Designer Interviews: Hayley Gibson of Birds of North America

You said it loud and clear this summer - you love Birds of North America! So many of you have gone home with one (or more!) of her beautiful dresses. We asked designer Hayley Gibson to fill us in on everything that goes into the conception and creation of her line, as well as how she got to where she is today. 

Hayley Gibson wearing the Bouvreuil dress from her Spring Summer 2014 Collection

Hayley Gibson wearing the Bouvreuil dress from her Spring Summer 2014 Collection

L: What inspires your designs?

H: My female body and what feels good on it.  When I am in a dress that is doing what is is supposed to, I feel strong, grounded, attractive and courageous.  It sounds cliché, but it is like an addiction.  My inspiration comes from trying to create that feeling with every next dress.

L: How did you get started in fashion?

H: I developed an interest in sewing when I was about 8 years old and it grew right through high school.  When I had to choose what to do after graduation, sewing and clothing were the only things that really interested me.  I applied to Ryerson University for their fashion design program which I completed in 2002.

L: What is your favourite season to design?

H: If I had to choose I would say that spring is my favourite season to design!  My creativity seems to flow more easily, and I just love summer fabrics and sundresses so much.  Practical concerns always seem to be a heavier burden for me when designing a fall collection. It's partly due to the colder weather, but also to the "get back to business" attitude we all have in September as we try to shake off the drowsy abandon of summer.

The Woodnymph Dress from BoNA's Fall Winter 2014 Collection

The Woodnymph Dress from BoNA's Fall Winter 2014 Collection

L: Does each collection have a different theme or idea, or do you find yourself going back to similar ideas?

H: Though each collection has its own character, I definitely go back to similar ideas each season. I have realized over time that this is just what having an identity as a designer is all about.  I do get bored with my own style sometimes however, so I find that I naturally want to branch out and try new silhouettes, colours and fabrics.  One of the things I most love about fashion is its constant evolution and self-renewal.

L: How long does it take you to design a collection from start to finish?

H: I start to sketch only about a week or two in advance of starting each collection, then I start muslins and further develop the ideas for 5-6 weeks in fabric.  After that I start the final samples which is when the major details come in and the garments are finalized.  That usually takes another 6 weeks.  All in all I would say that the design period for each collection is about 3 months long.

L: Where does the idea for a collection usually begin?

H: I always start with silhouettes, never with fabrics, which I think might be a bit unusual.  I find this allows me to design whatever I like in my head without being restricted.  After that I find fabrics that give the garment the spirit and feeling I want the style to have.

Birds of North America designer Hayley Gibson hard at work

Birds of North America designer Hayley Gibson hard at work

L: Do you have a favourite type of piece to design?

H: Dresses!  Always dresses.

L: How have your designs evolved over the years?

H: Thankfully I'm not totally mortified by my early collections, but I did go off on some bad tangents in the first few years mostly due to comments from people that I gave way too much weight to due to my inexperience and lack of confidence.  One season I made everything way too long, another season I tried to make everything more "broadly appealing" and ended up with a very dull collection.  I think my designs have loosened up quite a bit over the years as I have realized that people actually want the fun, whimsical, wearable styles that I most love to do.

Which of these swatches to you think Hayley chose for the Spring Summer 2015 collection? You'll have to wait and see!

Which of these swatches to you think Hayley chose for the Spring Summer 2015 collection? You'll have to wait and see!

L: What is your favourite fabric to use in your clothing?

H: Good quality, 100% cotton.  I love everything about it and it comes in endless weights, weaves, colours and prints.