Hayley Elsaesser is making fashion more inclusive, one design at a time.
GO AHEAD, try not to smile when you see one of Hayley Elsaesser’s creations. The Toronto-based fashion designer’s colourful, joyful and size-inclusive line has earned her scores of fans in celebrity and fashion circles alike. Her new project with Microsoft is equally feel-good. Elsaesser designed a mini- backpack with a pattern that riffs off her signature mouth print using her Microsoft Surface and its Surface Pen. Proceeds from the collab benefit the charitable organization Rainbow Railroad, which supports people in international LGBTQ communities who are fleeing persecution and helps them get to safety in Canada.
ON HER VISION FOR THE BACKPACK… “It represents individuality and pride, embracing who you are. I made a mini-backpack because I wanted it to be something that would work for everybody. It’s an accessory that people of all different shapes and sizes can wear and feel cute wearing. The print is a more stylized version of my iconic mouth print. I wanted to have a hand-drawn aspect to it. I drew directly onto the screen of the Surface in Adobe Illustrator and then compiled it into a repeated print.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVITY… “I was super- shy growing up. I’m from Cambridge, Ont., this small little city, and I never fit in. I’ve always been kind of a weirdo— I had Cruella de Vil hair in high school!—and fashion was how I expressed myself. When I started my label, I was really conscious of that feeling of being an outsider. I like to use fashion as a way to bring people together and make them feel good about themselves. The fashion industry is so exclusive.”
ON FINDING YOUR PEOPLE…“It’s all about having a community that makes you feel supported. If you live in a small town, there might not be anybody like you, but with the Internet and social media now there’s a global community at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because, I guarantee you, there are people who feel the same way. Also, embrace who you are. It’s so cliché, but you’re the only you in the world— celebrate that fact!”
TO HEAR MORE ABOUT STEF SANJATI’S AND MARIA QAMAR’S DESIGNS, READ OUR INTERVIEWS ON ELLECANADA. COM/ ELLEXSURFACE
Hayley Elsaesser created the design for her “Mouthy for a Reason” mini-backpack ($75, at hayleyelsaesser.com) using the Surface Pen— which mimics the feel of drawing on paper— on her Microsoft Surface (starting at $529, microsoftstore.ca). Transgender activist Stef Sanjati and Maria Qamar, a.k.a. Hatecopy, also designed products for the feel-good collaboration— a sweater and a sticker pack, respectively. “Diversity and inclusion are core to our culture, and the three creators we collaborated with for this campaign embody that wholeheartedly,” says Sherief Ibrahim, spokesperson for Microsoft. “All three speak to the power of technology and how it empowered them to achieve more and connect with their communities.”