TrendLuxury: You and your husband have been inseparable since setting up a makeshift studio at your apartment back in 2005. What inspired the two of you to partner together? Do you remember your first signature design that made Hayden-Harnett a global success?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Ben and I have been together for seven years…Hayden-Harnett has been our lives for six of those years. We created the collection in April 2005 after I had spent years (as a handbag designer for other brands) searching for the elusive perfect leather handbag that was just as gorgeous and well-crafted as a luxury brand bag, but at a reasonable price point, and that truly functioned as part of my everyday getting-around-the-city-in-style life.
Ben really pushed me to take a leap of faith and to have my concepts for Hayden-Harnett developed into samples. The samples looked really great and when we launched the collection online in November 2005, the sales took off immediately after word of mouth spread about the quality and styling…and that the bags were built for serious functionality as well as style. The Havana hobo was in our launch collection of five styles and has always remained our bestseller.
Ben and I are a great fit work-wise. I’m a fashion/art-obsessed industrial designer. Ben is a classics-trained programmer who paints, sketches, and has a minor in physics. Our skill sets and interests became a great pairing for creating and operating a collection who had a strong vox populi. We didn’t have huge expectations for Hayden-Harnett, but only wanted to have our own collection on our own terms, which meant not skimping on materials, offering a great product, speaking directly to our consumers, and creating a collection where creativity, style and function were always the end-goal.
TrendLuxury: What’s the story behind the name Hayden-Harnett? Was it difficult to decide who’s last name to use? Do you find each other competitive at times?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): We’re never competitive as Ben and I each manage such unique areas within Hayden-Harnett. We do intersect on the web design, but we each trust the other to always be making the right decision for the brand. We do compete with who gets the Sunday NY Times first…that’s a war zone.
The name…ha. We were having brunch in our apartment and I kept doodling an idea for the logo- two h’s (our initials) together inside a circle on an envelope. I inverted one of the h’s as a failsafe in case one of the rivets were attached upside-down…the logo would always read correctly. At first we were thinking of calling the brand, simply Hacker-Harnett. Quickly we decided that sounded a bit severe, or too law-firmish, but I knew that we were keeping the double h logo. Adding Hayden to the Harnett came to me in a flash as I was brushing my teeth…something in the fluoride, I suppose. I’ve always been a storyteller via my designs, so why not allow Hayden-Harnett to be the heroine, a super alter-ego cool girl, that I design the collections around each season. The name stuck and so did the storytelling with each collection. Hayden-Harnett was born.
TrendLuxury: When I see a Hayden-Harnett handbag I think of vintage with a shock of edginess. Is this the signature style that your mostly distinguished by?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Absolutely. You nailed our aesthetic. I have a desperate and deep-rooted love for all things old, classic, and beautiful. I am also a diehard modernist. Hayden-Harnett is how I synthesize those two worlds. Classic with an edge. Infinitely wearable, but looking ahead.
TrendLuxury: Is there any special rituals you do to get into the design mood? Where does the creativity process usually start from?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I’ve always been a collector, so there are many inspiration pieces, some very old (from high school even) that I’ve carried around for years. Images, fabric cuttings, notes, film stills, song lyrics, books, buttons, trim. My design rituals? I always take a trip (short or long) before I begin working on a new collection and I never design without music.
TrendLuxury: Since the birth of Hayden-Harnett you have launched alot of memorable collections. What are some of your favorite pieces that you still cherish?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Tough question. Really tough. Despite being a small company, we’ve produced a pretty large catalogue of styles since 2005. Let’s play desert island and I can only bring 5 styles: Ramone cuff, Havana hobo, Ibiza flight tote, Biblio bag, and Alchemist drawstring. Those would be my all-time keepsake Hayden-Harnett pieces as they are each very special to me.
TrendLuxury: Hayden-Harnett has many loyal fans across the globe. Who are some of your most influential clients?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I love that our loyal Hayden-Harnett lovers are such a super creative, brilliant, and stylish group of women (and men!) across the globe. Have to give a shout-out to our non-celeb and papparazzi riddled fans first…the doctors, professors, stylists, editors, creatives, and cool moms of the HH fandom. They are really the reason why we exist- to bring style to your everyday world.
On the celebrity front, some of our favorite HH fans are Rihanna, Malin Akerman, Anne Hathaway, Daryl Hannah, Zoe Kazan, Brittney Spears, Taylor Momsen, Rachel Bilson, Blake Lively, Shakira, Alicia Keys, and Mena Suvari. Mena has been a huge fan and supporter since the beginning and I totally adore her.
