Batsheva Hay has found success in the fashion industry by simply doing what she loves. In 2016, she launched the dress brand Batsheva, which has experienced accelerated growth since the start of the pandemic.
“I had no intention of getting into fashion at all,” Hay said on the latest episode of the Glossy Podcast. “I was actually a lawyer…and I quit my job. And then I looked forward to dressing the way I wanted again, which included wearing lots of vintage clothes. I kept coming back to that secondhand Laura Ashley dress I wore in tatters… I found a pattern maker to redo it, but by then I had changed [the concept] so much so that it became a whole other creation of Frankenstein. And that was the start, in my head, of wanting to do more. And so, Batsheva was born.
Luckily for Hay, his original concept proved popular during the pandemic. “First, [everyone] was about wearing sweatpants, sweatpants, sweatpants,” she said. “But then I started this idea of the house dress, or a print dress that’s really comfortable for the house. And that became a big part of my business.
Batsheva hit a lot of radar when Ella Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ daughter-in-law, wore the brand to the 2021 grand opening. According to Hay, the resulting brand awareness has done wonders to boost sales: “I didn’t know it would be so huge. I got a big boost in sales that I wasn’t really prepared for.
Since then, Batsheva has collaborated with brands such as Anna Sui and expanded into new categories including furniture. Next, despite never receiving outside investment, Hay plans to raise funds as she strives to become this generation’s Laura Ashley. “That’s what I hope,” she said of the goal. “It’s on my vision board.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
On the choice of slow and organic growth
“Now I’m getting to the point where there’s more things I can really invest in, but I’ve never really thought about it [fundraising]. I think I’m just a very conservative, risk-averse girl, and so I never wanted to get in over my head. When I started, I worked from my apartment. I took over, like, half of my daughter’s room and I had a couple of shelves there and I was meeting buyers there, which is so embarrassing to say now. But I was really packing and shipping out of my building. And then when I had enough bulk orders, I was able to move into an office and I was able to hire someone. It just grew like that, very organically.
On customer acquisition
“I’m starting to do online marketing, which no one likes to talk about. But I’m like, “Hey, I should do this” – because ads are a thing. So [I’m doing] that a bit. And then with Instagram, I can post, like, an inspirational photo of Drew Barrymore when she was 5, and people [will see that and] buy my stuff, for some reason – even if I wasn’t selling anything. So I think it’s fair [about] be ahead of people and then let them look around and see if anything interests them. But a lot of that is just showing up, showing up with something new, and doing it consistently.
On the importance of fashion week
“You kind of have to follow the [traditional] cadence [of seasonal collections] in order to work with retailers — — although now, with Zoom appointments, it’s not as urgent. But usually buyers say, “We’re here on such and such a date, because it’s fashion week. Do you have something to show us? And that’s when you need to have two racks of stuff to show them, because that’s when they have the budget to write their orders. So that’s one of the constraints. And it’s still true that these stores get a budget for specific windows and you want to have something to show off. [Fashion week] also allows you to provide all your fancy moment, be it [through] a photo shoot, a lookbook or a fashion show, which I did. It’s an opportunity where a lot of eyes are on what’s happening in fashion, and people are scrolling [the collections]and it’s good to have a slot [on the calendar]. But other than that, when it comes to direct-to-consumer commerce and just the branding stuff, in general, you constantly want new things to happen… from press to Instagram to events. I don’t think a brand starting now would limit itself to these four calendar moments. [of fashion weeks].”