Don’t know if you heard, but we’ve got a best-dressed host on our hands. Lainey Lui, along with Ben Mulroney, covered the Golden Globes red carpet for etalk earlier this month and while the gossip guru was the one conducting interviews, it was the celebs who were asking who she was wearing.
The answer to that question: it was Canadian Indigenous designer Lesley Hampton. Not only is Lesley an incredible talent, the 25-year-old works a message into every collection to make her designs about more than just sartorial choices. Her latest collection (from which Lainey’s dress was selected) was inspired by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women report and she’s created others focusing on mental health, the cultural pain inflicted from the “Indian Act” and ballet.
Lesley also puts extra effort into casting models who are of all ethnicities, body types and abilities. It was this work that Lainey wanted to highlight and highlight she did! The host ended up on countless best-dressed lists including Vogue, The Hollywood Reporter and ours of course.
To celebrate this Canadian talent and find out about the journey of the beloved gown, her process and how all Canadians can better support local designers, we sat down with Lesley to get the scoop.
You call fans of your work your “Wolfpack.” Where did that name come from?
It was a self-confidence thing from the quote: “Feed me to the wolves and I’ll return leading the pack.” So anyone who wears our work—if you know of us and you love us, then you’re part of the Wolfpack. I want everyone to feel that confidence of “If I’m thrown to this crazy world, then I’ll return leading it.”
How did your relationship with Lainey develop?
Five years ago, she did a lecture at the University of Toronto Mississauga while I was attending and I’ve been watching her on The Social and etalk ever since. I always really loved her energy, everything she had to say.
I worked with Melissa Grelo from The Social, so I had seen Lainey in person but we didn’t really cross paths. Then it was through my work with the “White Cashmere Collection” charity show for breast cancer awareness that I was the featured designer on The Social and I said, “Whenever you need a piece, let me know—you’re hearing what my vision is here.” And then [etalk stylist] Katie Tobin reached out a few months later saying, “We love this dress but the Globes is more of a gala event so is a gown version possible?”
Fashion designer Lesley Hampton speaks about Cashmere Collection fashion show
Then I had to figure out the materials to see if that was going to be possible but I was really excited to dress Lainey and have this synergy together.
I didn’t really think twice after I delivered the dress what that meant because I’ve worked with Canadian celebrities before and it never really became anything because I don’t think I ever had the same support. I think there was something specifically about me and her having this partnership that really pushed it over to get all this press.
Plus the Globes means people are very focused on the designers there.
Actually, Ben Mulroney was also on the carpet at the Golden Globes and he was the one who asked Penny Oleksiak “Who are you wearing?” [in 2017] and that was my first-ever “Who are you wearing?” moment.
What’s your main philosophy when infusing your work with your values?
Inclusion. The world is so difficult and people are going through so many things as it is, that fashion and media—stuff that’s supposed to entertain you—should be the last thing telling you what to do and how to live.
So what’s going through your head when your dress is hitting the Globes carpet?
I was just watching her getting ready on Instagram and getting all the hair and makeup done before they featured the dress. I was so in awe because I knew what the dress was going to look like but I didn’t see what the rest of the picture was going to be. Then seeing her on the red carpet and then the re-posting that happened almost immediately after was something I haven’t experienced before.
So when did you hear Karamo Brown and Tiffany Haddish gushing over your gown?
On etalk’s Instagram. And then again in the etalk [Golden Globes] special; it was really incredible to just rewind and play again and Tiffany Haddish is saying my name! Like, what? Everything is just mindboggling.
You’re a fan of Christian Siriano. Who else do you draw inspo from?
Alexander McQueen was the first—I saw his retrospective in 2010 at the Met and that was my first introduction to how fashion design could actually be more than just a dress.
And Iris van Herpen. I saw her collection at the Royal Ontario Museum and saw how she puts wearable art and wearable fashion together to make a message. I think that really hit home because I ended up meeting her at that event and after I just started bawling. Because I respected their work but I never thought twice about the individual. It was just so natural to then be like, “You’re someone who’s incredible to me as an individual as well.”
Lainey’s dress looks like it could be van Herpen.
Yeah, that’s [Iris] inspiration for sure.
What’s the epitome of red carpets for you?
I would love to be on the Met red carpet. Not even because it’s the biggest but because it’s so thematic and you can have so much fun but still say so much.
How do you feel about the Toronto Fashion Week cancellation?
I actually wasn’t planning on showing at Toronto Fashion Week. No disrespect to them—they gave me the opportunity to show twice and those shows have been so impactful in my career. But I wanted to do a shift to more personal storytelling. I wanted to help the community that I was sharing this next collection with and I think the community that would most benefit from that is the Indigenous community which views Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto more than the mainstream shows.
How can Canadians better support Canadian fashion?
The main way is actually purchasing items from the talent you want to support. The best way to support would be by putting your words into money and helping us build our brands so that we can get larger and get recognition outside of Canada and then bring that recognition back to Canada.