Designer Interview – HAIA
Tucked on a quiet street corner, just a few steps away from one of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv, Haia Smolarchik’s charming shop/studio is definitely a gem worth discovering.
Haia’s clothes are modern, playful and effortless. Her collection is comprised of pieces that a woman can truly live in, without giving up on femininity. Looking through the collection, we discovered light and airy cotton dresses, some – very modern with sophisticated and structured cut details, some with a retro flair, all of them are perfect for a day to day wear.
We also found flattering midi skirts that would look good with a simple t-shirt or a dressier blouse and several tops that will go perfectly with a pair of jeans or a skirt. As a customer, you get a lot of freedom with mix matching the items in the collection. Though of course, nothing beats a total look.
Haia herself is the perfect presenter of her clothes, even though she has more than enough cool customers to spread the word. The day we met her, she was wearing her “Mystic Rose” dress and laced ballerina shoes, with her hair down in a perfect mid length messy bob – an epitome of effortless chic.
We visited Haia’s shop on a sunny Monday morning and found her at her studio which is adjacent to the shop, working on fall winter 15 collection.
Below is our conversation about how it all started, her muses, her new fall collection and the day to day life as an independent fashion designer.
How did you decide to establish your own label?
I was going towards an entirely different career path, following my father’s footsteps as a hair stylist. I have actually went to study in Berlin and London, but eventually realised that this is not something that I really want to do. I still wanted it to be related to beauty and aesthetics, and that is why I decided to enroll to Shenkar (Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art), even though I didn’t really know a whole lot about that establishment back then .
There, I truly fell in love with the idea of communicating yourself through clothing, creating your own language. Though, as a student, you don’t grasp the fact that this will be your future profession, usually only after the graduation you realise that this is something that you will have to actually make a living with.
But I knew quite early on after the graduation that I will take the independent route. I guess this is something that I took from my dad, I was very used to the “doing my own thing” idea.
I did explore other options: worked for a few established designers, opened a business with a partner. But I found that I need my brand to truly be mine: make my own decisions, create my own language. And so I felt calm only after I had my own brand, named after me (laughs) .
What drove me at that time, was the strive for individuality, it was important to me to stand behind something until the end.
At that time I felt, and now I understand that even clearer, that it was important for me to address my own needs as a customer. Clothes that reflected my style, my status, my taste.
I was constantly searching for them and never was content with what I found.
Here I found my peace. I am not a big fashion consumer. I need only a few (garments), but they have to be spot on and address all those different needs. They have to be tailored but comfortable, appropriate for many occasions, casual but formal if needed.
I think I managed to create that perfect mix of things that I needed, and make them a part of my brand.
That was exactly our next question, to what extend the clothes reflect your personal taste?
Well yes, there is it, but I do try to think beyond. I guess I see it as a scale. I am somewhere in the middle, and then there are girls who are younger than me, and girls who are older than me. I think about different lifestyles, different jobs, and try to see how my clothes can answer those needs. The clothes need to be wearable and casual, appropriate for day to day use.
I do believe they are quite formal but still relaxed. I’m not big on changing for night time, so I also try to make the garment workable for evening events. For example the dress that I am wearing, I can go to an event in it, if I pair it with high heels and the right hair. I do think it is very versatile.
Can you describe your design process?
Usually I look for a “spirit” that will lead the collection. It can be a certain time period, a muse, an icon, who dictates the style of the clothes.
I can dress her for different scenarios. For example, what she would wear to a movie, to a meeting etc… That’s really fun, because it feels like you have a paper doll and you play dress up with her. Making a fantasy a reality.
Last season my muses where Jane Birkin, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Audrey Hepburn and I took something from each of them into my collection.
The fall collection is going to be influenced by Kate Moss, during that specific period of time when she was dating Johnny Depp. So the spirit is very youthful, glamorous and wild. Still, it will be translated to” Haia” language, it will be how I would dress her in Haia clothes.
When it comes to materials and fabric, a lot of it is an association and intuition. For this collection for example, I see a play between very “tough” materials like leather, and romantic, airy fabrics. I see her (Kate Moss) as some sort of Ophelia, very fragile. There is a bit of sadness, darkness about her. On other hand there is something pure and childlike about her.
Describe your typical day
Since I am in charge of so many things at once, I am always “hopping” from one thing to another.
I can work on the collection and then suddenly a customer comes in, and shifts my attention toward something that can be translated into the collection.
It’s very intertwined, all of the aspects of my work somehow tied together, as it usually is in a small business. It is what it is. Some days a lot happening, other days it’s more quiet.
Most exciting part of your job?
There are quite a few exciting moments. I call it “The 3 steps” process: The love, The hate and The despair. And it changes, like a wheel. Sometimes you love, sometimes you hate and when you are desperate you think it is all lost, then back to love.
The most exciting moment is that moment between despair and love. And these are the moments when you get reminded why you love this profession.
Fashion design for me is a complex thing, constructed of many many aspects. I see it as a constant line of problems that need to be solved. And when you solve one, you think you are a genius!
If guess every profession is like that, but if you do what you love, you never get stuck on that wheel. You don’t live with the despair, you embrace all of the steps. And this is something that I always try to experience, that excitement.
Stylist who gives your clothes another creative spin and take them out of your context is very exciting thing to see.
And of course it is always exciting to see people wearing your clothes. People on Instagram and Facebook who are wearing Haia and complementing. It is really fun to see your clothes living a life through social media.
How much influence does the customer have on the collections?
Well, sometimes I like to do things “despite” what my customer says. Colors they say they won’t wear, certain lengths, cuts: I take it as a challenge to show them it can look good.
Of course it is hard to please everyone. I do listen and I am sure that even subconsciously customer requests do have a place in the collections, especially more technical limitations such as fit or length. I do look for patterns in their requests, if a lot of people don’t like it, it matters. It is a commercial business and customers preferences cannot be totally ignored.
But from my experience I learned that in general, especially when it comes to design, I need to listen to my own voice. Because after all that is what drew my customers to the brand: my taste, my preferences and I think that is what will keep them coming back.
Last question, what is your most favorite item in the collection:
Paris dress, I really love. But it is a hard question. I am a perfectionist, so some items I love but also become very picky about them after a while. The dress that I am wearing. You can say it’s sort of my baby. It has a great shape and movement. I do love it a lot.
We then started to pull clothes off the rack, discussing and gushing over the feminine and playful Paris dress ( it really will look perfect in Paris by the way) , the wonderful San- Tropez tank top (which we took home a few weeks earlier and love) that looks so good with that midi skirt and could really go on for hours. Hope to go back soon!
You can visit Haia’s online store, she ships internationally!