Today’s POP is Stephanie. Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
In our current moment of uncertainty and catastrophe, not to mention fast fashion, it seems we’re in dire search of stability and security both in our lives and in our wardrobes. The days of obscene quantity and robust impatience are becoming more and more visible. And while they haven't left us yet, it seems clarity is upon us.
There is a light…
In just over a year Canadian-born designer Thomas Tait has turned heads with his quality driven and conceptually elevated collections. In terms of both aesthetic and structural composition, the London based designer has been compared to the likes of Azzedine Alaïa, Nicholas Ghesquière and Pheobe’s Philo’s most recent work with Celine. Now moving onto his fourth-ever collection, Tait’s strong sense of construction and modernism has been extremely refreshing for buyers, press and customers alike.
It seems Thomas was one step ahead; he’d come to the realisation that we needed a major change just before he became the youngest ever to complete Louise Wilson’s notorious Saint Martins MA at the age of 21.
A return to the core, with fresh eyes.
You make clothes women really want to wear and I think that’s what sets you apart in London. Where do you situate yourself amongst London's sea of young designers, where the majority of the fashion seems so driven by performance?
It’s very strange that people are reacting so strongly in London. I mean I can understand it in a way. When you look back at the 90’s when Galliano was just about to go to Paris, and we had all these designers doing such over sensational shows, which was great, but I think it imposed a very specific image or mentality on fashion students since. But when you look back at McQueen and Galliano, the construction was still amazing. And now it’s sort of flipped, where you have all these people producing crazy un-wearable clothes – and when I say un-wearable I don’t mean something that’s terribly cut, un-wearable as in head-to-toe print that’s completely mad in texture and colour – and it’s just sort of unreasonable to assume that a woman would actually want to wear that. Sure, it could make a statement on a red carpet for Madonna or Lady Gaga, but it’s sad to realise that all that meticulous energy is not being channelled into the garments or even the show production.
The creative process seems neglected and I find that really strange. I think I take the opportunity to expand the creative process; I’m not motivated to be as loud as other designers. I always make the comparison that you have your Sofia Coppola directors and then you have your Quentin Tarantino’s, and they’re both equally theatrical and equally brilliant, just on a different pitch. So there are a lot of things that I put into the show but it’s more subliminal for me. I don’t want to assume that the people sitting in the audience at my show are not clever enough to pick up on details or subtleties.
Your price point is very high as well, which also excludes you from other young designers in a way.
Yah. I mean it’s not my intention. I don’t make things because I want it to be expensive or fancy. I just want it to be good. And the reality is that I’m using fabrics of a certain quality that are used in major fashion houses in Italy and France but I’m just starting my own company. So for me it’s really expensive to purchase fabrics because I purchase the minimum quantity. So for example, if I’m only getting 40 metres of something I’m paying twice the price than if I were buying 1000 metres, which is of course what Balenciaga is paying, etc. And also for production minimums, getting a factory on board is really difficult. And again, I work with a great French factory that only works with hugely successful international brands. So they gave me a price break down and told me this is how much you will be paying because you’re only producing 80 garments for your orders, etc. In order for me to get it to a decent price I’d have to be making 100 of each single garment and it will take years to get to that point. So it’s difficult.
Where did you acquire such a sensibility for quality and craftsmanship?
I studied at a Technical school in Montreal called LaSalle, so I learned quite a bit there. I just don’t understand the idea of working so hard for 6 months on a collection and investing time and money into something that’s not 100% right, whether it’s a showpiece or a t-shirt. If you’re going to do it, do it right. And I don’t like how young designers have to choose if it’s high quality or visually exciting, it can be both. Obviously what I do is not flash fashion, and there’s a lot of work that you can’t really get from an image but that’s part of the point. I also hate that mentality that assumes buyers or readers or press don’t have the time to really investigate anything about your construction, etc. It’s just assuming the consumer is too dim and I disagree with that.
I think there’s the need for something that feels stable, durable and reliable. And for this season I realised there needed to be a really strong sense of durability and security that maybe comes from the nervousness of starting your own company and putting all your time and energy into something that’s a bit of a gamble. I feel I’ve been driven to do something that I can rely on as a product. I just want to make beautiful things. There’s no point in putting that much money and that much time into something that after a catwalk show, doesn’t have a value.
I love your collaboration with Nike for the contrast of true sportswear and luxury which think is very modern. Trainers are such an important element in a wardrobe as they allow a great deal of comfort and thus movement for women, and they’ve combined so wonderfully into your Spring/Summer 12 collection. For you, what is it about the trainers that work so well?
It was weird to see people react so strongly to the trainers because for me when you break it down and think about it, it’s the one thing that everybody has. Okay you might not wear them all the time, or with your nicest clothes to go out, but it is a reality of everyday life. And it’s so strange to see that no matter now many shows take place during fashion week or how long runway fashion has been around, people still gasp and go “oh my god, trainers”.
But that sense of reality is really important to me and I think something that people connect with. I just got tired of all those crazy shoes. It’s fun to see a crazy shoe, but then there’s also something really unattractive about a woman who can’t walk in her shoes. And on a personal level I’d been wearing those particular Nikes for about 6 months and I got so obsessed with wearing them I thought why not slap them on the runway?
And maybe more importantly, the trainers work so well visually…
Yeah, it’s really clean. What’s really crazy is that it’s something everyone all over the world has and wears but when you take them apart and look at the construction it’s absolutely genius. And people don’t even pay attention to it. But you get the same with fashion. People definitely take advantage and don’t take the time to question or open up their garments either.
Can you tell me a bit about your Autumn/Winter 12 collection? How did you extend your last two collections?
For Autumn/Winter there is a lot of durability in the clothing. I wanted to extend the pleating I did last season, so I’ve developed that as a sort of accent. I did leather pleating, which is really interesting to work with. It’s old technique – there’s nothing really new about pleating – I just wanted to add something visual and textural without getting overly elaborate about it. So you don’t really feel as thought you’re trying anything too conceptual and when you actually touch it it’s not difficult to get your head around it, but it does add something really beautiful and dimensional. So I’ve brought that back but in a different way this season.
I’ve also done lots of outerwear. I didn’t want to do full-on winter, I wanted to do something that spans a bit longer as Autumn is such a long season. There’s really only about three months of the year when you can actually just run around in a t-shirt, so you’re always incorporating outerwear. For the other 8 to 10 months you’re always adding a little jacket or something. So I brought in the varsity jacket.
Where does it all start for you?
At the beginning of each season or maybe before, there’s always a little visual moment in my head where I get a glimpse of something. So I start to work in my head – it gives me sense of movement and proportion. And then there’s usually some kind of sound or smell associated with it. And everything starts to lock in. And I use that to start sketching and expand to a collection. I always describe it as a sort of film trailer that’s really quick, before I develop it into a collection.
- POP 892 Friday 20 April 2012
- POP 888 Monday 16 April 2012
- POP 966 Friday 3 August 2012
- POP 567 Friday 22 April 2011
- POP 876 Friday 30 March 2012
You’re currently reading “POP 886 Friday 13 April 2012”, an entry on THEPOP.COM
- 13.04.12 / 6am