Zana Bayne: Beyonce's Go-To Leather Girl [Exclusive]
Zana Bayne’s studio is kind of like Santa’s workshop, if all the elves had a penchant for hardcore kink. I watched as her team worked cutting, studding, and fitting pieces of leather, transforming them into intricate, sculptural pieces. Zana herself is the kind of vixen that’s any film noir buff’s wet dream. From her piercing blue eyes to her jet-black hair, Bayne has a look that could kill.
Taking one look at her wall of harnesses, it’s no surprise that the Seattle native has worked with people like Lady Gaga, Madonna and even the Queen B herself. Milk’s Jordan Mack got to sit with the designer to discuss working with a star-studded portfolio, BDSM, and what her ultimate future looks like.
It’s a material that I had a strong affinity to when I first started working with it. I come from a fine art background. I did a lot of sculpture and conceptual art. Leather is such a sculptural material, so formally it’s a really interesting material to work with.
There is a very geometric quality to your work. Do you feel like shape is more of a priority for you working with leather?
Absolutely. I’m always looking for ways to create different lines across the body. Having leather interact with the body, how you can divide it, cut it, and make different shapes is always on my mind. I like to see what people are wearing and imagine what other lines or shapes you could add to it.
I noticed a PVC piece. Are you going to be branching out into more new materials?
I mean, leather is the home base. We’ve used PVC in some other shows, but it’s always good to have an alternative for people who don’t like leather. It’s cool to use something that has the same weight as leather. I love branching out to different materials that I can use in the same way I use leather.
Is there any material you want to work with more?
I want to explore more pleather options. Faux leather is difficult because you have to find the right weight balance.
What was it like working with Madonna?
That was more through her stylist. I didn’t have a direct connection with that one. It’s different from celebrity to celebrity.
What’s your most surreal story?
Definitely the last minute backstage fitting I did with Beyonce. That was an out of body experience.
What!? How are you so calm about that!
We had gone through a series of reworkings with one belt. I worked on it, gave it to the stylist who brought it to her. It would need a correction and come right back to me. There was something lost in translation, so I got a text asking if I could just bring the belts to Barclays. To go from that to watching the concert stage side was unreal. I can say that she glows. It was a very professional, down to Earth experience [laughs].
Do you feel like growing up in California informs a lot of your work?
I actually grew up in Seattle and moved with my family when I was 13. I do feel like I’m more from San Francisco though. What I really brought was this creative nightlife point of view. Back then, we were always making our outfits before we went out. That’s what helped start up the line in the beginning. I had never actually been to LA until a little over a year ago, even though I lived in California for so long. I totally fell in love with the city from there. The most recent collection is about a New Yorker falling in love with LA. I feel pretty acclimated to New York at this point though.
Are your collections a chronology of your life?
Definitely. My designs are just as much for me as they are for others. I can’t keep out myself and what I’m feeling at the time.
The last minute backstage fitting I did with Beyonce. That was an out of body experience.
You started with painting. Do you still feel like you have a painters mindset?
If you talk to my parents, they will tell you that I was interested in something different every year. Whether is was dancing or painting, I couldn’t sit still. Leather and design in general are really the only thing I’ve stuck to for this long. I’m not a great sketcher, so my drawing skills definitely didn’t carry over [laughs]. I feel like everything ends up accumulating. From the conceptual stance, I tend to overthink things. Maybe not necessarily overthink, but I do like having a unifying concept for a collection beforehand.
Now you’ve accrued an incredible list of clients to your brand.
It’s been about four years to the date of the Lady Gaga ‘You and I’ video. I just realized that.
How does it feel having the anniversary coming up?
It feels like it was yesterday and 10 years ago all at the same time.
How does it feel to be so established with so many big names that are known specifically for their style?
It keeps me inspired to keep creating more pieces that I could imagine them wearing. I don’t like to dwell as much on the past as I do on the future. I prefer to think about how to grow and maintain these relationships.
Do you feel more connected to these female pop stars? I haven’t really seen you work with any men.
Like we said before, this is somewhat of a personal narrative. I can’t help but design for myself. As a woman, that’s where my point of view comes from. I like to make things that would be beautiful on the female form, and different female forms. I don’t like designing for one body type, or personality type.
But you do have harnesses for men on your site. Would you consider yourself to be a part of this industry wide push for gender neutral attire?
As far as the collections go, it’s about body type and shape. You can’t really have one universal shape that fits everyone. I do have men who buy women’s pieces and women who buy men’s pieces. I’ve always had a very costumer-based model. We do custom fittings, so it’s a much more one on one process.
Do you feel like you have a connection to BDSM culture with your designs?
Because of the nature of my work, it’s completely unavoidable. What people do with their pieces after they receive them is completely up to them. It’s whatever they want to do. A lot of the shape inspirations at first were from classic harnesses and chokers. I loved the aesthetic. It was very much a San Francisco thing at the time.
When you’re making pieces, who do you feel like you’re designing for?
I have this woman who’s sexy and intelligent, but also a bit of a bad girl. She knows exactly what she’s doing, but where ever she goes she’s causing a little bit of trouble.
Who would you want to see wearing one of your harnesses next?
How would you describe your next collection in three words?
Romantic. Futurist. Tropical. Who doesn’t want to be this amazing future girl lounging on the beach?
What is your ideal future world?
I’m only going to name things that start with B. Bi-coastal capabilities, boats and St. Barths.
Zana Bayne photographed exclusively for Milk by Miyako Bellizzi