David Hayes is in a morning bluster: coifed, tanned, immaculately clad in chalk-stripe suit.
"I want to be more exciting," he says over orange juice. "I want my customer to take a dare."
This Los Angeles designer to society and celebrities built a career on the agreeable, day-to-evening suit. But now Hayes longs for more.
"Those sweet little things, they're finished," he says of his uncontroversial designs. If a woman prefers the old David Hayes, "she'll have to buy an Adolfo," he says.
Designer Expresses Himself
Such fighting words, and so early. Before coffee. But the breakfast show of his work that followed at Bullocks Wilshire fell short of revolution. His vibrantly colored suits and dresses were nothing that wouldn't fly at Junior League--or "the race track," one customer says. But for Hayes, this collection was the first in which he fully expressed himself.
"I wrestled with this a long time, because some of the things I adore don't sell," he says. "High-style things. But I'm trusting my judgment more and more."
Hayes presented touches like peaked lapels, full skirts, wide waistbands and flared, circular jackets belted at the waist. He showed several outfits at mid-calf rather than the usual bottom-of-the-knee length. He used wool crepe, flannel and silk in petit point, plaid and abstract patterns. For evening, he combined sheer, billowy blouses with taffeta or lame skirts and jackets. The designs run $600 to $1,300.
Hayes says he noticed his customer changing last season: A younger woman was coming in, and even the Old Guard was developing a "younger attitude," he says. Both groups "want to be well-groomed, not trashy, but they want to have a little more zip."
A native of St. Louis, Hayes started his own business in 1978 after an early career designing for a coat-and-suit firm. A fan of Geoffrey Beene and Bill Blass--the only American designers he finds of interest--Hayes concentrated for years on the ladylike suit in myriad variations, but always tame, by his new standards.
"It was time for a change in my career," he says.
Among the clients from whom he awaits a verdict is Nancy Reagan.
"She hasn't seen it (the collection) yet," he says. "But I think she'd like a little update."