Batsheva Hay‘s brand is a great example of New York-based label that’s both small and big. The production isn’t huge, sustainable way of doing things is at heart, and there are no fancy runway events taking place each season. But the influence of a Batsheva dress is seismic, both in women’s everyday wardrobes and red carpet events, and the cult following of clients, who are looking forward to small drops of prairie gowns in one-of-a-kind vintage textiles or cute crotchet knitwear, would make a number of “big” brands quite jealous. This time, the designer is continuing the cookbook look book recipe she started for pre-fall 2021. The task of photographing people cooking in their own kitchens has taken her and her husband, the photographer Alexei Hay, into homes of various Batsheva wearers. Once they arrive, the goal is simple: photograph each person wearing Batsheva, cooking their favorite meal. This season the cast of model muses includes such individuals as Ego Nwodim, Nicky Hilton, Amy Fine Collins, and Maude Apatow, each offering a different take on clothing and cooking. As Hay recounts over Zoom to Vogue, some take hours to get ready – the designer-photographer duo don’t bring hair or makeup – others require their own accessories, and some have such specific recipes they take a whole day to produce. At the core, Hay offers clothing for women to live their lives in. It’s hard to predict what tomorrow might bring, especially now, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a garment that did it all: looked pretty on Zoom, was comfortable to wear, and could be dressed up enough to simply feel good? Hay’s roomy dresses offer that option, with sweet ruffles, crushed velvet, and bow ties to make the proposition all the sweeter. But for those without a sweet tooth, Hay is also expanding her traditional ready-to-wear. She has made jeans for the first time, two pairs with ruffle trim and elastic waists, and continues to expand her knitwear offering. Corsets and cummerbund details are built into her dresses, offering a smart styling solution.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Many brands that start with one, sharp, distinct, signature piece, quickly reach its peak popularity… and equally fast fall down the cliff of oblivion. Just think of all the bag labels that had that singular “it bag” and couldn’t maintain the momentum. But Batsheva is a different story. First, Batsheva Hay‘s dresses just don’t get boring – how can such versatile must-have ever become outdated?! – and second, the designer gradually expands her universe, making old clients come back and new ones feel attracted. And the brand’s pre-fall 2021 look-book makes it even more relatable and relevant to our lockdown lives and habits. In her work, Hay has taken the symbols of femininity, domesticity, and intimacy and made them things for women to be proud of, not ashamed of. Typically, the industry rewards designers who offer more modern, minimalist takes on female style or versions of womanhood that are so fantastical and exaggerated they can only be described as “whimsical” or “dreamy.” Hay’s work is neither: it’s quirky, messy, funny, and embraces the chaos of a woman’s life. And in the new season, the Batsheva woman even cooks in Batsheva. The collection’s fantastic look-book stars real women, from club legend Susanne Bartsch to actress Gretchen Mol, wearing her latest wares in their own kitchens. Hay and her husband, Alexei, the photographer, traveled around New York taking the portraits, discussing the recipes with each woman, and eating each meal. The results will be published in a cookbook next year. “Seeing the way other people wear the pieces is so important,” Hay says, stressing that each piece must feel like “a wanted garment.” If it doesn’t elicit love from her ladies, it doesn’t get made. The garments that did get made continue to recast the possibilities for ruffles and floral prints. Hay is leaning into big 1980s graphics and piecrust collars à la Princess Diana. Those developments, she explains, were designed with an eye to Zoom routine. From the waist up, she’s offering a new bolero jacket, added embroideries and details on yokes, and expanded her offering of gorgeous crocheted tanks and hooded pullovers. Pants, skirts, and a new wrap dress round out the offering. “When I started, I thought I would run out of things to do with ruffles on dresses pretty quickly,” she told Vogue with a smirk. But trying to define what it means to be a woman in this world is an endless journey – and one of constant reinvention.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.