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

That’s some revisionist history. And, what about villains? Who’s got the best style?

TH: The evil queen from Sleeping Beauty… Malificent! She’s so elegant. She has great style. And I love her snood.

There’s a name for that?

BH: I did not know that.

You made that up.

TH: No, a snood was a very popular medieval garment.

This is the title of the piece: What Is a Snood: And Other Questions We Asked Hayden-Harnett.

Maleficent and her 'snood'

Do you think celebrity collaborations dilute the activity of designing? Or peoples’ understanding of what designing is?

TH: I think there are some people who defy that, like I think Gwen Stefani really is doing [L.A.M.B.]. And I really get the sense from her that she has a voice in it. But, yeah, for the most part it’s just signing off and collecting a paycheck. People just want to put a name behind something and in our day and age, celebrities have a huge amount of fire power.

It’s kind of grotesque…

TH: It’s everything that’s bad about mass consumerism, reality TV. Sign off on whatever, whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. I think it was the [Kardashian] credit card thing that kind of put me over the edge. I was like, that’s just… horrible.

It’s exploitative.

TH: And the Attorney General has to step in! He has to step in because of the interest rates they’re wanting to charge?! Honestly, I’m a much bigger fan of concealing a bit, preserving mystique.

And Kim Kardashian is not someone who preserves any kind of mystique!

BH: Actually her mystique is probably about one inch of her I haven’t seen.

Nah, she was in Playboy.

BH: Oh. Okay. Good.

Just Google that inch away.

BH: A good celebrity collaboration is going to be something where that person has their own style and it’s not something put together by a stylist, it’s something that’s actually them and they come at it with initiative and actually want to collaborate. They bring something to the table and [a brand] brings something to the table. I mean, the Disney thing is sort of a ‘celebrity collaboration’…

That’s why I asked!

BH: But Disney’s bringing a lot to the table. They’re bringing a whole retinue of stuff they’ve created. A celebrity collaboration works [when] there’s something real behind it.

Okay, on the opposite end, what about Lanvin for H&M?

TH: I love that. Now, that, I think is perfect. What you’re doing is bringing high-end design to the masses. I think every designer should have to do that! It’s a good mental exercise, it’s a good way to be grounded.

BH: And it is different because [Alber Elbaz] is a real designer. It’s not at all like taking a celebrity name and attaching a whole bunch of stylists to it and trying to sell it to fans of that celebrity. It actually has value.

Did you get a sense of this when working with Target? Did you get that ‘mental exercise,’ as you described it?

TH: Yeah, but I think that we’re pretty practical anyway. It’s not like we’re going from $3000 gowns to $19 t-shirts.

BH: Hayden-Harnett is already for a very broad swath of customers. I think we try to be there for people. Even if the price points are a little higher, the stuff is useful and wearable and attracts an audience.

It can take a beating, too.

TH: It can absolutely take a beating. That’s the thing with us. These bags are things that you pass down. There will always be value in it. Versus buying a Jessica Simpson bag…

Her empire is worth a billion dollars!

TH: Okay, that’s great for her, and that’s great for her people, but what are they leaving behind? A billion dollar’s worth of polyvinyl chloride bags that are going to end up in a dump because it’s trendy, it falls apart, and that’s that. That’s the bad thing about fast fashion. I’m a fan of H&M, I’m a fan of Ikea, I love being able to go into a place and find something awesome and easy and about mixing stuff. But I do not buy cheap shoes, I do not buy anything made out of PVC that’s just never going to decompose and is going to sit in a landfill. That’s where this stuff ends up. Who hangs onto a $48 PVC bag? That stuff is you’re in, you’re out. Whereas we’re making 50 pieces in a run of one of our leather bags. For the Fantasia stuff we got crazy and we’re doing 100.

BH: The bags that we make are of unbelievable quality. The stuff is great and it will last.

TH: There will always be good leather bags, there will always be good leather goods. And that’s what you can depend on us for. You can count on us for a good bag.

That’s what I’m naming this, For a Good Bag, Call… No, I’m keeping What is a Snood? I still think you made that up. Like, that’s the takeaway… now I know what a snood is.

TH: Snoods are back! [disappears into another room]

You’ve got one, don’t you?

TH [returns, producing an infinity scarf]: Okay, this is how you do a modern, cool snood. This is best with an awesome leather jacket and it’s fantastic if it’s raining. [She wraps it around her neck twice and once over her head].

BH: You’ve looking very Olivia de Haveland in Robin Hood. Goin’ climb your ivy.

TH [spreading her hands theatrically]: So that is a snood.

I really can count on you.

TH: Yes. Even for snoods.

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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.