Victoria Hayes is ready for battle

She graduated from Parsons with a collection inspired by samurai armour. Now she’s taking on the New York City fashion world.

Fashion designer Victoria Hayes has been creating clothes for just five years, but the recent graduate has already developed a strong voice that comes through in collections with a clear conceptual focus.

Hayes lives and works in New York, where she recently earned her BFA in Fashion/Apparel Design from Parsons The New School for Design. Her thesis collection, “Masked for Battle”, demonstrates her ability to reconcile extreme ideas with clothes that retain an accessible quality.

“Masked for Battle” evolved out of a Parsons course that looked at violence in fashion. “My thesis collection makes a commentary on women’s treatment as sex objects, a reality I find infuriating,” says Hayes. 

“The collection was my personal response to women’s experiences with violence and intimidation in public spaces," she says.

I have attempted to create a collection in which the female wearer is the one to be feared and revered. 

She felt this was best realised with dark brooding colours.

She took her initial inspiration from classic samurai armour, in particular the grimacing Menpo masks the warriors wear. “Samurai armour was explicitly designed to intimidate the enemy and it perfectly showcases the dichotomy between beauty and aggression that I am interested in as a designer,” she explains. The armour inspired her choice of textiles: hand-woven leather, leather lacing and embroidered prints composed from watercolour paintings she made of the samurai mask.

Hayes has an affinity for sculptural shapes on her designs, but this collection uses oversized proportions to create warrior-like silhouettes. “You physically cannot get close to her. Her appearance is large and imposing and dominant,” she explains. “That’s what volume means for me and that's why I think it’s an important element to play with while designing.” 

She has never been afraid to tackle controversial themes in her design. In a collection called “It's Not a Competition Girls” she turned paintings of obese women into the main print used on all the fabrics – a statement on the way fashion idealises women’s bodies.

The young designer has an uncompromising design philosophy that is based on months of intense research followed by a grueling work schedule. For her, the research phase provides a solid framework from which to build design ideas, keeping the work focussed to retain what Hayes describes as “the poignancy and clarity that is possible with defined research”.

Currently interning in New York, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the business side of fashion before launching her own brand in the near future. “That’s the plan. I have only been making clothes for five years, so I have a lot to learn.”