It was on a sunny afternoon in the middle of Brooklyn, when the city was getting ready for that night’s shows, that I met the fashion designer Anya Kelly Haber. A young woman, timid with bright eyes, and shining by her authenticity. Well used to be the interviewer with all her experience as an Editor-in-Chief of various magazines, she was this time the one being interviewed. This year marks an important year in her designer career, time to showcase her extended collection at the prestigious fashion week that is New York Fashion Week, Spring-Summer 2020. Grateful for this incredible opportunity, she gladly accepted to meet me and provide a more insightful view into her collection, and creative story.
Anya Haber has worked on various collections, very different one from another at first sight yet all oh so interesting! One very important element connects all of them: her curiosity – on the verge of obsession 😉 – about the material. Whether it be alternative leather made of mushrooms, silicone, or a tech-infused fabric, the properties of the material she uses are at the center of each of her designs. This also applies to her NYFW 2020 collection, which she qualifies as very tactile, with texture being the theme of the designs.
Fun fact: she knows the material so much and its creation process that she wants to work with scientists to outgrow the natural properties of how fabric is created as of now. Just like that mushroom leather, which allows to grow leather much faster, but also to control the size of the fabric available.
For example, in the collection she showcased at NYFW 2020, one of her dresses would change color depending on the music playing at that specific moment. Well that’s what we call innovation!
“How does she know about all of this?”, you ask? She spends hours and hours – if not months! – reading technology university research papers and websites, looking for innovation in any kind of material. One university she really likes to read from? MIT. She also looks at big organizations such as Google which support such research activities. A true geek, she says. We prefer “passionate” 🙂
She also mentioned being aware of material that self-cleans with light, one that changes color based on how warm or cold the body is or even one that blacks everything out when photographed. One challenge: these innovations are not always available for mass production yet. Armed with patience and negotiation skills, she is!
The designer also finds a lot of inspiration from other disciplines such as architecture, science and parametric design. She truly believes that understanding how the world works, and the defining structures, are the best sources to fuel her creativity. There is no limit to what Art can be!
Her creative process? It goes like this:
- She finds a fabric that intrigues her
- She gets to know everything about it
- She plays with it, often moving away from the initial purpose of the fabric
- She does so until she feels the piece of art is complete.
All about that feeling. She entered fashion to designer whatever she wanted. She didn’t expect people to want her pieces as much as they have already; NYFW opened her eyes to further opportunities. Still, ready-to-wear is not in the plans. Art is.
One thing to note, she doesn’t really get into the sketching phase. She never knows how the end design is going to look like when she starts. She goes with her feeling of the material and the inspiration that she gets when playing with it. She feels very attracted to materials and to fabrics other designers choose to showcase on the runway for example, but most importantly are not often seen in regular life. She wants to create that same curiosity when people see her pieces: this ardent desire to come closer, touch the fabric, feel the texture – at least to have an opinion about her unique designs!
As if this love of the material wasn’t enough yet, very interestingly, some of her pieces are developed with the purpose of representing a geometric or scientific principle. Did you notice her reference to the periodic table? Most people would not necessarily realize the underlying meaning but now that you know, go back into her collections and try to discover which principles were brought to light! We said passionate, didn’t we?
Her aspirations for the future? Bringing her art and advanced materials further than fashion. There is no limit to her vision. What about using the same approach for shoes, furniture, lamps? Once knowing the property of a certain material, might as well push it to the furthest possible, irrelevant of industry.
On the shorter term though, she would like to go to graduate school to be more knowledgeable about the fabric and the scientific methods to produce them. Her dream is actually to study under Neri Oxman, professor at MIT, in the Mediated Matter discipline. The NYFW 2020 designer also considers scientists as art, which explains a bit portion of her current work.
It was a true pleasure to have met with Anya Haber to discuss about her designer story, science and her aspirations. Keep her under your radar as her innovative approach may affect your life more than you think.
Before last, here are some additional photos of her NYFW SS2020 runway show.
Photos were provided by the designer.