Talking With Hayden-Harnett: On ‘Fantasia,’ Celeb Designers & the ‘Snood’

I think one of the strongest aspects of the collection is that it’s not a literal interpretation. It’s something that speaks to the movie on an elemental level, as opposed to just doing a hippo in a tutu on a bag.

BH: Not to be mean to people who interpret it that way!

TH: What I want is for [each bag] to feel like a relic. It feels old. It feels like something that’s very special. Sacred. I was really specific about getting the purple [lining], it needed to feel like that weird Bible velvet. I needed to have a sense of magic.

Speaking of which...

Did you know going into it what elements you wanted to focus on? Cause with Fantasia, there’s so many.

TH: It stems from different realms. Different places that you can travel to from this magical world. Dimensions of reality. That’s what we’re being shown throughout the movie, but we wouldn’t be there without the apprentice, making his mistake. I think it’s cool, a little scary, kind of a warning to kids, like, be careful.

The hardware

This might be kind of an oddball question, but have you ever done any metal working? I read that you were really pleased with the hardware. How involved are you in something like that?

TH: Some of the pieces we were able to actually find. Some basic things, the d-rings. But yeah, I do have a metals background. Metal and leather. Metal and leather are perfect, better than peanut butter and chocolate. Leather is one of the oldest materials. It’s one of the first things. As soon as we ate something, we had leather. When we were like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve been on earth seven days, I am starving. That ox fell in the fire, does that smell good to you?’

There’s character to the hardware on [HH pieces] and oftentimes that’s an afterthought…

BH: Well, not to denigrate anybody, but so many bags out there come like they picked out X number from Y book.

TH: Hardware is actually almost a starting point for me. I’ll have typically some kind of inspiration, like a shape, but first I’ll always sit down like, ‘This is the hardware that I need.’ It’s very jewelry-inspired. I’ve always loved metals and jewelry, so it’s great to be able to draw what I want and have it cast. When I can put it on this beautiful leather piece, then it’s even better… it’s alive.

So, your background informs the design?

TH: Yeah, I think that is one thing that sets us apart, having an industrial design background. Because it is understanding capability and technology and moulding, all of that really geeky stuff. I just love to make things.

BH: Not just things! Things that people use! Things that are functional and beautiful, yet every aspect is thought-out: how somebody is going to use this and carry it and feel it.

So you think of handbags as a practical art?

TH: If it’s not practical, what’s the point? I think that’s the pragmatic part of me. I grew up in Kentucky, that’s the realistic part of me, but I live here. We don’t have cars in New York. We have shoes… and we have really good bags. It’s amazing if you can take your bag, load it up in the morning, schlep around all day long, then take your dress out of the bag, get your heels out, put your flats in there and go to some fantastic place for dinner… and your bag still works in both instances? Like that’s it, that’s right. And it should last for the rest of your life.

Yeah! I’m not a girl who changes her bag with every outfit! I don’t know how some women do that.

TH: I’m like you, I have my trusty bag. It’s like, I get up in the morning, I go straight to work. I can’t be like, ‘What bag do I need to coordinate…?’ But we do want to make something that serves everyone, something that’s there for both.

The 'Ave Maria' scarf

Okay. So. Do you get a free pass to the Magic Kingdom for… forever?

BH: We’re gonna call them tomorrow.

You haven’t asked?!

TH [Wistfully]: No… We don’t assume things. But actually, after we did the presentation for Target [Go! International] and they liked everything and they approved… we totally went to Disney World. Yeah, we were just there, hanging out. [Even though] we don’t have kids. We’re weird.

Are there any other Disney films on which you’d be excited to do a collaboration?

TH: The Black Hole, I love that movie. Anything to do with outer space. Actually, Dumbo. I really like Dumbo. It’s totally heartbreaking… when they take the mother, I just break down every time.

That’s because you’re a human.

TH: And my favorite, Bedknobs and Broomsticks! That is such a great movie. And Mary Poppins! [If we collaborated on Poppins] I would do bags and incredible umbrellas.

What Disney princess has a style that is most representative of the Hayden-Harnett woman?

[They both answer:] Sleeping Beauty.

TH: She’s just totally… asleep and completely unaware. And lucky. [Laughter]

So, yeah, passive… comatose… these are characteristics of the Hayden-Harnett woman. See, I would have pegged you for Belle from Beauty and the Beast, who’s outspoken and independent and… loves animals.

TH: Let’s go with that. Okay, yeah. We say Belle.

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    • K

      I get their opposition to “disposable” PVC bags, but I guess I’m not sure how leather is that much better. The chemicals that are involved in its production, the waste created by the cow farms–we shouldn’t pretend that these are a guilt-free, environmentally responsible alternative.

    • Ben

      Every consumer purchase, or non-purchase is a choice. It’s true leather is produced using chemical dyes, and that the farming of cows contributes to deforestation and global warming. Leather bags, however, are more durable and longer lasting, while PVC bags tend to wear for much shorter amounts of time, are petroleum based, and dyed with equally noxious chemicals. Most people aren’t aware of the downsides to PVC products and many times they are touted as animal-friendly (vegan) — possibly animal friendly, but not planet friendly.