Rules To Live By Fashion

Batsheva Hay, Who Tapped Models Over 40 for Her NYFW Show, on Navigating the Pressure to Make Wearable Clothes

Batsheva Autumn/Winter 2024 Collection. All runway photography by Don Ashby.

Many a moment was headline material at Batsheva’s Autumn/Winter 2024 presentation last night. Before the NYFW beau monde had even ordered their first lattes of the day, the New York Times had shared the news that the show’s models would all be over the age of 40—a decision that still perks ears in 2024. At the Starrett-Lehigh building in Chelsea, a hood and muff-bearing Molly Ringwald opened the ball, making her runway debut. Eight looks later, designer Victoria Bartlett—who notably helped style Parker Posey in Party Girl and founded the brand Visible Panty Line—sported a sweater stamped with the word “hag,” an item that’s begging to go viral. Ever the queen of collabs (see her five collections with Laura Ashley and a partnership with Toms last season), Batsheva Hay introduced a suite of platform Keds any sensible dresser could swear by. 

Amid these predetermined peaks, quieter moments amplified the show’s pathos. Legendary photographer Ming Smith ambled down the runway, winking at the cameras that followed her and breaking smile after smile. Eternal fashion muse Amy Fine Collins wore a louche maid-core number that gave attendees fodder for V-day roleplay. And a spry model—the designer's friend's 75-year-old neighbor—fluttered her way across the concrete floor, performing a swan song that stirred even a fashion-week weary audience.

The clothes spoke to this season’s “ladies who lunch” phenomenon—channeling great dames like Deeda Blair, Gloria Swanson, and Mrs. Robinson—but the subtext was joy. Not of the Hallmark or pharmaceutical commercial ilk, but the elation that comes with resilience and knowing you've outlasted stale expiration dates and small expectations. Below, Batsheva Hay, the designer who orchestrated this ode to ripe pleasures, lets CULTURED in on her own sartorial DNA and the philosophy behind the Autumn/Winter collection.

Batsheva Hay. Image courtesy of Hay.

Who taught you how to dress?

My mother and my grandmother. My mother never really spent much time or money on her own wardrobe, but she was a big dreamer and an artist. We went to many museums and she introduced me to magazines, books, textiles, antiques, and vintage things. I saw her fascination with fantasy and even theater. There were just a lot of period movies and the like. I used her eyes to help me see what’s out there.

Do you remember any specific period movies or shows that you saw with your mom that touched you at that age?

I really loved Wuthering Heights, the old one with Laurence Olivier. I was obsessed with that film. I also read a lot of Shakespeare and watched Romeo and Juliet by [Franco] Zeffirelli, [starring] Olivia Hussey. Then my mother introduced me to Cindy Sherman's art when she had that show at MoMA—it must have been in the '90s—and her performative dressing. We'd also go to Barnes and Noble and look at W and that kind of thing because [my mother] also really loved [John] Galliano's work and [Alexander] McQueen.

Batsheva Autumn/Winter 2024 Collection.

Do you remember any early brands that you were really fascinated by?

Vivienne Westwood I always really loved. Then I also liked taking the bus into Manhattan and going to that Betsy Johnson store near Bloomingdale to try things on. 

You were a bit of a vintage fiend as a teen. How did you start constituting your own personal style?

I spent a lot of time with my mom's wardrobe. I'd put on all these peasant dresses and printed embroidered things she bought in Mexico. As I became a teenager, I did my own vintage shopping in downtown Manhattan. There were all these other places downtown that would have a lot of stuff from the ‘70s. I was always adventurous, attracted to color, and loved dresses. I spent a lot of time experimenting with different shapes, like polyester, bell bottoms in funny colors—just about everything. I was always looking for anything that really was loud and fun.

Is there a piece from those years you wish you had today?

Everything. That's the problem. I'm such a hoarder. I regret everything I've ever given away. I rediscover things a lot. There are some pieces that are still in the house I grew up in in Queens, and if I go back there, I'll find them again and be like, “Oh, I love this random knit jacket.”

Batsheva Autumn/Winter 2024 Collection.

How long does it take for you to get dressed?

It doesn't take me very long. If I’m going into the studio, I’ll put on a hockey jersey and some weird fur shoes. I don't take it too seriously. And to go out, well, I just go to my sample closet and try something on.

Batsheva famously took off after you remade these vintage Laura Ashley dresses eight years ago. When do you feel like the brand found its audience?

I was so excited when I started designing the dresses. I was making them in fabrics that I found on eBay or in a local flea market. I had no expectations. It just took off with my friends, some of whom were in fashion. Then I got a store in Japan. It happened really organically and slowly by brand standards, but it felt quick for me because it was out of nowhere. Some women just immediately got it and were like, “Yeah, this is what I need in my life.” But I also got a lot of rejection; a lot of people were like, “This is so not wearable. It's too costume-y.”

Batsheva Autumn/Winter 2024 Collection.

And how do you think that has evolved?

It hasn't. I do think I started to pay more attention to things I could make that were easier to wear, or sometimes I've toned down the percentage of my clothes that are super printed. A black dress is always more versatile and easier to sell. I've learned to work with the shapes that work, and I've tried “easier” fabrics, too. But I've had one or two experiences where I'm like, My collection is trying to be commercial. It doesn't work if it's not still niche and signature me. So although I am learning to make things that are easier [to wear], I'm also doubling down on making them very weird and specific.

Whose closet you would pull a Bling Ring for?

Cindy Sherman, Pat Cleveland, or Deeda Blair. That would be pretty fun. 

What is the most overrated item of clothing, in your opinion?

There's too much emphasis on bags. I'm over it. Like, put your stuff in a pocket and call it a day.


Gloves and hats. But I guess everyone's hip to that this year. I also love skirts. I've heard from retailers that skirts don't sell very well, but I think they're just really fun.

Photography by Don Ashby.

Do you think you could fall in love with someone whose style does not align with yours, either as a friend or romantically? 

Definitely. It's really about having a point of view. Oftentimes, the most stylish people are the ones who don't care about style at all. I actually am less interested in anyone who's too focused on style and takes too much pride in it. The real style usually comes when someone is a real artist or really focused on their music or their thing. I appreciate it when someone does something totally off. 

What did you surround yourself with in the making of the A/W 2024 collection?

I go to the flea market religiously. I always love finding things, and I also look on Etsy and eBay constantly. Most of my inspiration comes from seeing old things. My husband, who's a photographer, has a ton of photo books in his library, and I'll just open those up and discover things that way. I have a Geoffrey Beene book that I love.

What attitude do you bring to fashion week?

I think just to make it all an adventure, I don't tend to get too stressed. I get more excited. I was a lawyer, so it's not the same as losing a big case for someone. To me, it's all fun.

What do you think people would be surprised to learn about your fashion sense?

I wear leggings a lot. I love a hoodie. I also don’t wear heels anymore. I wear Belgian shoes and sneakers. 

Batsheva Hay.

Batsheva Hay’s Rules to Live By

  1. Always listen at least as much as you talk.

  2. Never take the way you look or dress too seriously. Dressing, hair, and makeup are meant to be fun and anyone who makes you feel otherwise is not worth hanging around.

  3. Always try it on if you're curious or attracted to it. I have fallen in love with so many dresses only after putting them on my body.

  4. Never forget the clothing lurking in the back of your closet. That old t-shirt from high school might be ripe for rediscovery, and it feels so good to shop your own closet.

  5. Always share a dessert. You know you want a bite.