Zana Bayne's Summer Night Leather

"I try and live by a schedule these days, but an email in the morning can change everything," says designer Zana Bayne, relaxed in her studio in Manhattan’s garment district. "It’s VMA season right now, so I could suddenly end up making ten costumes in five days."

The self-taught leather designer certainly has a knack for creating unique pieces for big names – her leather harnesses have been worn by everyone from Miranda Kerr to Lady Gaga – but designing for everywoman has always been Bayne’s goal. Born in Seattle, Bayne moved to San Francisco as a 15-year-old, citing the city as "a great place to find myself" before moving to New York in 2009 and launching Zana Bayne Leather in 2010. We caught up with the MADE Fashion Week designer to chat about her inspirations, collaborations and what’s next for her label.

How did you get into fashion?

I’m completely self taught and have made things my whole life. I started playing around with belts, buckles and straps when I was younger and I’ve always found leather an interesting medium. I come from a really creative family – my mom worked in the clothing industry and has an incredible eye for fashion and my father was a composer and works in the arts, so I was around creativity from a young age and fashion just came naturally. I worked in retail forever so learnt a lot about designers that way.

What inspires your work?

It’s about the female figure and shape – I really love a great hourglass shape, so I’m always trying to expand upon that. I know it sounds kind of cheesy but I’m always looking for different ways to accessorize: how can I add on to an ensemble? How I can create something that mimics clothing but isn’t necessarily that?

Tell us a little about your forthcoming collection for MADE Fashion Week.

It’s really interesting as a leather designer to do a collection for Spring/Summer, because there are obviously some contradictions. The spring collection is all about a feeling of lightness and breathability, so I created that through laser cut outs and perforations. I love having restrictions so having a season to work off of is pretty inspirational.

I’m working with some great leathers, and the laser cutting is a new thing as well – so much of my work comes from a hand-crafted, artisanal process so to go into something like laser cutting is pretty technological for me. The collection also has some great collaborations with hardware, and I’ve been working a lot with Swarovski as well.

Do you design with a muse in mind?

It’s more an era or a feeling than a muse. The idea with this collection was around the moon and stars, nighttime and the water, that feeling of a summer night when the moon is shining: whats the vibe there? It’s more about a place and a time, and within that feeling you ask, ‘What would different people wear?’ I don’t just design for one woman, I design for women, and everybody has different ways they want to wear clothes. I have certain silhouettes I go for that are signatures in my eyes, but I like to cover a spectrum of styles.

You’ve done some great collaborations. Do you enjoy creating specific pieces for other people?

Yeah, I’m so used to being the person collaborating to someone else’s vision and I love taking someone else’s idea and creating for that. I think it opens my mind up and I can imagine outside of my own process. Lady Gaga was a big jumping point for the brand – that was in 2011 when I was working a lot with Nicola Formichetti – and I’ve done a lot with Beyonce, pieces for Madonna and a lot with Nikki Minaj recently.

Any dream collaborations?

I’d love to make clothes for Grace Jones.

What’s next for the Zana Bayne label?

Handbags are definitely going to be a big part of the expansion – accessories are such an expansive realm.

Zana Bayne is showing at MADE Fashion Week on Thursday, September 4th at 8pm.

Photos by Todd Pendu

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