Hadley Pollett Designs Colorful Corsets
by julie hatfield
While there’s something to be said for classics, often the most popular styles are born from fresh leaps taken by creative minds. Designer Hadley Pollet is one such outside-the-box thinker. Her embroidered belts were so different when first released 10 years ago that they quickly gained a cult following. Then would-be designers from Boston to Bejing tried to copy them. Now, as a survivor of “knock-off hell,” as she calls it, Pollet has a surprising new collection of corsets and another sure-to-be-popular line of accessories—all formally copyrighted.
The colorful corsets are both sweet and sexy—versatile enough to be worn with shorts in summer or with a button-down shirt and jeans in cooler weather. She designs every textile she uses and devises the color schemes on paper. While she didn’t spend her childhood in New Canaan, Connecticut, surrounded by a creative family, she did take note of an aunt who was a voracious needlepointer. “I was a bit of an anomaly in my family,” Pollet says. “I always wanted to wear wacky things, and I didn’t care all that much about fitting in. My friends were always people who marched to the beat of their own drum.” That said, fabric and design just might be in her blood; her family owned textile mills in Fall River long before she was born, and she believes that she inherited her love of textiles from her Irish ancestors.
Pollet’s signature is an embroidered zinnia flower, which makes an understated appearance on the fabric trim of corsets and also appears as a spiritual detail on the Massachusetts designer’s ultrasoft yoga line. Her trademark flower got its start on a belt made from jacquard fabric trim with a tortoise-shell buckle. Stores such as Wish and Eye of the Needle bought the belts immediately, and they found their way to 250 stores nationally within the next year. Today you can find them at Chrislee in Needham, or on Pollet’s website.
A problem arose when would-be “designers/salespeople” thought Pollet’s belt design was such a great idea that they stole it. “I heard rumblings about the knockoffs the second year I was in business, and people would send me photos of them all the time,” Pollet says. She soon saw her designs on other websites, and eventually discovered 56 sites by people selling copies of her belts and bags out of their homes, with no permission from the designer. “We consulted with a law firm,” she says, “who told us how to shut the websites down with cease and desist forms sent to all those who were trying to make money from my designs. They are all out of business now.”
Lesson learned, Pollet is confident that her latest accessory line, Peek-a-boo bags, won’t suffer a similar fate. Her boyfriend designed her a pair of delicate, lacy blue earrings, which inspired the bag’s hand-cut leather exterior, exposing the suede layer beneath. The corsets, along with a few other items, come from Pollet’s collaboration with TV actor and bon vivant Toshi Chan, whose New York boutique hotel, the Flatiron, opened last August. Pollet, who met Chan through a friend, said the Flatiron “is touting itself as ‘the nexus of creativity,’ and it is featuring and supporting artists, actors, playwrights, dancers, and singers from all over, who will perform there. I’m the first designer to be featured, and since the hotel has a 2,500-gallon cylindrical two-story fish tank in the lobby, I designed the corsets and aprons with inspiration taken directly from the colors of the fish in the tank.”
“I’ve collected corsets for years; love them, am obsessed by them,” says the designer, whose corsets feature collages of different patterned fabrics with a touch of lace ruffle around the bodice. “The Hadley Pollet brand is about the revelation of core sensory experience in every woman,” Pollet says. “The corsets emphasize feminine power, authenticity, and a deep understanding that every woman has a playful and sensual side.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC LEVIN; HADLEY POLLET (MOOD BOARD, APRON)