“I don’t think I’d be a designer if I hadn’t grown up watching runway shows on Fashion Television,” Victoria Hayes says of the seminal Canadian program. The show’s lasting impression took her from a pre-med program in Hamilton, Ont., straight to New York City to pursue fashion at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. Hayes launched her eponymous label three years ago; since then, her brand of bold, subversive femininity has been sought after by a legion of celebrities including Taylor Swift (who wore one of Hayes’ signature suits in the music video for “Me!”), Lady Gaga and Hayes’ personal idol, Madonna. ”When I was three years old, I would dance to her [music] religiously,” she says.

This year, the designer marked another career milestone with her first Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards nomination in the emerging talent category. “It’s important for me to have recognition from my home country,” she says. “I think Canada does a lot to celebrate its talent in a way that other countries don’t.” As the industry continues to adapt to a new reality brought on by a global pandemic, Hayes is also determined to start a new chapter – but on her own terms. “Now, it’s ‘Do it at your own pace, do it properly and do it well.’”

NEW RULES

“I no longer feel like it’s rational or possible to compete with a fashion calendar that requires me to put out new work before I’m ready or else I’m not [seen as] a ‘real’ brand. Now, my first priority is slowing down. I just want these clothes to have a home. There’s no greater agenda than making women look and feel strong.”

SCENIC ROUTE

“To design well, you need to feel something – a sort of catharsis to design. I often listen to music alone to get in a mood. Prior to this time, I’d listen to music while walking [around the city], and that was the best source of inspiration for my ideas. I’d see really interesting people, or [I’d see really interesting] spaces and wonder what you’d want to wear there.”

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

“For a long time, the way fashion worked didn’t make sense, but you couldn’t not do it because if you opted out, you were disqualified somehow. Maybe the good thing about this – if there is a silver lining – is that now you can take a chance and no one will fault you for it.”

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of ELLE Canada.?Subscribe here. Buy a digital copy of this issue?here or on Apple News+.

READ MORE:

Canadian Designer Spotlight: Lesley Hampton Celebrates Her Indigeneity Through Fashion

Canadian Designer Spotlight: Olivia Rubens is Making Sustainable Luxury Knitwear

Canadian Designer Spotlight: Alex S. Yu On Creation During a Pandemic