Canada-born, London-based designer, Steven Tai graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2011 and snagged internships with Stella McCartney and Viktor & Rolf before thinking of starting his namesake label. In fact, the 29-year old didn't intend to start his own line until he got a push, by way of the inaugural Chloé design prize at the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in 2012. He has since shown at Mercedes-Benz Berlin Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week this past September as part of VFILES first ever fashion show. The designer, whose womenswear collection centers on texture, exaggerated shapes, and even a bit of masculinity, talks to us about being geeky, VFILES, working with Damir Doma, and more ...
The Fashion Law - How do you think your brand is different from others?
Steven Tai - Contrasts play a key role in the identity of the brand. We like to mix youthful concepts with mature execution. Also, we keep our three main aspects at the forefront of the brand: intelligence, humour and a strong self-awareness of ones self.
The Fashion Law - How do you think you personally are different from other designers?
Steven Tai - I guess because I am quite geeky. I always look towards new technology first for each collection. I think I really like to push the interaction between textiles and new technology.
The Fashion Law - You stock at VFILES (which is such a cool and innovative platform!) and starred in their Fashion Week web-episode. It seems like an interesting collaboration of sorts. Has that resulted in a lot of visibility in the States for you?
Steven Tai - Yes, we got a lot of stylist requesting pieces for magazine shoots. A huge thanks to VFiles for giving me this platform. The team is very cool there and they were so supportive. The nod from them really gave me the confidence to venture into the North American market.
The Fashion Law - Do you think the North American market is receiving your work well? How do you think the customer in the US is different from those in London?
Steven Tai - I think North Americans have been really supportive. Of course companies like VFiles have already demonstrated their belief in us. In addition to that, we are selling in Holt Renfrew in Canada since AW13 and we have been sponsored to have a catwalk show in Toronto as well.
I think the trendsetting consumers in both London and US is quite similar. They are energetic and fun. And ultimately it is about wearing something that expresses themselves. And I think in that way, we are all the same.
The Fashion Law - In addition to Holt Renfrew and VFILES, where are you stocking?
Steven Tai - We stock at 127 Bricklane in London, Les Suites in Paris, Mimosa and Raise the Bar, which are both in Riyadh, D-Mop in Hong Kong, Mahani in Dubai, Sprezzatura in Kazakhstan, and MA21 in London, as well.
The Fashion Law - You worked with Damir Doma before launching your label. He is so young and talented. What did you take away from that experience?
Steven Tai - It was a close working environment. We worked together in his Paris studio before he moved to a larger studio. So, I got to see all aspects of a growing brand, in particular accessories and bags, which ignited my interest in developing my own accessories range. The processes involved in creating accessories is very different from a clothing range, which excites me.
The Fashion Law - How do you think the processes are different?
Steven Tai - Well, clothing is worn around the body, whereas a bag tend to be something that is carried. The function of the two objects are quite different. Therefore the consideration in terms of scales and practicality varies. We really wanted to make sure we thought through all the functions for our first bag. Especially when a bag can be worn everyday, it has to be something useful in addition to being beautiful. Another difference between designing a bag and designing a collection is that there are different types of hardware we can play with when constructing a bag. And we were able to collaborate with Lily Kamper, an emerging British jewellery artist to customised hardware for our bag, which added another level of personalization.
The Fashion Law - Yohji Yamamoto is a fan. What is that like?
Steven Tai - It’s an honor that I can count him as a fan of my work. I have loved his work since I started fashion and because I suppose he is in Japan, I always felt like he was even more of an enchanted figure. So having the opportunity to meet him and to show him my work meant a lot to me.
The Fashion Law - I know you’ve said that London, in general, is a lot faster than Vancouver. How do you think fashion is different in London than in Canada?
Steven Tai - Vancouver is a lot more comfort focused. The lifestyle there is very outdoor driven, whereas in London it is a lot more to do with expressing a certain trend/style.
The Fashion Law - What have you learned about the business of fashion from your work so far?
Steven Tai - Coming from a creative aspect, I guess the hardest thing was learning how to utilize my time effectively. After each season I realize that it is a business and it needs to sustain itself.
The Fashion Law - When you are not working, how do you like to spend your free time?
Steven Tai - I like to sleep, watch movies and play video games.
The Fashion Law - What are you obsessed with right now?
Steven Tai - Compulsion.