Designer Mary Alice Haney Explains Why L.A. Is Her Biggest Muse
The stylist-turned-designer, whose creations have recently been seen on Taylor Swift and Reese Witherspoon, says of being based in Tinseltown: "The city is having a real fashion moment."
After studying at Parsons School of Design, Mary Alice Haney went on to become the West Coast fashion editor at Allure, GQ and Marie Claire. While working as a celebrity stylist (she's worked with Eva Mendes, Jennifer Lawrence and Reese Witherspoon), Haney noticed the need for "sexy, yet comfortable" ready-to-wear styles for women.
"As a stylist, I learned so much about construction, fit and style," explains Haney who launched her namesake line HANEY in 2013. Since then, Witherspoon, Taylor Swift and Kate Hudson have all stepped out wearing the Los Angeles-based brand's frocks.
Pret-a-Reporter caught up with the Tennessee native to chat about her favorite looks from her current collection, Instagram inspiration and her favorite spots to shop and eat in Tinseltown.
Major celebrities are donning your dresses. Are there any moments that stand out to you the most?
I loved seeing Reese Witherspoon close Saturday Night Live in HANEY. Taylor Swift at the GLAAD Awards wearing the navy blue Gia dress with her amazing legs was another. When I design I have an image in mind for each piece. When a celebrity wears one of my designs, they bring their own interpretation and style, and it’s always fun to see how they make it their own.
How would you describe Swift's GLAAD Awards look?
Effortlessly sexy. That was the perfect HANEY moment showing a dress that is both sexy and wearable. The Gia dress fit her like a glove (no alterations were needed) and she was fully covered other than her long, incredible legs. The fact that Taylor Swift can wear the Gia dress and Chrissy Teigen can wear the same style so far along in her pregnancy is a testament to how hard I work on fit when designing.
What was it like to work with the pop star's stylist Joseph Cassell?
Joseph is one of the smartest and greatest stylists in the business. I am a huge fan of his work and it is hard work no doubt. He has pulled for Taylor from us in the past and always makes the best selections. He has such an incredible point of view in fashion and Taylor always looks flawless. You tend to work with stylists in different ways depending on who they are. With Joseph, he pulls what he loves and I know that the end result will be incredible.
The current collection is inspired by Mia Farrow. Do you have an ultimate Hollywood icon or inspiration?
My inspirations constantly change. Sometimes I look to the past and sometimes to the present. Fall/winter was inspired by Mia Farrow and I cast an incredible model who had this "modern Mia" look. All of my collections merge my love of film and fashion. I have an MFA from the American Film Institute, and I look at each collection as its own L.A. love story.
Why is it important to you that your brand is based and produced in California?
HANEY is made entirely in L.A. We design each collection and shoot everything here. I spent 20 years as an editor and celebrity stylist in Los Angeles and the city is truly my biggest muse. There is an immense amount of talent in L.A. and I love the fact that I am giving jobs to some of those creative individuals. The city is having a real fashion moment and I am proud to be a part of it. To create a luxury brand made entirely in L.A. was not easy, but it is worth it.
Describe the type of woman who wears HANEY in just a few words.
Confident, glamorous, effortlessly sexy.
What are your favorite items from your current collection?
The Gia dress is one of my favorites! It has all of the elements of casual glamour, but it is incredibly sexy. I started designing separates for fall because I wanted to dress the HANEY woman for the day. I like to say we are making clothes that take you from night to day! The Alice pant combined with the Beatriz top are two of my favorites and both feel very in-line with the brand. I envision Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid wearing those pieces.
HANEY GIRL: The Alice pant and Beatriz top. (Photo: Courtesy of Haney)
Who do you love to follow on Instagram?
I love following my friend Chriselle Lim. Her Instagram is gorgeous and she captures L.A. in a whole new light. She travels all over the world and her images are beautiful. My 16-year-old daughter is always critiquing my Instagram. She tells me I am doing it all wrong and that I need to be more focused. It is hilarious that her generation is advising me and know so much more about that world via social media. I am also inspired by Vogue Paris, Kendall Conrad and florist Jeff Latham; he is a visionary with flowers.
Where do you like to shop?
I shop at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Scoop when I physically feel like shopping. Online, I always shop on Net-a-Porter and Moda Operandi. Both retailers curate their collections so well. I find myself more and more shopping online because it saves time and it is at your doorstep within 24 hours in most cases.
What is your favorite restaurant in Los Angeles?
My favorite place to eat is Nobu Malibu. I think it is the most gorgeous setting in the world and the food is always the best quality. The HANEY atelier is downtown and I am loving exploring the incredible places down there. Bar Ama has the best margaritas in the city!
What was the best career advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
My father always said success is a combination of opportunity and hard work. You can’t have one without the other. I have never been afraid to go after what I wanted and then worked hard to get it. I also believe women can have both a healthy career and happy family at the same time. I have five children and an amazing husband and the balance is not always easy, but trust me, it is worth it.
WHITE-HOT: Reese Witherspoon in the brand's Karolina dress at the Hollywood Film Awards in November. (Photo: Getty Images)