What do Taylor Swift, "Pretty Little Liar" Shay Mitchell, Vanessa Hudgens and Sharon Stone all have in common? No, the Grammy-winner has not inducted new members into her #squad, but all three have recently been spotted in dresses by Los Angeles-based womenswear label Haney.
In her 20 years working as a fashion editor and celebrity stylist, Mary Alice Haney discovered an unfulfilled niche in the marketplace that hit close to home. "I wasn't finding the kind of things that I wanted to put on the actresses on the red carpet," she explains to Fashionista. "These really sexy clothes that were also completely comfortable and wearable. This idea that you can still be sexy and glamorous, but it's not confined and it's not over the top."
So in 2013, Haney launched her eponymous fashion label utilizing trade secrets gleaned from styling the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Eva Mendes and Reese Witherspoon. "It really taught me fit was important," Haney says. "I knew if I was going to do a cutout over the leg, I wanted to put it in the right place, so you didn't have your cellulite bulge happening there. Not that a lot of the actresses have that."
Strategically placed cutouts, pelvic-bone-high leg slits, body-hugging silhouettes and So Cal tan-exposing cleavage are all hallmarks of the Haney aesthetic, but don't expect any corsets or restricting elements in the design. "It has to be comfortable," the designer says. "She's gotta be able to throw her shoes off and be barefoot running down Rodeo Drive later. There's not a preciousness to it. There's a real ease of the glamour." Still, the price point is luxury, with most dresses costing around $2,000.
And the spirit of Los Angeles isn't just infused into the look of the Haney brand. The city also plays a huge part in the backbone of the business. While fabrics and elements might be sourced internationally — like silks from Italy and beading from France — the entire line is produced in Downtown Los Angeles. "It was important to me to be able to put these people that live in Los Angeles to work." Plus, keeping production local helps the designer communicate easily with her factories and maintain a high level of quality control.
In addition to proclaiming her love for LA, Haney also pays homage to the women in her life. All of her designs are named after family members or friends, of which she has many. "It wasn't necessarily, 'that [dress style] is Reese [Witherspoon].' It was more like, that is how I see Reese in Haney." Is it possible the über-social designer might run out of names for her designs? "No!" she laughs. "Because I have so many friends and I love meeting new people."
Haney's knack for building relationships also helped land her brand a roster of pretty impressive retailers including Net-a-Porter, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Moda Operandi. Net-a-Porter even threw a star-studded party for the brand's debut on the luxury retail site in 2014. "For me, it just seems to start with personal relationships and fans of the brand," she says. Considering Haney's previous career as celebrity stylist, having some of the biggest names in the business wear her dresses is just, well, "organic," as they say. "A lot of the stylists are friends and I've known them for a long time and a lot of the actresses that [wear] Haney, I've worked with them in the past," she explains. Joseph Cassell, a.k.a. Taylor Swift's stylist, is one of those friends. "He pulls from us all the time," Haney says.
After wearing Haney's lace-insert, leg-baring Gia dress to the GLAAD Media Awards in April (above), the recently made-over Swift wore two more Haney designs to a couple of high profile events in May. There was the sheer black lace jumpsuit for a pre-Met Gala party and prior to that, she wore a one-shoulder embossed paillette sequin dress to Gigi Hadid's never-ending birthday celebration dinner. And, in a very Hollywood moment, Haney happened to be dining in the same restaurant as Swift and Hadid that night. "I was like, 'oh my god, you're wearing the one shoulder,' and I went up and gave [Swift] a big hug and kiss and she was so sweet about it," the designer says.
"I came back to the table and everybody was kind of clapping," she adds. "And I just burst into tears, which I usually don't do unless it's about my babies."
Haney has a few reasons to cry happy tears. Her three-year-old line is profitable and she recently expanded her party-friendly offerings into more daytime-appropriate separates. She doesn't want to grow too quickly, but would like to add shoes and bags into the brand's offerings at some point. But never menswear.
"One hundred percent: no," she laughs. "I just don’t know how to dress men, but I definitely know how to dress women."