SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

At (very) first glance, Dolores Haze might seem like a sweet and innocent new clothing line from yet another New York designer. But look again and you’ll find that the driving force behind Dolores Haze has something else in mind entirely.

New York native Sam Giordano approaches the design for Dolores Haze, whose AW14 collection is the line’s second, with an informed opinion on sociology, sexuality and a woman’s role in society. Sam spoke to SUITCASE about her life in New York and the power of Lolita:

SUITCASE MAGAZINE: You have a degree in sociology. What led you into the fashion industry post-graduation?

SAM GIORDANO: Art is the football of my family; my father was a conceptual artist and photographer, my mom a jewellery designer and my brother is a filmmaker. I grew up learning how to paint and draw through courses at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a child and took art classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology over summers in high school.

 At the end of high school my love of art wound up landing me a design internship at Nicole Miller. Later that summer while on holiday in Los Angeles I saw t-shirts that were hand dyed and embellished – after that I knew I wanted to design. Interestingly, my background in sociology has been extremely applicable to design, in that I have become acutely aware of the relationship between group identity and style. In addition, I focused on philosophy and women’s studies, which have become fundamental components that drive me creatively; by reexamining the subversive meaning Lolita, and the dichotomy that exists in our understanding of the feminine.

 SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

SM: A reoccurring conceptual theme in your collections involves an influence from the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Is the name of your collection, Dolores Haze, a play on words as well as a big influence with your designs?

SG: Without question it’s a big influence in my designs. I find myself gravitating toward silhouettes or details that echo elements of girls’ clothing through baby doll dress, collars and pleats. What I like most about these shapes is how on a woman they can be styled in a way that is sexy but not necessarily tight or revealing. There is a coy and playful nature to these uniform, boxy silhouettes.


SM: Brands including Miu Miu and Christopher Kane have made similar references and mimicked similar silhouettes. What interests you so much about this subversive, confrontational subject?

SG: I see the whole notion of a fashion label named after the Lolita character to be a means of conceptually dismantling the female archetype. The story of Lolita is told through eyes of a man named Humbert Humbert. Unconsciously, women often dress or alter themselves with the aim of attracting the male gaze. I want the women who wear my clothes to feel confident and empowered for themselves by reclaiming the gaze. The subversive nature of this subject drives me creatively whether it’s through dark lipstick, a peach and blush colourway juxtaposed with maroon and navy or mixing fabrics like leather with silk.

Dolores Haze rebels against the Lolita colloquialism as it pokes fun at it. I am not interested in sexualised youth but rather the duality of adult femininity.

SM: Do you find yourself dressing in this style?

SG: I’d have to say yes; I like to think of it as sexy without being completely overt. As far as knee socks go they are just utilitarian. I’ve had an aversion to trousers in the past and wore knee socks to stay warm, but I’ve given in and designed some cute trousers that will debut in the Spring/Summer 2015 collection.

 SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

SM: Do you have a muse?

SG: Anna Karina – I am obsessed with her 1960s European prep-style and overall vibe. Karina is feminine with a sassy edge, and always has perfect cat eye makeup.


SM: The Autumn/Winter 2014 collection is the second from Dolores Haze. Can you describe it for us?

SG: Autumn ’14 uses traditional menswear textiles for draped dresses and separates with kittenish charm, and leather for shift dresses and oversized motos with silver hardware detail. The colour pallet and tartan wool textiles were inspired by the time I spent in my youth hunting with my father surrounded by traditional men’s hunting fabric. I wanted a bold print to offset dark plaids and after finding the Mother Mary print while travelling in London I knew it was the perfect addition. My Italian strict catholic grandmother worked in the fashion industry and the print is an homage to her.

 SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

SM: Do you design with anyone in particular in mind?

SG: I design for a badass girly girl; she’s femme but a little rough around the edges. I definitely strive for worldly city girls who are able to style pieces from the collections within an existing wardrobe.

SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York  

SM: You studied at Central Saint Martins in London but Dolores Haze is currently based in New York. How do you feel about the New York vs. London debate? How are you inspired by New York?

SG: It’s hard to say how New York has inspired me as I was born here and often find myself taking it for granted. One thing I have realised is that this is a city that people move to with a goal of “making it” in an array of industries. Being immersed in a city of people with an intense drive is inspiring.

As for London, I have always been inspired Young British Artists like Sara Lucas and Tracey Emin. London has such a palpable creative energy. There appears to be more support for budding creatives, which is something that is dissipating in New York.

Despite the fact that that New York is a diverse city, the international community in London is inspiring. On my last trip to London I sourced African fabric from Indian sellers in Shepherd’s Bush for the AW14 collection. My cousins took me to Upton where I purchased traditional Bengali wedding jewellery, flats from Pakistan along with bindis and textiles. In London you can easily travel to different ethnic enclaves while in New York it is not as accessible.

SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

SM: You have paid your dues in regards to internships, working for the likes of VICE and W Magazine. Do you think this is an important part of learning and developing your skills?

 SG: Yes! Working in the editorial side of the industry gives you a free education in styling and merchandising. The experience really helped pinpoint what area of the industry I wanted to work in. Most importantly, it’s how I met some of my best friends.


SM: Do you enjoy travelling? If so do the places you visit reflect in your work?

SG: Most definitely and I wish I was able to travel more. After visiting London I was so inspired by traditional wool and tartans. There are so many places I’d love to visit for inspiration, and at the top of my list are Peru and Tokyo. I’m going to Berlin this summer and cannot wait to explore the art and fashion scenes.


SM: What do you feel is missing in the fashion industry?

SM: There isn’t as much of a focus as there needs to be on the importance of social and environmental responsibility. Fair labour practices and  a focus on reducing carbon emissions is an integral component to Dolores Haze. Domestic production benefits both the environment, as well as the economy by providing jobs for New Yorkers.

 SUITCASE Magazine | Spotlight On: Dolores Haze, New York

SM: Your Spring/Summer 2014 collection was shown last year at New York Fashion Week. Was this defining moment in your career?

SG: I kept telling myself “you can’t be all talk and no game” and the SS14 presentation was the first moment where the concept became a reality.


SM: What’s next for Dolores Haze?

SG: Next is SS15 – get excited for heartbreaker styles and more leather. 

Intro by Robin Reetz, @reetzrobin

Interview by Kelly Robinson

Images provided by Dolores Haze, @dolores_haze_

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