Collina Strada Previews Her Debut

"He’s pure in love," says fashion designer Hillary Taymour of her dog, Pow Wow, who leaps from the floor into my lap within seconds of me arriving at Taymour’s South Williamsburg apartment and stays there, dozing, for the duration of our interview. Pow Wow raises his head to peer at her across the kitchen bench, and Taymour smiles, then frowns. "He’s very hard to discipline."

Taymour has been something of a homebody of late, surviving extensive renovations to her new apartment, from where she’s currently working, and finalizing the spring collection for her label, Collina Strada, ahead of MADE Fashion Week. Launched in 2008, Collina Strada (which means "hill" and "road" in Italian but "doesn’t translate," according to Taymour, "I just liked the way it sounds") was initially devoted to the creation of unique, edgy handbags but has since expanded into clothing. Taymour’s simple pieces in classic, wearable shapes and striking, innovative prints struck a chord with urban cool girls seeking nonchalant wardrobe staples with an edge, and she says she works hard to keep her collections beautiful and functional.

"I try to make very simple pieces and I feel like right now, with the whole normcore trend, people just want to wear what’s comfortable and to be basic," she says.

"I’ve always designed that way. I don’t need to make a statement, I just want to make things that are tangible and that people want to wear and that they can wear with any other thing in their closet. I want it to be like, ‘here’s a fashion piece, but it’s one you can wear with your t-shirt’. I feel like that’s how people dress right now."

Taymour grew up in Los Angeles, and as a child, had horses ("I could ride a horse before I could walk," she laughs) and competed in equestrians. Her penchant for putting together bold competition outfits is something she acknowledges inspired her path into fashion.

"I was always the girl that had every outfit in every color," she says.

"That was my thing, and with my pink leather sparkly belt underneath. I was kind of breaking the rules."

She also worked closely with leather goods, taking care of bridles and saddles in the stables.

"That’s why leather is still so important to me," she says.

"I feel like I work well with leather, I understand it, I’ve been around it forever. I always think about how when you’re riding horses and how your saddle feels when you finally break it in. People get nervous about breaking in leather, but I love using leather that gets better with time. If you buy a leather piece, it should be in your closet forever."

Each season, Collina Strada produces four leather colors and four prints that all work together. The new collection features butter-soft leather button-up shirts and pants as well as Taymour’s signature basics in muted colors and dreamy prints inspired by nature.

"Everything is driven by nature, and every season and every garment is named after a national park," she says, holding up pieces from a rack in her living room inspired by an English garden and Yellowstone National Park.

"When I make prints, I can make 100 before I decide on four. I save photos over a few months and then make them into prints, so it’s kind of trial and error."

Taymour says she’s excited about Collina Strada’s MADE show – which will be styled by Gillian Wilkins and soundtracked by Cara Stricker – especially since it’s the brand’s first time showing ready-to-wear.

"It’s exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time. I think it’s about solidifying Collina Strada because I’ve always been an accessories designer, and now it’s a lifestyle brand as well."

She plans to expand into shoes in the near future, but no matter the direction, Taymour insists Collina Strada will always remain true to its ethos of beautiful basics and wearable fashion pieces.

"It doesn’t need to be complicated," she says.

"I want to see a girl wearing Collina Strada in the park and not look like a crazy person. I feel like I want to make basics that customers know and love. And besides," she says with a smile, "there are plenty of people making crazy shit."

Collina Strada is showing at MADE Fashion Week on Tuesday, September 9th at 1pm.

Hillary Taymour photographed exclusively for Milk Made by Andrew Boyle

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