‘Hai’, which takes its name from the Mandarin word for sea, references founder Tessa Vermeulen’s growing up between Shanghai and The Netherlands. Launched in 2018, Tessa launched the brand with silk as the mainstay, using different silk fabrics to mimic liquid moving over the body, to more robust, dupion silk to create solid, structured ruffles. Hai has been challenging preconceived notions of the preciousness of this legendary textile with garments and accessories that are not only luxe and decadent, but surprisingly sturdy too.

Beloved by Bella Hadid, Laura Harrier and Lily-Rose Depp, Hai has captured our hearts with cute collections, because that’s what they are. Cute. Its pearl jewellery, checkerboard and bamboo-handled grab bags, gathered dresses and suiting all have a whimsical element to them, and they work well with cult favourites of satin ballet flats and slip-on pumps. Colour palettes are rendered in hues of lime green, pastel pink, baby blue and punctured with punk black and ivory.

“We want to capture the feeling of rummaging around in the dressing up box,” says Tessa, who takes inspiration from childhood and teenage memories of dressing up, putting on plays, and altering her own clothes; but also looks to her years ‘ growing up’ in London in her twenties. With a background in music, the designer got into fashion after she noticed a gap in the market for elevated but playful and affordable day-to-evening wear.

"I have always had an appreciation for design and good style. This love stuck with me throughout my years working in music; where I was lucky enough to be able to merge my two passions on occasion. "

"The idea of Hai had been growing in my mind for a long time - I'd always dreamed of owning my own brand - and a few years ago, the time finally felt right to go all in on it." - Tessa Vermeulen

A collaboration with womenswear high-street brand Whistles, which saw Hai produce a capsule collection of silk staples, catapulted the brand into the fashion domain. Hai held an event in Barcelona's cult vintage store, Los Féliz & Muy Frágil, to celebrate the launch of its SS23 collection, and hosted a pop-up across the pond in New York last November, after opening its first brick-and-mortar shop in Seoul, South Korea; where a large constituency of Hai fans are based. As Hai presents on the London Fashion Week schedule for the second time for AW23, could a new London store be on the horizon? We can only hope!

Because caught up with founder Tessa ahead of her London Fashion Week presentation…

Who is in your head as the person you are dressing for this collection?
We always design with ourselves and our friends in mind, if it's not something we are excited to wear and feel good in while wearing it, then there is no point for us to create it.

Tell us about the one piece you hope will sell out in this collection.
It's hard to pick favourites, for this collection we have explored more fabrics (besides our signature silk) and I really love the mohair pieces we have created. The colours are so vibrant and the texture is incredible. A perfect cosy winter addition next to our silks.

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Stick to your gut and keep your feet on the ground.

What’s something you wish you’d been told before you started your career in fashion?
To be honest I think that my not coming from a traditional fashion background has helped me, as it makes me look at things either creatively or on the business side from a different perspective.

If you weren’t doing fashion, what would you be doing?
I'd probably be doing something interiors related, or I'd be a baker!

What’s the first thing you will be doing post-show to celebrate?
A good meal and a nice glass of wine with the team.

What fragrance will you be wearing on the day of the show?
I'm not very loyal when it comes to fragrances and I have quite a collection with each scent having different memories and feelings attached to them. It really depends on my mood when I wake up, so I will have to wait and see how I feel on Saturday morning!

Hai is available to shop now at homeofhai.com