Zana Bayne Interview
Sexy and Sculptural
Zana Bayne is the leather boss. Her intricate, handcrafted leather accessories are wearable works of art. Sexy and sculptural, they add an alluring edge to any outfit. Bayne started off making leather harnesses as something for herself to wear, but demand for her creations quickly spread, and so she set up a studio in order to devote herself to the craft. Since then, Bayne has collaborated with major designers including Prabal Gurung and Asher Levine, and has had her creations worn by Madonna and Gaga. To showcase her fall/winter 2012 collection Bayne worked with Maxime Büchi, Adrian Wilson and Char Alfonzo, presenting an installation as well as captivating and titillating video and film works.
Clementine Widdowson – de Pressigny: Congrats on your recent collaborative presentation, how did it go?
Zana Bayne: Right now I'm still reeling from the last week! The build-up to the show, then the opening, and the subsequent two days at the gallery have been so incredibly hectic that I'm just starting to realize what happened. I couldn't be happier with the collaboration, and I really feel like I was able to bring my collection to a new place through all of the different mediums. The opening occurred on the hottest day of the year in New York (94 degrees and humid) but the gallery remained full of leather enthusiasts the whole time!
CWDP: How did the collaboration come about?
ZB: I've always been into off-season presentations for my brand, as I see accessories as perennial products, which do not need to be reinvented every 3-6 months. I've been frustrated with traditional formats of presentation through models & mannequins, and wanted to show my work in a much more physical way that would engage the attendees in a way that digital images cannot. The idea to collaborate came from my desire to see what could come out of out having a harness as the solo starting reference. This way, the collaborative works would tell a story about the collection beyond my own initial ideas. I'm normally a complete control freak (Virgo) when it comes to how my work is presented, but I had total confidence in the three artists who I asked to work on the show with me. I've worked with Char Alfonzo extensively throughout my time as a designer; he developed my branding and has shot my past two lookbooks and videos. I've known Maxime Büchi for a little over two years now and have complete respect for his critical view and ability to manifest it in a massive arsenal of mediums. I met Adrian Wilson in February through Maxime, although I was already familiar with his photographic works. We ended up having an impromptu day of shooting which resulted in a voyeuristic & quietly provocative video which blew my mind. It was an exhilarating experience (to say the least) to not know what the final works would look like up until mere days before the show, but I knew that whatever Char, Maxime, and Adrian produced would be sensational.
CWDP: Talk me through your latest collection – what are the ideas behind it?
ZB: I always like to work as a progression from one collection to the next. As I already have several core styles that I sell year-round in different colors, I wanted to work more towards the fantastical and less about the basic. The two standout harnesses are a stylised Dia De Los Muertos inspired skull back-piece, and an anatomical full-body skeleton piece, so bones were an important visual reference. I began working with a technique of die-cutting leather, which has allowed me to play more with shapes and cut-outs, and to be able to make pieces like the chain-linked vertebrae. I also got really into making belts with strong waist definition, as well as peplums that float away from the body to create dramatic silhouettes.
CWDP:What do you think it is about leather that makes it so sexy?
ZB: Leather is skin, and in that sense there is always something physical and sensuous about it.
CWDP: Does your background in conceptual art inform your leather works?
ZB: I can only hope that it influences the way that I think about design. I find equal pleasure in strict minimalism and over-the-top opulence, but both have to have a purpose for me. I tend to stray away from extraneous decoration when it comes to hardware; each ring and rivet and strap serves some sort of structural purpose. I use this same critical approach with all visual aspects of my business, reducing aesthetic clutter to get to the core of what I'm trying to get across.
CWDP: Can you envision yourself moving into clothing design, or perhaps other accessories?
ZB: I don't like to set parameters on the future, but I haven't yet felt the need to branch off into ready-to-wear. One thing that I love about accessories is that they are easily transformed by the personal taste of the wearer - you can give the same piece to ten different individuals, and it can look completely different based on their own point-of-view.
CWDP: You seem to have started a major trend, how do you feel about the proliferation of harness pieces being made now?
ZB: I am certainly not the first person to make a harness, nor am I the last. My goal is to work beyond the realm of 'trend' and create pieces that can transition into timelessness. At its simplest a harness is not much different than a belt, and I love that they are beginning to be accepted and worn with same sort of ease.
CWDP: Is there only so far you can go with leather harness design, or is the sky the limit?
ZB: Leather is such an incredible medium that I'd be a fool to say that there's a limit.
CWDP: What are you currently looking forward to?
ZB: Drinking a margarita tonight. And any sort of temporary vacation!
Portrait by Cesar Segarra
Black and white photos by Adrian Wilson
Body prints by Maxime Buchi
Video stills from 'Danse Macabre' (http://vimeo.com/44371281) - Char Alfonzo
Clementine Widdowson – de Pressigny