TALK TO ME: Calla Haynes

Story by Paul Aguirre-Livingston. Illustration by Ayalah Hutchins.

It’s always inspiring for the Canadian fashion industry when one of our own branches out in search of monumental opportunities. So when Calla Haynes was nominated for ANDAM’s prestigious €220,000 prize (alongside homeboy Mark Fast), it was a sign that she had officially arrived. After paying her dues in Paris for five years—with Olivier Theyskens at Rochas, then Nina Ricci—the Toronto-born designer launched her own label, Calla by Calla Haynes, last year.

The Spring 2010 collection features ridiculously amazing textures (snakeskin anyone?) and a muted, streamlined colour palette which, at first glance, looks so stylized you wonder if you could ever pull it off, but it’s also so wearable that you vow to try. It’s all infused with as much Parisian joie de vivre as New York cool.

From Paris, Calla answered The Style Notebook’s Talk to Me questionnaire.

Do you have a favourite fashion memory?

“Going into the Chanel boutique on Bloor with my mom at age 12.  The director of the store was so nice—he gave me a press kit that I took home and scanned over night after night.”

Your wedding dress got a lot of attention, and there was talk that you designed it. What was the inspiration behind the dress?

“Actually, Olivier Theyskens made my wedding dress for my ceremony in Canada (I designed the jacquard linen and silk fabric), and Robert Normand made my civil ceremony dress.”

What’s the best project (aside from your own label) that you’ve worked on?

“One of the most rewarding projects I worked on was my first collaboration with Jeremy Laing. I had just left Nina Ricci and it was nice to get recognized right on for that work.  It’s led to many more collaborations with Jeremy, and I’m very happy about that.”

Which literary hero do you most identify with?

“Eeyore or Judy Blume’s Margaret.”

You went to Parsons in New York and now you’re based in Paris. Do you follow the fashion scene back home? Do you sing our praises around town?

“I’m very proud to be from Toronto, and I definitely let people know it.”

What inspires you?


I’ve been hearing a lot about your “relaxed luxury” aesthetic. What does it mean for your label, your vision, and for the girl who wears your clothes?

“The ‘relaxed luxury’ notion comes from the idea that clothes can be luxurious but at the same time easy to wear. Everything is made with the utmost detail in mind, yet at the same time the clothes are décontracté. When you look closely, you see details that they would use in couture—hand-stitching, refined seaming, special fabrics, techniques. As a woman, I have an experienced notion of the clothes I like to wear. I design clothes with an active and creative woman in mind—maybe she’s an artist and she needs big pockets to keep her paintbrushes in and stretch in her knees to get down on the floor to work.”

What is the best part of your job? The worst?

“Love the creative process, sourcing the ideas for each collection; not so much balancing the books.”

Who are your favourite designers?

“Azzedine Alaïa and Zandra Rhodes.”

Who is your favourite person (other than a designer) in the fashion world?

Tommy Ton.”

In film, which character’s style do you most admire?

“Annie Hall.”

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

“I have a chow chow named Lily.”

If you weren’t a designer, you would be …

“An investment banker.”

Lady Gaga. Is she: a fashion revolution, a fad or a fake?

“I like her.”

If you’re ever in Paris…

“Crepes at Café Breizh, quiche at Tartes Kruger, soufflé at La Cigale Recammier, gelato at Marie.”

What do you miss most about Toronto?

“My family.”

What’s next for you?

“Vacation at my cottage in Muskoka.”

Below, some looks from Calla Haynes Spring 2010.

A Spring 2010 Calla Haynes print. For a peek at Fall 2010, visit Calla’s site.

And some of Calla’s favourite things…

Tommy Ton of Jak and Jil.

Diane Keaton, as Annie Hall, with Woody Allen.

Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes.

Azzedine Alaïa in his Paris atelier.

Inside Tartes Kluger in Paris.

And Eeyore!

Read interviews with other fashionable personalities in our Talk to Me section!

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