Batsheva‘s spring-summer 2023 fashion show was a bold and charismatic scene. Ben’s Kosher Deli on West 38th street was this season’s venue, and it was filled with Batsheva Hay‘s friends, muses and clients – both sitting in the dining booths and walking the runway. This season, the designer wanted to challenge herself. “I started thinking about Gunne Sax, because I’ve so Laura Ashley’d myself out that I was like, ‘Let’s go into this more ’70s kind of vibe,’” she said after the show. “I was appalled by how I continually make such frumpy garments, and I thought, the only thing I can do is try to do something sexy, show more skin and make it sexy… or whatever.” The sexiness was there in the fabrics, like the white mesh with black flocked velvet stars that was used on a short princess sleeve cropped top with Batsheva’s signature ruffle on the chest, worn with a matching mid-rise maxi skirt (complete with red lace underwear visible underneath). It was also there in the Working Girl-esque ensemble of a slim button down shirt tucked into a pencil skirt with a peplum, all done on a red polka dot on white fabric and accessorized with a floral print tie and red polka dot mesh gloves. Hay’s challenge to show more skin resulted in bikini tops, lots of PVC, and a wide variety of shorts including bloomers – in an all-over bow fabric with a corset-inspired cotton shirt with a sailor collar, and modeled by Kembra Pfahler – which seemed to epitomize the vibe of this collection. The cast included Jordan Roth, Hari Nef, and Jemima Kirke and Alex Cameron – the couple opened the show in sort of matching white PVC wedding looks. “This felt like a really big show,” Hay said, “Post-COVID, I’ve never done anything that felt as grown-up, so I kind of looked back to where I started, and largely I am still using the same shapes, but they look completely different because I’ve changed proportions, I’ve changed fabrics.” She added, “I wanted to make it like it was me, but also kind of unrecognizable.” There were a few gowns that may not have fit into her demand for more skin, but were attractive in the confidence of their shape: a spaghetti strap dress made from a pink with black polka dots taffetta fabric was cinched at the waist like a cummerbund, and overflowing at the bust with ruffles. Another came in a purple iridescent fabric with a slight sweetheart neckline and a big bow at the waist, and a high-low overlay over a column skirt. It was Dynasty, it was over-the-top, and it was unmistakably Batsheva.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
“It’s big, broad, and for everything she might want to do,” says Batsheva Hay of her autumn-winter 2022 collection. Her blooming label is no longer just about timeless prairie dresses. Now she has pushed her aesthetic into housecoats, and sweatshirt skirts, and pajama sets, and quilted vests, and blouse and skirt sets, and tiny scalloped edge knits, and… well, you get it. Hay is putting her twist on almost every category, denim to debutante dresses. It might read as a commercially minded play, and, yes, more clothes means more opportunity to expand the business, but as Hay tells it, this season was really about taking all the her friends and customers have been giving her for years. “People always send me pictures of Sharon Tate’s wedding dress,” she says, “so finally I just made one.” Her take is denim with dusty rose velvet trim. For those who want body-con, there is a tight maxi dress covered in funny crochet granny squares. Simplicity seekers have asked for black: now Hay has her most streamlined, no ruffle black velvet dress with vintage ribbon trim. A gray cardigan with hand-crochet trim is a tip from Jenna Lyons, who advised Hay to just remake all her popular blouse shapes as knits. The many velvet coat-dresses, with prim bows and sweet little hoods, are Hay’s advice to herself: something cute and sweet for all weather. The glue that binds her diverse work together is her own sense of quirky weirdness. Of the grandma-style florals she says “you need something a little repulsive!” Not abandoning her weirdo sensibility while being able to expand into new realms is her great strength.
The heartbeat of Batsheva has always been designer Batsheva Hay herself. She started her brand making clothing she would like to wear, then friends in New York propelled her personal designs into an organically thriving business. In the four years since, Hay’s operation has grown immensely, with global stockists and categories like homewear, accessories, and fun collaborations. In Manhattan, she’s moved out of her home office and taken over two spaces in New York’s Garment District: one holds her studio and design team, just down the hall a room overflows with floral prints, ruffle dresses, and tiny tchotchkes in Hay’s ditsy patterns. How can a brand so personal evolve and succeed as its orbit grows beyond its iconoclastic founder? The good news is Hay is always – and has always been – willing to share her weirdness. Even if she holds up a block print checkerboard print, a bustier maxi dress in black, or a tank dress as items that don’t jibe with her personal style, she is quick to find ways a Batsheva acolyte could incorporate them into their wardrobe. Layering remains key. New dress shapes like a mod babydoll in black eyelet and a ’70s-inspired, A-line shirtdress broaden the offering and edge it, just maybe, into more quote-unquote normal clothing territory. Of course even a Batsheva basic comes with a little cheeky wink. Her chambray shirts and white blouses are predicated on giant pouf sleeves and adorned with excess eyelet ruffle trim. There is a new pajama set and a continuation of her pantaloons and ruffle-trim trousers, now in dusty caramel florals and navy moiré. The tenor of this off-beat, easy and somehow glamorous clothing feels right as we kiss 2021 goodbye and look forward to the first (we hope) good new year in a while.
This was an exuberant, joyful and extremely uplifting Batsheva collection. Batsheva Hay’s spring-summer 2022 runway show pushed her prairie, girly aesthetic to electric new heights, at some points even camp-y territories. We’ve got crinolines, yards and yards of silver lamé, diva-worthy gowns with early-’60s swing backs, and simple white eyelet sundresses with tie dye tights. The show, which started with a ballad and swung into grunge, was a spectrum of Batsheva’s evolving asethetics. As the world opens up, Hay explained post-show, she can’t stop thinking of home: starting her brand in her home, her family in her home, and the freedom we have in our private homebound moments. Dialing up the collection’s glitz and campiness was her way of honoring dressing up at home, that moment when you throw it all on, do too much, and feel fashionable and free of peering gazes. Busy Philipps, Ego Nwodim, Amy Fine Collins, Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner, Veronica Webb, and more New York legends – and Batsheva clients – took turns in cascading frills and sweet dresses. This was one of these New York Fashion Week moments that we all missed during the pandemic seasons.
Batsheva‘s resort 2022 is a love letter to New Yorkers, all of it photographed on and worn by the beautiful locals. With her photographer husband, Alexei Hay, she set up a booth in Washington Square Park and recruited people in the area to change into her spring offering and model it spontaneously. One went full Dovima in a strapless ’50s-style golden gown and kitten heels. Another just tossed an ivory dress coat over their regular clothes, coffee cup in hand. There are teen goths, lovers, sisters, NYU graduates, and passersby smiling throughout the look book, a total celebration of New York back in action. The breadth of this season’s offering is as diverse as the people in the clothes: a skateboarder wears a roomy midi-housedress in a hologram print. Best friends sport a shapeless glittery dress inspired by a traditional Hasidic style and burnout velvet pants. A roller skater chose practical black-and-white ruffles while a pair of sisters model crochet tops and skirts. This is probably as close as we’ll get to “probably back to normal” this summer – and it looks great. And what’s new in the designer’s gradually-evolving dictionary? On a basic level, school clothes make sense as an inspiration for Batsheva Hay – and not just for their sweetness. She started her brand as a young mother, aiming to make funny dresses that work for working moms. Now her daughter, Ruth, is well into elementary school with a uniform of a pinafore, shirt, and cardigan. Hay has sized up each of these to an adult scale and rendered them in shades of neon yellow, brown, and cherry red, adding rosettes to the boxy sweaters.