The Attitude. Batsheva SS23

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.
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The Batsheva Charm. Batsheva AW22

“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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.