Maybe it’s the quar brain talking, but the more I think about Batsheva Hay’s collections, the more that each one feels like a Queen’s Gambit-style move to legitimize the complexity of womanhood to the fashion industry. Hay has taken the symbols of femininity, domesticity, and intimacy and made them things for women to be proud of, not ashamed of. Typically, the industry rewards designers who offer more modern, minimalist takes on female style—effortlessness, elegance, and unfussy are buzzwords here—or versions of womanhood that are so fantastical and exaggerated they can only be described as “whimsical” or “dreamy.” Hay’s work is neither: It’s quirky, messy, funny, and embraces the chaos of a woman’s life. Advertising copy would read: She reads in Batsheva. She plays with the kids in Batsheva. She cooks in Batsheva.
For pre-fall, she really does cook in Batsheva. The collection’s lookbook stars real women, from club legend Suzanne Bartsch to actress Gretchen Mol, wearing her latest wares in their own kitchens. Hay and her husband Alexei, the photographer, traveled around New York taking the portraits, discussing the recipes with each woman, and eating each meal. The results will be published in a cookbook next year. “Seeing the way other people wear the pieces is so important,” Hay says, stressing that each piece must feel like “a wanted garment.” If it doesn’t elicit love from her ladies, it doesn’t get made.
The garments that did get made continue to recast the possibilities for ruffles and floral prints. Hay is leaning into big ’80s graphics and pie crust collars à la Princess Di. Those developments, she explains, were designed with an eye to our Zoom lives. From the waist up, she’s offering a new bolero jacket, added embroideries and details on yokes, and expanded her offering of crocheted tanks and hooded pullovers. There’s even a bustier. It’s shown layered over new taffeta dresses, but one imagines Hay’s more daring fans will wear it bare underneath. Pants, skirts, and a new wrap-dress round out the offering.
“When I started, I thought I would run out of things to do with ruffles on dresses pretty quickly,” she says with a smirk. But trying to define what it means to be a woman in this world is an endless journey—and one of constant reinvention. And hey, maybe the men are next! The 20-year old photographer Quil Lemons has been wearing a metallic silver Batsheva dress around New York. Wouldn’t it be interesting if more guys followed his lead?