S&M + Motorcycles: A Chat With Zana Bayne At Her New Pop-Up
It’s been nearly a year since we met up with designer Zana Bayne to talk about her intricate and handmade leather goods (which have become Beyoncé’s go-to accessories). Since then, a lot has changed—including the workload. This year alone, Bayne and her creative director Todd Pendu have seen their signature leather harnesses, chokers, skirts, and corsets outfit everyone from Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson to (you guessed it) Beyoncé, at literally every performance she’s done this year.
Bayne and Pendu have somehow also found time to release an additional collection, ‘Highway Girl,’ which was heavy on Harley Davidson flames and Easy Rider inspiration, complete with accoutrements for motorcycle helmets. They’ve even collaborated with & Other Stories for fall. Oh, and they prepared their goods for the brand’s first-ever solo pop-up shop—which helps explains why I found myself trying on a black leather harness cut into the shape of a pentagram on a breezy Tuesday afternoon.
Situated on Elizabeth Street in Nolita, mannequins dressed head-to-toe in dominatrix outfits greeted me as I walked into the largest collection of leather I’ve ever seen (well, at least the most leather I’d ever seen since the one time I accidentally went into a gay bear bar). On rack after rack, harnesses and chunky chokers hang next to purses and skirts. After trying on a few outfits and admiring a leather cone bra that would make Madonna proud, I sat down with Bayne and Pendu to talk their extensive celebrity clientele, their strangest fitting request, and what exactly draws people to leather.
What inspired the move to do your first pop-up shop?
Todd Pendu: It was part of a more involved idea of being able to take our collections and present them to the public at the same time they can buy it.
Zana Bayne: Yeah, it’s really exciting for us too to have such a wide variety of our products in one place so our customers can come in and try on different things, and we can introduce them to different styles. Our customers are such an important part of what we do and being able to interact with them is something special.
Have you ever had a really strange request for a custom fit on one of your pieces?
ZB: There was a woman who wanted a piece that would fit her during—and after—her entire pregnancy. We offered to adjust it afterwards if she wanted, but she was hell-bent on it fitting the whole time.
Did she compromise?
TP: It worked out!
I hope she had a baby photoshoot in it!
TP: We’ve had people do that! We’ve had sexy maternity photoshoots come into our inboxes.
What inspired the new ‘Highway Girl’ collection?
ZB: There’s definitely a feeling of being on an open road in the late 60s. That feeling of freedom.
TP: Yeah, that’s what we were trying to say. People think of bondage as being restrictive but, in a lot of ways, it has to do with freedom. We like to find different ways to enunciate that.
ZB: There’s one quote that we were inspired by for the attitude of the collection, which is: “Pretty and smart and scornful and impatient.”
What do you think draws people to leather?
TP: I think it looks a bit mysterious and people aren’t sure if they can wear it. It’s really interesting to see people who are really shy and wouldn’t normally wear it, but the minute they’re wearing it you see a change happening. It draws personalities out.
I’ve got to ask about Beyonce. You’ve done everything from her Lemonade movie to the Super Bowl Halftime Show and her Formation tour. What has that been like?
ZB: It’s always so much fun! She has such a diverse vision and that makes it a nice challenge. All of the projects we’ve done with her have been huge cultural moments, which makes it twice as…not stressful. What’s the word? Stressful. [Laughs]
You’ve had your pieces on people like FKA Twigs, Willow Smith, Charlize Theron, and so many others lately. Do you have any dream artists you want to work with?
TP: Grace Jones is one! It’s incredible that she’s still going and killing it.
I don’t think she’s ever going to stop. She’ll be on her death bed in a crazy outfit.
TP: Exactly! It’ll be amazing, as well.
Now, do you have any leather accessory that’s a must-have for your everyday outfit?
ZB: I carry the bags all the time. I always have one of the smaller bags because if I carry the big bag, I’ll fill it with too many things.
If you were carrying one of the big bags, what’s the weirdest thing someone would find in it?
ZB: Like… M&M wrappers. [Laughs]
The Zana Bayne Pop-Up Shop is open from 11AM to 7PM until July 24th at 171 Elizabeth Street. It features a variety of pieces from the Zana Bayne Originals Collection, all styles and colors of Handbags, and the new ‘Highway Girl’ Collection.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Zana Bayne.
Images of the pop-up courtesy of BFA. Additional imagery via Zana Bayne and Rolling Stone.