Accelerated in every sense, Thomas Tait is the 24-year-old Canadian born designer concerned mainly with cut.
Showing at London Fashion Week for the last two seasons, Tait jumped straight out of Central Saint Martins to launch his debut collection of structural English navy wool and precision-cut separates in February 2011. Born and raised in Canada, he was educated at a technical fashion school in Montréal before moving to London to study under Louise Wilson, who allowed him onto her Womenswear MA course without a foundation or a BA, then just 20-years-old.
Tait’s level of craftsmanship and vision far exceeds his 24 years and for SS12, he showed a pastel palette of sport-couture looks including a footwear collaboration with Nike and an eyewear collaboration with Cutler & Gross. The silhouettes appeared simple, but the textures were in fact a result of micro pleating screen-printed jersey, a traditional craft made modern by the linear shapes and quirky accessories. Impressed by his skill set, i-D online took ten with Tait to find out more about the boy wonder.
How would you describe your label, Thomas Tait? It’s difficult to describe because it’s growing and developing. People see it as minimalist and each season it ends up being more minimal than I plan. I guess it’s more about cut. It’s graphic rather than literal with a focus on lines. The creative process is entwined in the development of the pieces.
How did the label get started? When I graduated from high school I decided on a whim to go into fashion because I was obsessed with the way objects looked and felt. In Canada, fashion schools are technical schools rather than art schools, so towards the end, I felt like I needed a bit more design-oriented training and I came across Central Saint Martins, and my tutor suggested I apply for the MA course in Womenswear Design. I got in without doing a foundation course or a BA and right after graduating I went straight into producing my SS11 collection.
You collaborated with Nike on the shoes for SS12. How did that come about? Last season, I went with NEWGEN and the British Fashion Council to NYC, and there a friend of mine took me to his gym class. I didn’t have any trainers, so I got a pair of Nike 3.30′s and I haven’t stopped wearing them. I got in touch with them and said let’s do something for the show and, luckily, they were great!
Why did you stage the show in the Alison Jacques Gallery – why? I’m based in Hackney, so I need to bring the show into a central space, easy for buyers and press to get to. The Alison Jacques Gallery was the first gallery I visited when I moved to London. I liked that it wasn’t a straight up-and-down runway. There were three rooms and each of them varied in size; one of them had completely natural lighting. On the seats we had panels of fluorescent lights, so when the pleated garments reflected the light, it was like a disco ball! We placed them on the bottom of the seats, so that it cast an upward glow and it was great for highlighting the variation in colours – baby blue, baby pink, mint green and turquoise.
What’s on your mood-board? I don’t do mood-boards because I don’t have the time. I don’t really like the idea because I might feel pressured to refer to something on the board. People always assume that there is something mathematical about the design process, but I would rather leave it to the cut and have an organic, creative process.
The models had very interesting make-up, almost like body paint. What were the ideas behind that? I worked with Alex Box on the beauty looks. The idea behind the colour is that it isn’t bold, so we didn’t want to do a statement lip or eye. We started talking about doing something that reflected bruising; more like body make-up. People didn’t really notice it at first glance, but it was more of a subliminal message – every girl had different make-up, so it was unique to each look. Alex brought in this gel product, which dries on the skin very quickly, completely changing skin texture. Depending on where you were looking you might have picked up on more details.
Which designers do you admire? I wasn’t really interested in fashion for most of my life until I wanted to go to fashion school. People like Hussein Chalayan, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen are and were pretty incredible. From a consumer perspective, Azzedine Alaïa is inspirational because he takes his time and he is unapologetic, which I relate to because I work so long on my cuts.
What are your 5 favourite things about London?
2. The nightlife – people aren’t afraid to have a good time and there’s a great youth culture in London.
3. The art scene is amazing – there are an incredible amount of galleries. I love the Wilkinson and Alison Jacques galleries, Tate Modern and Whitechapel Gallery.
4. Everybody is a psycho! I love all the crazy people in this city.
5. Green Papaya, a Vietnamese restaurant on Mare Street in Hackney. I lived off that for so long – the food is amazing.
Text: Osman Ahmed
Photography: Charlie May