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Austin native turns heads in NYC, Paris and London with unique necklace designs symbolic of her Southern roots

Austin native turns heads in NYC, Paris and London with unique necklace designs symbolic of her Southern roots

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A piece using a wig, a mattress pad and a necklace of wedge sponges from Dunham's Almost Light collection, which repositioned different products associated with the aesthetic production of femininity. Photo by Adam Krause
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Austin-native Hayden Dunham in her NYC studio. Photo by Sonia Ostrovsky
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Additional necklaces from Dunham's New Dust collection, which are made from plastic, metal, wool, human hair and leather. Photo by Jimmy Kim
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A workspace in Dunham's studio. New Dust necklaces hang on the wall. Photo by Caroline Sinders
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A sampling of necklaces from Dunham's New Dust collection hanging in her studio in New York City. Photo by Caroline Sinders
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The first sample from Dunham's new collection inspired by reality survival -- A dress that can also be a suitcase when it is not being worn. Photo by Caroline Sinders
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A necklace from Dunham's New Dust collection. Photo by Jimmy Kim
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Hayden Dunham's New Dust presentation during the Williamsburg Fashion Weekend. Photo by Adeel Bukhari
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Austin Photo Set: News_Tavaner Sullivan_Hayden Dunham_jewelry_Nov 2011
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Austin Photo Set: News_Tavaner Sullivan_Hayden Dunham_jewelry_Nov 2011_studio necklaces
Austin Photo Set: News_Tavaner Sullivan_Hayden Dunham_jewelry_Nov 2011_studio bag
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Austin Photo Set: News_Tavaner Sullivan_Hayden Dunham_jewelry_Nov 2011_fashion week

Austin native Hayden Dunham never intended to be a designer with a popular collection—it just sort of happened. And now New York City-based Dunham’s latest issue of necklaces, titled New Dust and made from plastic, wool, human hair, leather and metal, have been picked up not only by Colette in Paris, but Fashion Aperitiv, a London-based online designer showroom, and JF and Son in NYC.

In New Dust, Dunham sets out to explore what nature will look like in the future while reaching into the past for inspiration.

“For me, New Dust was reminiscent of the past,” Dunham says. “It’s taking apart things that have dissipated and reconditioning and reconfiguring them. New Dust is something fresh, but it’s still rooted in the past. It’s about playing with this idea of what is new and what is old.”

In May, Dunham started working with plastic, which she describes as a very grotesque medium that is energetically heavy. At the same time, she was also exploring human hair. When she began combining the two, along with metal, wool and leather—all heavy materials—the results were necklaces with a surprisingly light feel. By June, Colette in Paris had requested 30 or so New Dust necklaces for its showroom.

“The necklaces were all kind of put together with this Southern feeling,” she says. “All the things I played with as a child, the melty beads [perler beads] to going to hunting leases with my dad and being around these big animals. I feel that the collection fits much more in Texas than it does anywhere else.” 

For Dunham, the necklaces—many of which are bolo ties—speak to her deep Southern and Texas roots.

“The necklaces were all kind of put together with this Southern feeling,” she says. “All the things I played with as a child, the melty beads [perler beads] to going to hunting leases with my dad and being around these big animals. I feel that the collection fits much more in Texas than it does anywhere else.”

She even gets the leather she uses from her brother, Will Dunham, who makes leather vests. 

Dunham, who moved from her hometown of Austin, to attend the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU, describes her work as more of an art practice than fashion design.

“I think of fashion design as a very disposable medium. You are creating designs every season, and then it goes out of season,” Dunham says. “I’m more interested in making things that are not necessarily permanent, but I want the concept to stay around longer than the physical garment.”

Just recently, Dunham began working on a new collection inspired by a walk in a forest while visiting a friend’s home in Upstate New York.

“In the forest, there was this house that was shaped like a diamond. It was totally out of this world and so strange,” Dunham says. “As we approached, we met this woman who had built the house herself. She had nine Alpacas that were just roaming the property and she gave me a lot of Alpaca wool.”

Dunham plans to explore weaving or mixing Alpaca wool, hair, glass and wood—all things that were around the property at the time she visited—for the next of her unique creations.

She also recently finished her first dress sample for another collection inspired by the idea of a reality survival kit. When not being worn, the dress can also be a suitcase that can hold the entire collection.

Although she is doing incredibly well in New York, Dunham sees herself returning to Texas in the next five years. When it comes to a permanent home, Austin has no competition.