Down the Rabbit Hole with Calla

You can tell that Calla Haynes has an innate sense of style by the way she refused to wear pants for five years. Technically she was a toddler, but how many two-year-olds do you know who only wanted to wear dresses and later took their fashion cues from Archie Comics?

“Veronica was rich enough to buy all the designer clothing, but Betty was crafty enough to be able to make it all by herself,” Calla says. “I always thought Betty was cooler because she would sew.”

Little wonder that Calla taught herself how to sew when she was 12 and was making her own prints before most people can legally drive. She might be embarrassed to admit it now, but back in high school, she was the founder (and one-third of the membership) of a sewing club. One of her trademark designs was sewing patches of fake fur onto the back pockets of her jeans.

These days, Selena Gomez and Kelly Osbourne are among the celebrities who sport the CALLA line for its brand of “relaxed luxury” that marries Calla’s own personal relaxed style with the elaborate evening gowns and cocktail dresses she helped design during her time at Rochas and Nina Ricci: “I take all that beauty and make it more wearable and more accessible,” she says.

Many CALLA prints begin on Tumblr: “You know how you sort of go down a rabbit hole sometimes? Two hours later you don’t know where you’ve been. That’s an important part of my process — the research in the beginning of the season.” In past seasons, Japanese nail art has inspired a collection (“I’m doing my dream job but sometimes I fantasize about opening my own nail salon and becoming a nail artist,” she says). This season the inspiration is ‘90s beach movies, specifically the goofy classic Back to the Beach, which stars Frankie Avalon as an aging surfer who isn’t ready to give up his beach-parting ways. “I took all these screen grabs of it and saved them on my computer,” Calla recalls. “Then I kept thinking about it and building a theme of something a bit sporty and sexy around swimwear and the beach.

“I think it was one of those movies that I watched when I was little every day for two years straight,” she says. “So when I watched it again it was like a dream. I knew every scene, every quote.”

“It’s funny, I think I said as a joke back in May or April that it was going to be inspiration for the new collection and it totally is,” she says with a laugh.

There’s an element of randomness in Calla’s clothing that’s the result of extreme patience. Starting with her Tumblr research, or sometimes a painting or a nature photo, Calla will go over hundreds of references to single out a specific mood or feeling for a print. Then she’ll start adding brush strokes and textures until the final result has at least 30 layers in Photoshop.

Everything Calla does has an international flavor. She was born in Toronto, educated in New York at Parsons and now works in Paris, but good luck trying to get her to name a favorite place. “It’s all a mix,” she says of her inspirations. “Nature and water and light and things like that which I experience in Canada is mixed with my sportswear and my education in New York and mixes with my high fashion experience in Paris. It all blends together equally.”

But she did single out Tokyo as a special influence on her collection: “It was great for me to go and see how Japanese women dress,” she says. “Especially women in their twenties. There’s always a lot of color in my collection, but this season the colors are really electric and I think that has to do with Tokyo.”

Photos by Nicholas Calcott

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