Interview with Hillary Taymour of Collina Strada

Christina Parrella

Initially known for its handbags (unusually shaped and made of leather), Collina Strada has, in six short years, managed to fashion a luxurious line of eco-conscious handbags. After catching the attention of Target and Urban Outfitters, for which she created exclusive pieces, CS designer Hillary Taymour turned her attention to clothing, producing a collection of timeless pieces that are anything but basic: think bold kaleidoscope prints, leather jumpers and bags that resemble accordions.

On the eve of her Made Fashion Week show, we sat down with the SoCal native, who now calls Williamsburg home, to discuss the brand's inspiration, her transition into clothes design and where she sits on the NYC vs. LA spectrum.

Why did you start the brand? Hillary Taymour: The brand was started six years ago as handbags and accessories; I kind of just fell into it. I made a bag for myself, and everyone kind of freaked out about it. It was just a little hobo. I made a line really quick and went to market with it, and it did pretty well the first season. It’s an eco-conscious brand, and everything is made in New York City.

How do using eco-conscious materials affect your designs? HT: Well, everything is custom printed and custom dyed so everything is no-chrome ink, which is definitely a bit more expensive but I think worthwhile. And it allows me to design exactly what I want to design as opposed to just picking leather swatches, which can be kind of mundane. I think it gives us a little bit of a cooler edge, and I get to make everything in a smaller factory and oversee everything. I can make an order really fast if I need to because it's just down the street, versus overseas production.

What prompted you to start the clothing collection? HT: I was never really into bags; it kind of just happened—but when I grew to be able to afford [a collection], I said, OK, we are going to do ready-to-wear looks that I really love, so it was just my goal for the brand.

When creating your pieces, do you have a certain aesthetic or vision in mind? HT: I don't want every piece to be seasonal. I want it to be timeless. I don’t want to overdesign; I want everything to be simple, high quality and look good. I don't want it to be too overdone; I feel like a lot of brands just create over-the-top [pieces] in the name of art, but at the same time it doesn't really translate to stores. I really try to make it simple.

What do you love about New York City? What are some of your favorite spots? HT: I love the momentum here. You feel like you have to keep up with everyone, and that keeps you on your toes a little. In LA you go out for dinner, and by the time you get home after work, no one is doing anything and the bars are closed. In New York City after work you go to the art gallery, and then you go to dinner or have a drink with a friend and then go out for the night. It's like you can do a million things in one night.

You live in Williamsburg? HT: Yeah, I love it here. I've been here for five years now. I really like the food here, and Hurricane Sandy showed us that you sort of don’t need to leave Williamsburg ever, unless you work in [Manhattan]. Everything you need is here. It's quieter, nicer and I think a little bit more at ease here.

What can we expect from your next collection? HT: It's going to be a lot of leather mixed with sheers and silk prints —easy, basic pieces. We're doing a live music performance with my friend, so it's going to be kind of rad. It’s all nature themed. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to make a flame-retardant leather cord.

Anything in particular that inspired it? HT: I'm always inspired by nature, and so we're kind of developing music around that to create a whole experience.

What do style and fashion mean to you as a designer? HT: Anyone who feels really confident in what they’re wearing. Style can be anything.

Where can you be found on a day off? HT: I like taking my dog to McCarren Park, going to Marlow & Sons for brunch and visiting a museum for the day.