He is fascinating designs have been seen on the runways of Chanel and Alexander McQueen, at stage presentations of super divas like Madonna and Beyoncé. We had a chance to meet Erik Halley in Paris for a quick interview!
What are your best collaborations in the fashion industry?
Two collaborations stand out in particular; at the tender age of twenty three, one of my very first collaborations being with Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, as well as for Karl’s own brand. He was wonderful to work with, and was totally trusting in me, which I found both daunting and inspiring.
Soon after I was collaborating with the amazingly talented Alexander McQueen. With him, the sky was the limit. I could express my creativity however I wanted, it was so refreshing and exciting.
Other memorable collaborations include Thierry Mugler, Yohji Yamamoto for whom I had created some of my most extraordinary feathered pieces.
However right now I’m working with Boucheron creating feather boards as paintings for their windows around the world.
Your works are between fashion, Design and Art. It’s pretty hard to classify you in fashion. How do you explain that?
I agree, I am somewhat of a U.F.O. (Unidentified Fashion Object), although I see it as a strength rather than as a disadvantage.
I started with fashion as my focus, but I sound found myself following my creative desires and the directions they pushed me in.
Accessories is a source of constant experimentation, an evolving concept like an artistic expression with no end, I’m always trying to push the boundaries of the accessories as we know it. I want to express something beyond ornament. And so these kinds of objects can easily blur the lines between different fields, and the clients I work with know the power of this.
You were a DJ to the famous Club Sandwich party in Paris and you have a very particular relationship to music. What were you best collaborations in the world of Pop Music?
The most iconic possibly would be Beyoncé’s Swarovski Crystal Body by Thierry Mugler. She was wearing this at the opening of the I AM TOUR. She also wore a set of my very long ‘Endless’ earrings in last summer’s H&M advertising campaign.
The other musical highlights, would be the ‘Gargoyle’ masks for Madonna’s MDNA TOUR, and Kylie Minogue wore my ‘White Bunny’ mask in her last video, ‘Kiss Me Once’.
Of course music has a huge impact on my work, and these three women impress me as much as they inspire me.
Every single piece I make for them, has to achieve as much craziness as it does perfection.
Who can wear Erik Halley’s accessories?
Primarily it’s for the players, the chic outsiders. People with strong personalities. People who love fashion, and love to break its codes.
Why did you choose masks as your main creation field?
I love masks, they create distance, and a kind of protection. They can exaggerate, strengthen and illuminate the personality behind the mask. My masks are not made to hide you though, they’re made to express your character in the strongest terms.
The people who are wearing these masks are playing a role. When you wear an animal mask, there’s a story. A special relationship between you and the animal you choose to be, to mix with. They change the social status, the behavior, break the limits and create another entity.
Where did you get that passion for animals?
I was always fascinated by animals. As a child, I played in making parallels between the character of adults and animal behaviours. We as humans are close to animals, our relationship with them is basic, and similar.
Sounds like you are as much a Shaman as a Designer?
(Laughs) Well let’s just say I have a very privileged relationship with mother nature.
How did you express it in your last creations?
For Madonna’s MDNA world Tour, I mixed real and imaginary animals and the kind of gargoyles that you may find on the facades of ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ and transformed them in a futuristic and aerodynamic stealth way.
My recent ‘Bird’ masks were based on their wings’ movement, which eludes to a symbol of freedom. I think people really feel that freedom when they wear the masks, and it feels like a kind of achievement when that kind of symbiosis occurs.
It’s curious when clients order a piece, they often already know what animal represents them, what limits they want to break or what new being they want me to create. Some of them want to be sweeter, others more wild and dangerous.
What is your fetish animal?
Well I actually have three for their very different reasons.The lobster because of its a surrealist connotations. The absurd symbol and curiosity of its strange and perfectly shaped body.
The rhino, for its thick skinned and unbreakable aesthetic, and paradoxically, with its fragility as a species.
And lastly, the giraffe for its elegance, it’s nonchalance and its distance from the ground, simply watching the world from above.
‘REFINE’ as key word. Getting closer to the essence with less. I want to explore new technologies also, in general, to go further and give birth to the improbable.
If you had to leave everything, where would you go?
South Africa. It’s a kind of new born mix of so many cultures. The country is alive and things are moving really fast, but not forgetting of course South Africa’s luxurious natural landscape, and all of its animals.
Who would you dream to have dinner with?
Well, I think I would dine with the less common of choices. Meryl Streep, Beth Ditto and Cate Blanchett come to mind, together with close friends of mine.
Who would you like to collaborate with your creations?
Christine and the Queens. I find her poetic. She has her own universe full of craziness and authenticity.
Also FKA Twigs; she’s got that weird thing going on that I simply love.