Thomas Tait, the womenswear designer, who hails from Montreal but is based in London, completed a technical degree in womenswear at College LaSalle in Montreal, before earning his MA in womenswear at Central Saint Martins. (At 24, Tait was the youngest student ever to complete Saint Martins’ women’s wear MA upon his graduation in February 2010.) His womenswear collection is known for its clean, understated structure with a focus on curve-linear silhouettes.
You are showing at London Fashion Week soon.
Thomas Tait - I’m planning to. We’ll see how things go with finding a venue and finance et cetera, but it’s definitely part of the plan at the moment.
Like many Canadian fashion designers, you relocated to London to finish your studies. How is the industry in London different?
Thomas Tait - I think it’s just a different way of going about things. One thing that you’ll notice in London is that fashion is an art education. So it’s definitely thought more from that perspective. And if you look to Canada, I think Collège LaSalle—where I studied in Montreal—is a really good example of how technical it can be. We are taking things logically, because it’s a different market and Canadian fashion industry is a lot more commercial. With a lot of the brands and companies that are [in Canada], it just makes more sense for apparel to have more of a technical focus. And if you look at the history of clothing in British fashion, although there is a strong history of tailoring, there is also reputation for creative minds and extravagant design. So it makes sense that most of the schools that offer fashion here definitely have more of an art angle than a technical angle.
And was that something that you were interested in post LaSalle?
Thomas Tait - I wanted to do something that balanced out my education in Canada. I wanted to get some experience on the other end of the spectrum. My studies on Montreal were three years, full time, really intense and extremely technical. So when I finished, I really wanted to do something that would allow me to explore the opposite end, which is a creative side of things.
TB: In 2010, you became the youngest MA graduate of Central Saint Martins—what was it like being there at such a young age?
TT: I didn’t really feed into it that much. Being there at such a young age wasn’t necessarily part of the plan. It just felt natural to apply and felt that was what I needed at the time. Obviously studying with people that are quite a few years older than you—some that are over a decade older than you and worked all over the world at major brands—was quite an intimidating experience. So it was a bit strange of a feeling. At first, I didn’t tell anybody how old I was and then people caught on, haha. But it was fine. The whole experience is really intimidating, regardless of the age factor.
Why did you choose to immediately go on your own rather than to work for another designer or an established fashion house?
Thomas Tait - One of the other things that I realized when I was in the course, one thing I noticed in the way I was working and in the way I delivered my work, was that it just made a little more sense on a personal level and just translated a bit more as a director’s position. It was more natural for me to continue my own work. I had to work in a group in my first year and at first it was really tough for various reasons, but I realized that working in a creative team was maybe not the best way to get what I wanted to get out. And my work wasn’t so focused on fashion research, and you notice that the students that have been studying fashion in art schools have developed this way of expressing what they do more through research and development, and I was very much hands on and I didn’t [rely on] fashion reference so much. I realized that my perspective and my starting point for projects was definitely more personal and not as easily translated in a group setting. That’s what motivates me to do my own thing. And also, nobody was hiring. At the time when I graduated, there were so many financial insecurities. If an opportunity came up, I would have probably taken it, but I would have also done something on the side.
And your collection is very streamlined, rather restrained for a young designer.
Thomas Tait - Everything I’ve done so far has been very focused. I don’t feel the need to step out onto the scene and pull out all the stops in one season. So I just really focused, for the first couple of seasons, on the cut, how I work with the body, understanding—especially last season—what kind of level of quality I want to produce in terms of garments. So I haven’t really added too much pressure on myself to do something that’s visually overly communicative, that makes too much of a bold statement. I think it’s one of the reasons why people are responding to my work at the moment. London is very much known for a lot of creative designers that feel the pressure to express everything they have to express right off the bat. And I’d rather take my time and when I have those resources and that kind of support financially, to do something on a larger scale that might be visually more exciting, I’d be more comfortable doing it.
What are your plans for S/S 2012?
Thomas Tait - Last season was a really focused collection. It was definitely quite outerwear and eveningwear oriented. Right now, I feel like I should be doing something a little bit less geared towards eveningwear, something that’s a bit more daytime friendly. Also, I want to do something that dabbles in sportswear without making a statement about sportswear. Something that feels less restrictive, that’s as precise as last season but with a different angle. So I’m looking at lighter colours, playing with structure but trying to do it in a lighter way. The garments I’m trying to make as lightweight as possible, so you get the volume and you get the structure but without looking like you’re wearing too much or that you’re being weighed down. So the idea of lightness is something that I want to work with this season.