by Julia Cardi
Ahead of the upcoming Collina Strada trunk show at Goldyn, I had the chance to chat with the brand’s New York-transplanted designer Hillary Taymour about her smartly designed lines of edgy-feminine clothing and quietly sophisticated handbags.
The clothing’s blending of tough leather and delicately sheer fabrics creates an aesthetic as three-dimensional as the woman who wears it, and both it and the functionality-centric handbags speak of a wearer who’s modern and practical, yet still knows the power of telling a story with how she dresses. Here are Hillary’s thoughts on those women, her interpretation of juxtaposition, and setting Collina Strada apart with label-free bags.
Where did the name of the line, Collina Strada, come from?
Collina Strada is just a name that I liked. “Collina” means “hill” in Italian, and “strada” means “road”, but it doesn’t translate. I just didn’t want [the line] to be named after me; it’s my first line, and I thought it would be better that way.
How has the timeline of your line unfolded?
I designed menswear for a brand while I was in fashion school [at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in LA], and also was an assistant designer until 2009. Then I started the Collina Strada bags; the clothes didn’t come into play until the Spring/Summer 2012 season. I launched my new homeware line Social + Studies (www.andsocialstudies.com) this Autumn/Winter 2015 season.
Since your handbag line came before the clothing, what prompted you to start designing bags?
I never really went after designing handbags. I made a bag for myself while I was working in the industry, and then everyone kind of just wanted one. So I decided to make a line off of that.
Can you describe how your aesthetic as a designer has evolved from your first collection to your most recent?
With the bags, the pleats have always been very consistent throughout the collection. I like to change up the shapes and placement of them on bags, but they have really given the brand a strong identity. With the clothing, the line has always felt very print- and leather-oriented. I try to mix up basic, non-leather-type clothing [by making them] in leather which has been working really well. i-D has said we are known for “a new kind of stripped-back leather and silk look.”
Speaking of which, in your most recent clothing collections, I really like how ethereal details like sheer layers are made edgy with tough elements like leather and dark colors. What inspires these types of pairings?
It’s kind of a lingerie-outerwear idea. I really like to play with layering and making a look to soften up the leather, but almost wearing the sheer layers on top of leather makes a more interesting approach.
Are there any influences on your line from the style you saw while in LA, or does it more translate from coast to coast? Do you notice differences in what people prefer in LA versus New York?
Yeah, of course. We do a lot of canvas prints with leather; we sell a lot more canvas bags on the West Coast, versus on the East Coast, where we basically only sell all-leather bags. I’ve gotten to a good balance of offering to both aesthetics and letting buyers customize based around that.
What did you feel was missing from handbag lines already out there that you aim to fulfill with your line?
[When I started the line] in 2009, contemporary bags were all branded…I was one of the first designers in that whole capsule show movement to do handbags that were trendy but not branded. I wanted to create an aesthetic where you could see the brand identity but you didn’t necessarily know how much you paid for the bag or know what designer made it, and you could make it your own style. Now there’s a ton of handbag lines out there that are like that, but in 2009 there actually weren’t any.
The girl who carries [the handbags] is somebody who creates her own style, and is very comfortable in her own skin in the sense that she doesn’t need a massive luxury label behind her to feel cool and good about herself. People who wear them say they get a ton of compliments…because they’re unique but still understated.
Describe the ideal woman who wears Collina Strada.
She’s more of a daring-conscious shopper. An adventurous traveler who lives in a metropolitan area.
[The handbag customer base] is very broad. I have 60-year-olds carry them, and then I have 20-year-olds carry them. I really just focus on functionality of design, and create a brand around a handbag shape that might be trending, or something that I find necessary; if there’s a gap in the market for the shape. I just really want them to be functional and easy.
What’s your personal style like? Is there any overlap between it and your designs?
I have a pretty chill sense of style. I would say I design what ideally I would like to wear if I had somewhere to go.
Any factoids or vignettes about being a designer you’d like to share? Anything most people wouldn’t know guess?
I designed a bag for Target my first season, for a Daily Candy shelf, before I had even shipped to stores. It was a wild ride and taught me so much; I couldn’t have asked for a better intro into the business.