Caroline Hayden is on the precipice of what looks to be a very big year for her. The 34-year-old designer, who lives in the small Iron Range town of Crookston, Minnesota, recently debuted what she considers to be her first proper collection: a line of 14 looks and 22 individual pieces spanning bridal and ready-to-wear markets that will launch this fall.
Known for her extremely polished, well-made garments, Hayden has an attention to detail and textiles that demonstrate a quiet confidence. Born in Perham, Minnesota, the designer studied apparel design at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, where she was awarded Best in Show and Designer’s Choice awards for her senior collection. She made her local debut in 2011 at the semi-annual Envision fashion show, and since then has become a consistent fixture of the local fashion scene, both on the runway and in local publications, including this publication and Minnesota Bride magazine.
Her fall lookbook reveals some of her signatures—high necks, boldly elegant silhouettes, pleating, cuffed sleeves, and wide-legged pants, rendered in cotton-velvet, raw silk, and embroidered tulle. The collection includes glamorous tented ball gowns, glittery sheaths, and even her take on the YSL Le Smoking tux, made from cotton-velvet with duchess lapels and cummerbund stitching detail. The samples are being manufactured in California, and everything is made in America, she tells me.
“It’s a culmination of everything I love as an introduction of the brand to both markets,” she says.
Blurring the line between bridal and ready-to-wear, every piece is available in white—even the tuxedo—and most pieces are offered in black and burgundy. The flexible nature of the collection nods to the current trend in bridal: emulating the ready-to-wear industry. In the bridal market, It generally takes 3 to 6 months for dresses ordered a bridal markets to hit stores, and since boutiques only carry samples, customers have to wait even longer for a dress in their size to arrive. Instead, Hayden is offering her collection in the ready-to-wear buying format, which allows for quicker turnaround. “It’s all coming to instant gratification,” she says. “I take a more fashion-focused approach to my bridal gowns, and that happens to align with what the market needs right now.”
Though she admits to being “cautiously optimistic” about the collection launch, it’s not hard to imagine that Hayden has bigger things in store. She’s currently shopping the collection around to “some larger luxury retailers,” and plans to launch the bridal line at New York International Bridal Week on April 15–17—which spotlights the biggest names in luxury bridal around the world. “It’s kind of an all-or-nothing approach,” she says.
Minnesota shoppers can get a first look at the collection at a trunk show running this Thursday, March 24 through Saturday, March 26 at Minneapolis bridal boutique the White Room. (10 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, Sexton Lofts, 521 S. 7th St. #624, Minneapolis, 612-361-7175, thewhiteroommpls.com)
all images by Michael Haug