On Wednesday at Square Diner in TriBeCa, Batsheva held its Spring/Summer 2019 presentation. Models on site were handing out treats like milkshakes, French fries, and champagne—a decadent diner for a day of fashion. Batsheva, a label regarded for its reimagined image of traditional prairie dresses, is celebrating two strong years of fashion by lawyer-turned-designer Batsheva Hay.
Growing up, designer Hay’s mother was an artist, and would dress her in vintage finds like calico dresses. Eventually, that became the staple she couldn’t shake while attending Stanford University and Georgetown Law School. After her return to New York and working at a law firm, Hay decided to experiment with making dresses for her and her daughter—all made, same as today, with vintage and limited-run cotton quilting fabrics she finds. After making a small, successful collection of four matching mother-daughter dresses, the designer has been in high demand.
Now, the Queens-born, Upper West Side-based designer creates four collections a year under her namesake label. Her recent campaign shows her dressed in the new line, paired with semi-sacrilegious accessories. Needless to say, the breadth of Hay’s style extends farther than 1970s-style prairie dresses and “old lady” garb.
“The clothing is old-fashioned, but the styling is modern. It is pastoral, but it is worn in the city. It is hyper-feminine but it is strong. It is childlike and naive, but it is a weary older lady,” said Hay. “I am also playing with the tension between my fantasy and the reality of trying to reach people and appeal to a broader audience—trying to use my exaggerated silhouettes in more palatable fabrics, like metallics, solids, and denim. I find that interesting things happen when you bring tensions to the surface, at least for me.”
For more, Whitewall spoke with Hay and learned why RBG is her fashion icon.
WHITEWALL: You created your namesake label two years after quitting your job as a lawyer in the city. Tell us a bit about your background before the launch of Batsheva and what ultimately led you here?
BATSHEVA HAY: I started out just with the idea to make a couple of dresses for myself, a little over two years ago, as a birthday present for myself. I got home with the first sample and my daughter asked for a matching one. Then, I couldn’t stop. I wore them as a uniform all the time and started to get attention and requests, and it grew from there.
WW: What was the starting point for your Spring/Summer 2019 collection?
BH: I started with just a fantasy of little girls and old ladies (my two personas) and took it from there. I used extreme metallics in princess shapes, as well as long, droopy, cute old lady dresses.
WW: We were recently with Aurora James at Brother Vellies’ new shop and explored your brands’ collaborative collection. There, we saw dollar bill prints and latex materials. Why were these some details you wanted to include?
BH: Aurora went for it with the fabric choices. I mostly just contributed the silhouettes and she used those as a springing board for fabric choices, that were unexpected and turned out so successfully, I think. I saw a different side to my shapes through her.
WW: We saw your CFDA Vogue Fashion Fun fabric-covered portfolio and loved the print. Are you interested in, or working on, designing any other objects?
BH: I would love to do home objects! And to print more of those books. It was such a thrill!
WW: How would you describe the label’s style?
BH: The style, which is truly my style, is exaggerated hyper-feminine old-fashioned silhouettes with a tongue-in-cheek element.
WW: Who is your fashion icon?
BH: Ruth Bader Ginsburg.