kind enough to answer.

What were your inspirations for the collection?
Even though I started my brand in Australia, I have always been very proud to be a Canadian designer, and I love having a store on busy Queen Street West in Toronto. Canadian fashion can be quite traditional, and if you were to ask someone to think of Canadian fashion, they'd likely conjure up an image akin to a lumberjack, but we have so much more to offer! I love that TWIK is always so vibrant and edgy. I wanted to take the idea of “Canadiana” or traditional Canadian style and flip that on its head by combining Twik's edginess and my colour palette with Canadian themes. 

For you, what's the significance/story behind each print?
I think that the inspiration comes across in the prints from the collection; mountains, waves, and cowboy hats, but I've done it in a fun candy-coated colour palette to really make this fall/winter collection stand out. When I think of a place that really represents Canada as a physical landscape, I think of British Columbia. I was born in Vancouver and I love the mix of the natural elements of the ocean and the mountains, juxtaposed against a beautiful city. I think this represents Canada so well and was a major starting point for the collection. Of course, I had to do a typical HE twist on the prints, and make the colour palette sugary-sweet. My favourite print from the collection, the Cowboy 8-Ball, is a remake of a print from years ago. It's so quirky and fun and I love how it is a modern take on representing the Prairies and Western Provinces. Finally, I wanted to have my version of a neutral print. In this case, it's the large-scale geometric leopard print that ties everything together. We've also used fleece as a nod to Canadiana. Some of the pieces have a wetsuit look to them to go with the waves and as recognition of the fact that we are surrounded by beautiful coastal regions. 

What inspires you in your everyday life? What is your creative process?

For the most part, what inspires me is the filtration process of what I see in the world and how I relate to it. Living in Toronto, I am constantly surrounded by colour and life and I love to soak it up. If I see a child having the time of their life, it may spark a memory of something I loved as a child and I would want to capture that feeling in a print. I would say it’s a mixture of my experiences and my favourite elements of pop culture packaged together with a message I’d like to convey. I’m most creative when I am feeling my happiest and most open, so sometimes the process comes much easier than at other times. 

Photo credit: @hayleyelsaesser

Could you give us a quick overview of your career as a designer?
I started my brand in 2013 in Australia shortly after graduating from university with a degree in Fine Arts Fashion. I won a competition as one of the top fashion students in Australia and got to show at the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival. Soon after, I showed at Sydney Fashion Week, before moving to Toronto in late 2014. Since then, we’ve shown at New York Fashion Week and Toronto Fashion Week on many occasions. I have also had the pleasure of opening up our flagship here in Toronto, which has been an amazing experience. Additionally, I’ve worked with people I never dreamed I could, such as Miley Cyrus and Nike, so I have been extremely lucky!

What are your future projects in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term?
I would actually love to do a pop-up outside of Toronto. We have so many amazing fans all over and I think it’s so important to see and appreciate our clothes in person because the quality is great, and we always want to give our customers a really amazing experience. I’d say that’s what’s on our mind for the short- and long-term—starting in Canada, and then going elsewhere!

How do you see Canadian design?
The first word that comes to mind is underrated. I think we don’t get the credit we deserve, not only globally, but also domestically in Canada. That’s why I really admire Simons for being so amazing in their support of Canadian brands and designers like myself.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young girls today, what would it be?
Be yourself and be proud of that. Many young girls try to fit a mould they simply cannot, so why not embrace who you are and really make the most of it.

What artists have inspired you the most?
I would say I have definitely been inspired by the director John Waters. In the early years of my career, I was really drawn to the fact that his movies were very visually appealing but also had a campy and sometimes creepy aspect to them. I loved how that worked together. He certainly isn’t afraid to be himself!

Which star would you most like to dress?
I could die happy if I dressed Rihanna. She is such a style icon!

Who is your greatest female role model?
My mom. She was a single mom for many years when my brother and I were young and at our most impressionable. She worked incredibly hard and was an amazing role model as a powerful woman who did anything for her family.

Describe the collection to us in three words.
Colourful Canadian Chaos.

What song best describes you and why?
Spice Up Your Life” by the Spice Girls. I think everyone needs a little extra spice in their life.

What would be the title of a film about your life?
Messy, But Colourful.

Your pieces are very bold.
What would be your advice for wearing them and owning your look 100%?

Try it! It can seem very daunting, but it's actually not that big of a deal at all. When you wear a very bold outfit, it ends up making you feel very powerful. It's nice to start small by wearing a statement piece and then neutrals for the rest of your look. For example, the printed leopard pants would look amazing with a chunky sweater, black moto jacket, and black boots, and would still make quite a huge statement. We get customers in our store all the time who say, “I was intimidated at first but when I tried your clothes on, I couldn't help but feel confident!”