Zana Bayne, the self-taught leather harness designer, moulds leather to her will. Her harnesses and accessories have adorned the likes of Katy Perry, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Ciara and more. Her recently launched F/W 12 collection exhibits a new level of intricacies in leather work with the introduction of graphic, shaped imagery like skulls and vertebrae. Having just collaborated with NYC’s Todd Pendu on a bracelet of the company’s logo, PENDU X ZANA BAYNE, the young designer looks forward to upcoming possibilities.
So, why leather?
I’ve always been attracted to leather as a sensuous and evocative material, but it wasn’t until I threw together a haphazard harness for myself – back in April 2009 when I lived in San Francisco – that I understood its power and potential. The discovery of my brand has a lot to do with my blog, Garbage Dress, which is now four years old. I’ve always posted images of various projects and garments I’ve worked on, and my first harness was no different. I received such a strong and positive response that I began selling a few right then. After a summer in Berlin, I moved to New York and was very, very broke so I decided to start making harnesses again as a way to make ends meet. One design turned into two, then five, ten…it was a completely natural evolution into the business that it is now. I’m still entirely self-taught with my technique and constantly learning more about my craft.
Describe your new F/W 12 collection.
It started out with two strong pieces: a Dia De Los Muertos inspired skull backpiece, and a full-body skeleton harness. I guess you could say that the main inspirations were bones and anatomy, both literal (die-cut vertebrae pieces) as well as more abstract (belts that reference the interior structure of the body while creating graphic silhouettes). For this season, I introduced several die-cut belts which deal more with curvature and contouring than straps and straight lines.
Do you work with color at all?
For each season, I like to introduce one special color to supplement the base shades of black, white, and tan. For example, my Fall/Winter ‘11 collection was about feeling bold and proud, so I used red and black patent leather. For Spring/Summer ‘12 I chose this beautiful electric lemon yellow which completely changes the initial perception of a harness – it softens the hardcore bondage element and showcases the harness as what it is in its essence: an accessory. I like to promote the casual wear of what I make, and show that my pieces can be easily worn outside of the bedroom (or dungeon).
Do you combine art with fashion?
I come from a fine arts background, with a BFA in New Genres from the San Francisco Art Institute, but up until this point I’ve kept the idea of ‘art’ separate from my business and design. For my Fall/Winter 2012 presentation on June 20th, I was able to merge the two through a non-traditional show at the CATM Gallery in Chelsea. The collection was presented through collaborative works of photography by Adrian Wilson, performative bondage prints by Maxime Buchi, photography and video by Char Alfonzo, and two wall installations of my own. It was a nice change to be able to focus strictly on the aesthetics of a piece instead of the worrying about closures and sizing!
Do you collaborate with Char Alfonzo on videos often?
My first collaboration with Char Alfonzo was for my Spring/Summer ’11 lookbook and video and we’ve been working with each other ever since. I consider him an integral member of my brand’s development, as well as someone whose opinion and advice I value highly. We are able to both respect each others’ ideas and push one another to greater places of creativity. The FW12 video ‘Danse Macabre’ was entirely Char’s vision; you can truly see his meticulous eye for precision and detail.
And you just collaborated with Todd Pendu!
When Todd and I first met last year, he mentioned his desire to see the PENDV symbol translated into a harness, similar to what I had done for my classic ‘Pentagram Harness’. Naturally, the shape and lines of his design make complete sense with my aesthetic, but more importantly we share similar views on the convergence of artistic genres, positivity, finding the light within darkness, and the necessity for bass music! We re-approached the idea of combining my leather with his logo in May, and for the first time I tried placing the PENDV symbol horizontally over the wrist (instead of its traditional vertical orientation). The resulting piece is non-gendered and singular sized, so that anyone can incorporate it seamlessly into their personal style. The PENDV symbol is rooted in alchemy and magick, so we like to believe that the bracelet is an amulet that empowers the wearer.
So you’ve lived in Seattle, San Francisco, Berlin, and New York. Which city do you find the most influential?
I was born in Seattle and lived there until I was 13, so that’s where I attribute my affinity for cooler climates, but I spent years 13-20 in San Francisco where I really came into my own. I started college when I was 16, so I had a good four years of playing in the nightlife of SF, running around with drag queens, sneaking into bars (sorry mom!), sorting through the most ridiculous vintage clothing, and eventually becoming exposed to the world of avante-garde fashion through working at the shop Harputs (where I actually made my first harness). From there I spent a few months in Berlin, which became the most idyllic transition into the following chapter of my life in New York. Now that I’ve been here for three years, I can honestly say that I can’t imagine living elsewhere. I’m completely addicted to the pace and energy of this city, and love the fact that it is impossible to be lazy here. There are so many people working like mad to make their mark, which creates an incredibly exhilarating and inspiring atmosphere, even through the most challenging of times.
Any advice for people stuck at their day job?
I’m a huge believer in the power of risk-taking. Stop spending your time thinking and talking about what you want to do, and start making it become a reality! First drafts of anything can be incredibly daunting, but that initial attempt is an important moment that marks the beginning of a new possibility. Ultimately, the second, third, and eventual multiple revisions will be exponentially better than the first, but you can’t get to that point unless you take that first step.