TrendLuxury: Disney takes alot of us down memory lane when we were tiny tots, just beginning to walk. How exciting to hear that Hayden-Harnett is bringing a bit of magical whimsy to adults with their Pirates of the Caribbean collection. How did your collaboration with Disney start? What’s the inspiration behind the designs?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I’m still so thrilled that Walt Disney Signature chose to work with Hayden-Harnett as there are so many great brands out there…I’m such a total product of 70’s Disney pop-culture. The WDS team contacted us last spring and invited us to collaborate on two holiday collections for Fantasia and a smaller capsule collection for Tron. I didn’t even think twice about saying yes. Their team has been so incredible to work with and I’m kind of obsessed with Walt Disney, the man. I’ve always felt a real kinship with their classic films and Fantasia and Tron just happen to be two of my all-time favorite Disney films. Just having access to their archive of image has been incredibly inspiring. There’s enough inspiration in Fantasia alone for years of collections.
The Walt Disney team was really impressed with the quality and style of the Tron & Fantasia collections and they really loved how we interpreted the inspiration into the accessories without being overt. When were invited back by WDS to do a limited edition Pirates of the Caribbean collection for spring/summer 2011, I had to say yes…I was already working on a nautical theme for spring, so doing Pirates was a perfect fit. I’m really very happy with the collection and feel that it’s some of our best creative work to date. I love that our collections for Walt Disney Signature are limited edition. A true collector’s dream. I’d like one of each style from each collection shipped to my deserted isle, please.
TrendLuxury: A movie like Pirates of the Caribbean is very adventurous and exhilarating.What was the design process like for this collection?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Adventurous and exhilarating! The Walt Disney Signature team provided us with sneak peeks of the costumes and characters from Pirates of the Caribbean IV, so we took our initial inspiration from there. Digging in, I started looking at vintage images of mermaids, pirates, sailors, ships, and ancient, antiqued hardware on doors. Wax seals, maps. The research was really fun for Pirates and I love the metalwork we did for this collection.
TrendLuxury: What did you enjoy most about designing the Pirates of the Caribbean collection? Who’s your favorite Disney character that you would like to design a collection for?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Digging in, I started looking at vintage images of mermaids, pirates, sailors, ships, and ancient, antiqued hardware on doors. Wax seals, maps. The research was really fun for Pirates and I love the metalwork we did for this collection. I’d love to design a Mary Poppins collection! Everyone needs a bottomless supercalifragilisticexpalidocious handbag.
TrendLuxury: Hayden-Harnett’s Pirates of the Caribbean collection will only include 50 of each style which makes these pieces limited edition and exclusive. How can we get our hands on these highly coveted accessories?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): We’re allowing our fans first dibs at Pirates via pre-order on our site, haydenharnett.com from April 1st through May 1st.
TrendLuxury: Since you have done quite a few previous collaborations, what designer would you love to work with? Are there any prospective ventures in the works we should know about?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I’ve always greatly admired Philippe Starck. I would love to do a range of accessories or home goods with him.
TrendLuxury: Did you attend this Falls Fashion Week? What was your favorite collections? Do you find yourself in creative mode while the show is going?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): We skipped fashion week this year, in real time. So much going on here and we’re living upstate now part-time. I love checking out the shows after the fact. We’ve done a few fashion week events and they’re really fun to do, but quite a lot of work. I kind of like that we can either opt in or out during Fashion Week…that’s the beauty of handbags. Gucci’s collection was killer this season and I feel like everyone is heading in such a creative direction now that 2010 is behind us.
TrendLuxury: Whats the one luxury item you can’t live without?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I am never without Dr. Hauschka cleansing milk.
TrendLuxury: As fashionistas prepare for Spring, what are some must haves you recommend for this season?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Floral dresses with tough chic cuffs, plimsoles or cream leather loafers with a touch of wooden heel, a gorgeous silk scarf in a conversational print, a perfect natty jacket borrowed from the boys, and an incredibly smart-looking leather bag or messenger. A pristine pair of vintage Ted Lapidus shades to complete the look. My ideal spring look is smart and garcon meets gamine.
TrendLuxury: Pairing accessories together can be a fashion disaster if your not careful. What’s the style rules and secrets to making handbags, jewels or a scarf work with any outfit?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): I’m a big believer in keeping your wardrobe simple and classic and choosing accessories that speak volumes. I also believe in the rule of opposites when styling: if you wear print, go minimal with accessories…if you wear minimal, go maximal with accessories. A perfectly chosen bag should take you from maximal to minimal with ease and should be able to be worn with at least 50% of your wardrobe. Always choose investment pieces that you love for either their uniqueness or versatility, not for instant trend appeal.
TrendLuxury: Hayden-Harnett is always full of surprises! Any projects or exciting news you would like to announce?
Toni Hacker (Hayden-Harnett): Ha…very true. I do love surprises! We are working on the launch of Hayden-Harnett Collection for April. Super luxe and proudly made in the USA. The leathers are from upstate New York and the brass hardware is sourced from US suppliers. The printed linings are hand-blocked African and Dutch wax prints…even the dustcovers are handmade. The collection will consist of five essential styles of daybags, a messenger satchel, unisex flight tote, and gorgeous leatherwork. We’re considering offering a bespoke service for Collection, where customers can order a style in the leather color of their choice. We can even hand-engrave or monogram the plate for further customization. So excited to get my own!