Canadian-born Thomas Tait made a poised entrance into the London fashion scene last year when he debuted his smart, sculptural Spring 2011 collection at London Fashion Week. The youngest-ever graduate of Central Saint Martins's grueling MA program, Tait, now 24, showed a range of tailored, sophisticated looks that balanced slim, minimal silhouettes with sweeping volume. His impeccable construction prompted Stephen Jones, Daphne Guinness and Manolo Blahnik to award him the prestigious Dorset Prize in 2010. And since, he has received coveted NEWGEN sponsorship from the British Fashion Council, as well as accolades from editors and buyers alike.
Last season, Tait showed a black, navy and ivory collection of sharp wool coats, lean, high-waisted pants and precisely pleated skirts, many of which were cocooned by smooth wool petals that grew from the waist. His highly anticipated Spring collection, set to hit the runway on Sept. 18, will include the designer's first true foray into color. Tate now hopes to show us his lighter side.
KATHARINE ZARRELLA: What are your earliest memories of fashion?
THOMAS TAIT: I was very fussy with the way I dressed when I was a kid. I would go to vintage shops in downtown Montreal and hunt for exactly the look I wanted, but I could never find it. So I think it was just that frustrating aspect of not necessarily liking the way I looked or not really enjoying what other people at school were wearing. But that motivated my interest in fashion afterwards.
ZARRELLA: Why did you decide to go to Central Saint Martins at such a young age?
TAIT: It wasn't a conscious choice. I studied for three years in Montreal at a technical college called La Salle that taught all the fundamentals of garment making. But I wanted to get a balanced fashion education, so I started investigating colleges that had a more creative approach to fashion design. Obviously, anybody who does two seconds of investigation will stumble upon Saint Martins. And London was really hot at the time. There was so much going on with Richard Mortimer and his Ponystep and Boombox parties, and there were all these young kids doing really incredible work, like Henry Holland and Gareth Pugh. The energy was so special here. So that motivated me to come.
ZARRELLA: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
TAIT: It's constantly changing. I don't want to present something that feels too fixated or too restrictive. I'd rather keep it open to evolve. I'm only 24 and who knows who I'll be in a few years. I want my work to progress as naturally as my own growth.
ZARRELLA: Would you say that you're a minimalist?
TAIT: I don't think [my work] is a conscious statement on minimalism. I'm a little bit OCD about so many things, and I'm kind of obsessed with cleaning things up and editing as much as possible, so my clothes always end up cleaner and more minimal than I had originally planned. I think there's an intricacy in doing something that's meant to look really simple and having it actually be quite complicated.
ZARRELLA: What was your inspiration for Spring?
TAIT: Cut is such an important part of what I do and I wanted to follow up on the cuts and silhouettes I started to talk about last season. But I wanted to do something that's a bit brighter and feels lighter. I'm working with a progression of iridescents, so I'm using mint green, baby blue and pale pink. The colors are a little bit like the evolution of the bruise.
ZARRELLA: I'm sorry, did you say bruise?
TAIT: Yeah. I try to avoid talking about my inspiration because people always take it way too far. But there's one piece that I really love this season—a hospital gown. It's basically a structured, oversized knee length gown with a bit of a bell sleeve and a classic crew neck. It's in an absolutely beautiful ribbed satin cotton and it's split right up the back. My inspiration wasn't hospitals or patients but when I started illustrating, I got to a point where I was like, why am I drawing hospital gowns? And I couldn't avoid it.
ZARRELLA: Last season you blended structure and fluidity. Will we see that again in this collection?
TAIT: Yeah, definitely. Motion is always really important. I think doing something that's focused on structure but that has movement is really interesting, especially when you're working with a certain amount of weight. It's always interesting to see how weight or fabric responds to the motion of the body.
ZARRELLA: So we'll see a more human side to you in this collection?
TAIT: I wouldn't say human. But there's definitely more of a humorous approach. Not that it's a joke in any way, but it has a lighter spirit.