Never heard of Brooklyn-based accessories label Hayden-Harnett? That’s about to change, thanks to the new, limited edition handbag collection the HH designers, Toni Hacker and Ben Harnett, just did for Target.
Reinterpreting the duo’s signature bag shapes – the Flight Tote, the Double-Flap Bag - in new fabrications for the masstige market (with a patterned bumbershoot thrown in for good measure), the Hayden-Harnett for Target collection is sure to bring Hacker and Harnett a little mass(tige) recognition of their own.
Not that they’ve been toiling in anonymity, mind you. Since launching their line of modern classics on April Fool’s Day, 2005, Hayden-Harnett has been featured in the pages of every major fashion mag around and is now carried in retailers from New York (Barneys) to Tokyo (Tomorrowland). They even added a capsule clothing collection to the range not long ago, to great success.
The biggest difference between designing the Target collection and their own line? Ummm, not very much, as it turns out.
“The thought, print development and design approach for the Target collection was exactly the same as for our own collection - style, quality, function and uniqueness,” said Hacker, who hails from Kentucky (her partner in crime hails from Upstate New York). “The only real difference is that we didn't do the Target collection production ourselves.”
The Fashion Informer nabbed some time with the creative couple a few weeks before Christmas to get the low-down on their unusual hobbies (prank calls, anyone?), unusually named felines, and fondest holiday memories.
So, Toni and Ben…
Why handbags and accessories?
Toni: I love leather and I love bags.
Ben: They're useful and they have a lot of different interesting aspects to their design.
Tell me about your favorite spot in Brooklyn.
Toni: I love the piers in Long Island City across from the UN building. I love it because there's water, there's a gigantic Pepsi sign, I love the UN, I love seeing the city from a distance and the piers look super-cool and industrial.
Ben: I love Grand Army Plaza, and the Brooklyn Museum and Botanical Garden. I used to live around there. There's something great about Prospect Park and the farmer's market, and the whole neighborhood has a great feel there, very European almost.
What time do you usually get up the morning and what's your typical routine, from getting out of bed to the time you get to your desk?
Toni: Pywhackit wakes me up, so it's really her call.
Ben: I get up around 7, and work at home for a couple of hours before getting into the office to work more. I get a lot done in the quiet of the morning with NPR in the background.
What's your favorite holiday?
Toni: Do I have to be honest? If I need to be honest, I will say none of the above. Can't we make up some new holidays? Like, #2 pencil day day! I might get super excited about that one.
Ben: I actually love the Fourth of July. It's pretty corny, but there's something about it.
When not designing accessories, studying painting and writing encyclopedias, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Toni: Photography and ebay.
Ben: I'm working on several paintings, and I have a huge stack of half-filled-in crossword puzzles that I refuse to look up the answers for.
Other than designing accessories, studying painting and writing encyclopedias, do you have any hidden or unusual talents?
Toni: I'm very good at imitating voices and make great prank calls.
Ben: There are a number of talents I don't have that I wish I did – like juggling, or singing, or tightrope walking. I can play the piano reasonably well, and spent a long time learning to read and write ancient Greek. I don't know if that's a talent.
How does life in Brooklyn differ from life in Kentucky/Upstate New York?
Toni: I work a lot more and don't have to be home at 10.
Ben: You can't leave the door unlocked or the keys in the car!
You have two cats, Pywhackit and Daisy. Could you tell me how they got their names?
Toni: Pywhackit J. Cat, our 13-year-old Siamese, was named in honor of Kim Novak's familiar from the movie "Bell, Book, and Candle.” Nobody knows what the J stands for...she just added it one day. Daisy, our two-year-old Brooklyn black and white tomgirl stray, was named by our art director, Mimi Eayrs. Her full name is now Daisy Lola Taco-Tico Alice Munro.
Ben: Well, that's about it!
What's your favorite Christmas memory?
Toni: The time my drunken Uncle David tried to shimmy down a faux chimney in a Santa outfit and became stuck. I was nine. It was Christmas. There was wood paneling and yelling.
Ben: Can't beat that!
Global warming: fact or fiction?
Ben: I think that may have been a legitimate question to ask in 1990. Not now.
What music do you listen to while working?
Toni: I tend to design collections around a particular album or group of artists, so this varies. The fall ‘09 vibe is old-school Siouxsie and the Banshees, Grizzly Bear, Delta 5, Department of Eagles, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, and The Rolling Stones.
Ben: I'm pretty heavily loaded with Bob Dylan from his Christian rock phase. Odd, I know, but it helps me get work done.
What did you do last weekend and what are your plans for this weekend?
Toni: Last Saturday, packing shipments for customers at our warehouse. Sunday, brunch review/date with Ben for Page 6 at Clover Club. This Saturday, recovering from the HH holiday party. Sunday, 12/14, was my birthday, which I proudly share with Nostradamus and Patty Duke.
Ben: Yep, that's what we did! I cooked lasagna, and wrapped up Toni's presents.
What exotic locale would you most like to visit?
Toni: St. Petersburg, Russia because of the fantastic history, architecture and vodka.
Ben: I've always wanted to see the pyramids.
What never fails to make you cry?
Toni: Every time I see "The Color Purple,” it's a complete engineered breakdown.
Ben: I've gotten a lot more emotional these days, and I am not sure why. I tear up at both the sublime and the most mundane things when I am reading or watching a movie.
When are you happiest?
Toni: Playing Scrabble with Ben.
Ben: I sense a game of Scrabble in my future!
Photos courtesy Hayden-Harnett for Target