crybaby haley

Haley Benoit, a former merchant marine turned stylist, model, and entreprenuer, has steadily climbed the ranks to emerge as one of Toronto’s mainstay fashion fixtures. Don’t just take our word for it though. Let her work with Fashion Art Toronto, TSOQ, and UNTITLED&CO. provide some indication of the influence she holds amongst her industry peers. Her life, though, hasn’t been one filled perverbial roses; not by a long shot. Haley was involved in a serious car accident that easily could have derailed her trajectory into one filled with remorse, angst and defiance. Her ability to rise above such affliction speaks to the true nature of her character, and viewed the incident as a way to carve out a new path; and that’s exactly what she did. The accident itself did absolutely nothing in the way of crushing her spirit. In fact, she learned to leverage the pain she experienced to spin it off into something beautiful. Enter Whiplashd, and her coinciding “CRYBABY” collection.

Now a beauty studio & apparel boutique, Whiplashd alludes to the literal suffering she sustained as a result of the crash, while figuratively touching on the sharp “180” she associates with where her life has taken her now. Whiplashd is designed to be a safe, inclusive space anchored around unisex apparel and niche beauty products. 

In linking up with urbancoolab’s AI-powered robo-designer, Haley thought to frame her capsule collection around her idiosyncratic psyche. Running in contrast to the brand’s positive outlook is a dark, edgy aesthetic she utilized to best incapsulate the innermost emotions that reside deep within her. “CRYBABY” can be looked at as a sombre depiction of vintage pin-up culture enveloped with barbed wire and tattoo ink; in other words, a rough and tough exterior adorned with skulls and spikes that vigilantly safeguards a sensitive soul looking to do good in the world.

urbancoolab had the chance to go one-on-one with Haley Benoit to ask about her journey and to uncover what “CRYBABY” means to her:

Can you tell us about your craft and your journey as an artist?
I have been a fashion stylist for 7 years now, and over the years I have worked with some heavy hitting brands and boutiques such as Untitled & Co, TSOQ, and Get Fresh Company etc. After being involved with Fashion Art Toronto, the desire to become a designer kept growing, but, I also had an interest in aesthetics and decided to take a leap of faith and become a lash technician. When I created Whiplashd, I made a promise to myself to not be a one trick pony and to make it an inclusive space where I could style models, lash, model coach and branch to apparel.

What motivates you to do what you do?
I love making people look and feel their best. I also love hearing everyone’s individual stories and getting to be a part of their journey, whether it’s someone coming to me for lashes after a bad break up for a little pick me up, or model coaching to help someone kick start their careers. I also enjoy styling models for shoots.

How did your journey as a creator begin?
I started modeling at the age of 19 and have always dabbled with many things. I travelled a lot in my younger years as well. I stayed busy networking and made a lot of connections and quickly learned the importance of a social media presence and following your heart.

What goals do you hope to accomplish with your craft?
I never imagined myself on the designer end of things. I have always been the model who just wears the garments. Ultimately, I would love to open up an inclusive beauty bar where clients can come for services, be styled or shop apparel.

What piece of advice you would give to someone following a similar path?
The best advice that I could give anyone in regards to being an entrepreneur is to KEEP GOING; to believe in yourself, to stay focused and to not give up. Don’t be afraid to fail, it’s all a part of the process. And, to remember that the only person that you should be in competition with is YOURSELF. Be humble, be kind and don’t forget the people who started with you at the bottom.

Is there a certain emotion you’d like your followers to feel when wearing your collection?
We’ve all got that favorite outfit. One that makes us feel confident and like they can take on the world. The connection between our emotions and the way that we dress is integral to the way we behave and our identity. I want everyone that wears a piece of me to feel like it’s ok to be your true authentic self and that Whiplashd will always be a safe place for everyone.

Can you walk us through the process of how you shot your collection and who starred in the actual lookbook?
When we decided to shoot this capsule it was VERY important that my models be people who have supported me – my friends. I allowed each and every model to select the pieces that they wanted to wear and let them style themselves completely. It has been so incredible seeing everyone wearing a piece of me and adding their own personal style with mine.

Is there anything else you can share that can help provide insight into your brand story?
When creating this collection I knew that I wanted to take an edgier approach and Crybaby only seemed fitting. It’s no secret that I suffer from anxiety and depression and have often been referred to as a “crybaby.” Failure has never been an option for me and even when the world stopped, I kept my hopes and dreams alive by creating WHIPLASHD and took my branding to the next level with this unisex streetwear line. It was not only important for me to have full representation and inclusiveness in this campaign and business model, but it was also important for me to acknowledge my hardships to get here and all of the people who were hoping that I would just crash and burn.

Haley Benoit’s “CRYBABY” collection is now up for grabs on urbancoolx.com.

Photography: @hayleyhruska

Styling: @haleywith1y

Hair & Socks: @millixstudios

Models: @haleywith1y, @inked_iron721, @ksobs, @vamilli, @haylz_storm_, @shannonrosepammer, @king_aubyn, @robertjohn_ii, @exa_victor