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Fashion Designer Behind Diablo Ballet's The Red Shoes

Fashion designer Cassidy Haley creates a vision of excess in Diablo Ballet’s world premiere of The Red Shoes.


Diablo Ballet's Jackie McConnell stars as Our Heroine in The Red Shoes.

Photo by Aris Bernales

In Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale The Red Shoes, a young girl’s cursed shoes force her to dance forever as punishment for her vanity. Diablo Ballet’s resident choreographer, Robert Dekkers, has reimagined the story as part of the company’s season finale, Celebrated Masters.

With clothing at the core of the story, Diablo Ballet had to find a costumer who could fully manifest Dekkers’ vision for The Red Shoes. The Walnut Creek dance company brought in Cassidy Haley, a successful Oakland-based fashion designer and a friend of the choreographer. In approaching the costumes, Haley considered The Red Shoes’ theme of “excess and out-of-control consumerism,” he says. “The focus is really on the evolution of the main character. There’s a red dress that evolves with her, and I’m working with Robert for it to emerge as part of the story as the character gets more and more overindulgent.”

That ambitious creativity comes naturally to Haley, who got his start as a designer by way of activism. “I was going to political rallies in the Bay Area, and I started stilt walking as a way of adding [visibility] to a rally or a march,” he says. “I needed to wear something while I was doing this, so I started making stilt costumes.”

Since then, he’s owned three clothing companies and dressed celebrities such as Fergie, Adam Lambert, and Pink. But he left the commercial fashion world last year partly because he felt compelled to pursue a more artistic path—whether by making costumes, creating music, or performing.

“I’ve always wanted to bring more costume elements to fashion and more fashion elements to costumes,” says Haley. “This is the first ballet production I’ve costumed, and I’m excited to take my circus performance background and the [fashion] techniques that I’ve learned, and apply them to a traditional medium like ballet.”

Celebrated Masters will be performed at the Del Valle Theatre in Walnut Creek on May 4 and 5. diabloballet.org.

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