Have you ever dreamed of walking the red carpet, appearing in glossy fashion magazines, setting the trends that will consume the fashion industry? The world of celebrity fashion, where stylists work tirelessly to create a look that resonates beyond paparazzi candids and cable television “hit or miss” segments, has often been seen as something reserved for a select few, the names and faces that grace the small and large screen. Until now.
Fashion-editor-turned-celebrity-stylist-turned-designer Mary Alice Haney has made a career of dictating the trends that graced the pages of magazines and wowed on runways and red carpets. As a fashion editor for publications like Harpers Bazaar, GQ and Marie Claire, Haney helped curate the haute couture trends that matriculated into the greater fashion arenas. Her work as a celebrity stylist, lending her fashion sense to women like Reese Witherspoon and Eva Mendes, set the tone of fashionistas the world over. But through this experience, Haney discovered there was something lacking in the industry.
“When I was styling, a lot of my clients loved a certain Gucci or Lanvin look but wanted to change the hem, the color, what have you,” she says. “So I started to look around the [fashion] landscape to see what was available. There wasn’t really any customizable luxury line.” This is where her eponymous line, the Haney collection, stemmed.
Her recently released line imbues an Old Hollywood aesthetic with silhouettes and lines that are not only womanly in shape and contour but also designed to fit precisely. And where ready-to-wear is nothing new, Haney takes the concept a step further, offering a fully customizable look for each dress in the collection.
“First, I design the collection—the traditional ready-to-wear,” Haney (left) says of her design process. “Then I go deep into each look, essentially creating a collection within each look.” This allows the client to pick and choose aspects that best suit her needs, be it color, hemline, sleeves (or not) and fabric. Customers can design their dress in real-time on the website shophaney.com or at “Ambassador Parties,” small, invitation-only pop-up events scheduled around the country, where local fashionistas act as style ambassadors for the brand.
“You are able to touch and feel the clothes, try them on and then work with me or my team on customization, be it a plunging neckline [or] a color change,” says Haney, who just held an event in December in Palm Beach. “The idea is to bring that couture element to the ready-to-wear price.” And though the collection stems from ready-to-wear, the customized look is not a factory-made garment but a one-of-a-kind dress made by sample makers at the atelier, all specifically styled and cut to fit the client. Although the combination of customization per dress may seem endless, each option was meticulously thought-out by Haney, ensuring every look was expertly crafted by one of Hollywood’s most sought-after stylists.
Take the Alex dress, for example. As ready-to-wear, it’s a mid-calf black dress with strands of pearls affixed to the shoulders, draping down the arm like sleeves. When put through the prêt-à-porter whirligig, clients can select black, charcoal or eggplant for color; an option of mid-calf or above-the-knee length; and a selection of natural or charcoal colored pearls—or none at all. Price is dictated by the options chosen.
|A few options of the Alex dress. Customers have the option of choosing color, hem and embellishments.|
Available on her website, where customization happens in real time, as well as net-a-porter.com, where a sampling of her ready-to-wear collection can be purchased, Haney is creating a whole new market within the fashion world, where individual style meets the eye of an editorial expert. The Los Angeles resident and part-time Palm Beacher—her family recently restored the famed Vanderbilt estate in Manalapan—is well on her way creating the follow-up to her debut collection. We caught up with Haney to discuss her collection, design inspiration and what drew her to the design table.
How has your experience in the fashion industry shaped your design?
MH: There are a lot of designers who are true artists, and I admire them. And I feel like my dresses are artistic and beautiful, but I also really look at [design] from a lot of different angles.
I look at it from the point of the consumer. … I am someone who buys these dresses, so I know what I am looking for in terms of fit, quality.
I am also looking at it from an editor’s standpoint. I have been a student of fashion for the last 20 years, so it’s not about just throwing something together, being inspired by a leaf outside of my window. This [collection] is very much about what I think is the next trend. I want to be on the forefront of what women will be wearing next year, before it comes out. Because I have the editor background, I have the ability to understand that.
And as a stylist, someone that makes the trends, I have been the person that decides what goes on the pages of magazines and what goes on the celebrities. This collection is sort of this amazing collaboration of all those different elements of my career coming together.
Continue to page two for more with Mary Alice Haney.