Hayley Elsaesser's namesake flagship on Queen Street is essentially a portal to her wild and colourful imagination. The Canadian-born fashion designer takes classic menswear and womenswear silhouettes, tailors them to a T and makes them unmistakably hers by decking them in custom-made, hyper-eccentric prints.
Although the brand is barely three years old, Hayley managed to develop a cult following in Australia almost immediately after her runway debut in 2013. Presenting her subsequent collections during World MasterCard Fashion Week was the obvious next move.
Given Toronto fashion's typically safe and monotonous offerings, she wowed showgoers with her imaginative designs and diverse choice of models. A range of shapes, sizes, ethnicities and gender identities stormed down the runway the last couple of seasons, quickly making Hayley Elsaesser's shows some of the most anticipated for forthcoming fashion weeks.
As you can imagine, walking into her first permanent brick-and-mortar induces sensory overload. One chunk of the room is draped in bright yellow, beetle-printed wallpaper. Other areas are more subdued, featuring pastel-hued gradients.
Photos from the label's lookbooks decorate the walls, a pink leather sofa with 8-ball throw pillows is stationed near the fitting rooms, and life-sized stuffed animals sit next to sporting knit dog sweaters ($75 to $85).
Menswear and womenswear are mixed together and hung on bright blue clothing racks made from painted plumping pipes, organized by vibe and colour story.
A pair of red and green cobra-covered overalls ($340), a yellow hoodie decorated with 8-balls wearing cowboy hats ($225), a blown up leopard print twill jacket ($250) and its matching trousers ($240) first caught my attention.
But admittedly, every item is as intriguing as the next and it wasn't long before I oohed and aahed at the next unusual thing.
If you're not the type to wear head-to-toe visual chaos, Hayley Elsaesser offers accessories that pack just as much punch.
Seriously oversized 10" iron-on patches ($21 to $27), socks ($16), enamel pins ($11 to $15) and other outfit accents are always up for grabs.
After spending a good amount of time exploring the many outlandish designs and chatting with the staff, stepping out of the boutique and into the grey streets was surprisingly jarring.
That said, Hayley Elsaesser deserves an applause for aiming to inject fun back into Toronto fashion.
Photos by Hector Vasquez.