Ailsa Miller · Sep 22, 2015

Even before he won the inaugural LVMH Prize in May 2014, Thomas Tait’s shows were one of the hottest tickets at London Fashion Week. That’s quite a feat for such a young designer – the youngest ever, in fact, to graduate the esteemed M.A. Fashion program at Central St. Martins.

Many young designers struggle to retain their authenticity and original vision when they are first backed by a big industry powerhouse like LVMH or Kering. Huge cash injections and production increases aside, the pressure that comes with it can often derail a smaller brand or at least drastically change their aesthetic, making them more commercial to increase sales.

Thomas Tait, however, has so far gotten better with time, and shows no sign of watering down his ideas or caving to pressure. This season’s collection was without a doubt his best to date, and in fact, one of the best of this London Fashion Week altogether.

For this season, he was selected by yet another huge brand, Swarovski, to be one of 15 young designers eligible for its Collective Prize. By incorporating the company’s crystals into his collection, Tait is competing against peers including Peter Pilotto and Alexander Lewis to win €25,000. Such a cool, underground brand isn’t at first glance a natural fit for Swarovski, and that’s exactly why it worked.

Instead of going the obvious beaded dresses and dripping jewels route, Tait showed patent leather miniskirts studded with crystals and metal looped bib chokers peaking out from under gauzy sheer shirts. The real mastery of his Swarovski work showed in the orbs that swung on fine chains from the backs of some looks, bringing movement to otherwise constructed silhouettes. And that in itself demonstrates Tait’s ultimate skill – the detail.

The cutout trend we’ve seen so much of this season has never been done as masterfully as he did it on Monday, in the form of tiny keyholes – an overarching theme in nearly every look. The opening looks showed little architectural holes smattered across silk tunics like constellations. This progressed to a more industrial feel, with tiny cages constructed over holes in the kneecaps of jeans. Western elements, in the form of cowhide skirts and tiny pointed cowboy style collars, also made an appearance. Again, unlike other brands who may have made that seem gimmicky, Tait’s nods to the trend are subtle and restrained.

Surprisingly, the pieces of the show that made the biggest impression were the knits and the aforementioned jeans. The show notes described the fabric as “silk denim” and one pair was tightly melded with black patent panels for a distinctly cool feel. The knits were of note purely for their delicacy and the finesse – rarely has anything so fine been constructed so sharply. If this all sounds like we’re gushing – we are. This was certainly a collection to remember.

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By Daniel Björk
September 22, 2015 12:25

LONDON, United Kingdom — “It’s not a comment on or Instagram, but I wanted to make it difficult to tell what was going on with the clothes, that you physically had to be present to know,” Thomas Tait, the designer who was the first to be awarded the LVMH Prize in 2014, said backstage after his Spring/Summer 2016 show. This was also the reasoning behind the very narrow runway, as Tait said he liked the feeling of getting uncomfortably close to someone.

You need to know things like these to appreciate why Thomas Tait is a fascinating designer, one who makes clothes that constantly seem to speak of the plain weirdness of putting clothes on a body. Just take his collection for Spring 2013, which was informed by an aversion to touch — the clothes literally stood out from the flesh, giving the wearer the feeling of being naked. Today, he seemed to muse on the ability of clothes to both obscure and reveal: peek-a-boo holes covered the garments, slits opened, exposing skin, and a cashmere and celluloid ripple dress, which looked solid at a distance, turned out to be see-through up close.

Unexpected parts of the body were eroticised by the clothes, such as knees, which were on display through holes on the mainly flared trousers, or the area between the breast and the shoulder. At the same time a tribal, almost superstitious current ran through it all. The holes resembled symbols with hidden meanings, while the show notes described the dangling earrings as “magical and violent.”

Still, the jury is out on Thomas Tait. His shows can come across as overtly experimental (part of the reason for this was that the tailoring that was supposed to be included in the show turned up faulty) and, as we all know, the attention span of the fashion audience is notoriously short. What’s more, working with highly researched materials means Tait’s price point is far from accessible, making it harder to sell without a well-known name. (Even the denim trousers in today’s collection were made from silk and cotton.) While it is obvious that Tait is a supremely gifted and well-respected designer, his place within the fashion world is unclear.

On top of all, Tait is a restless soul, developing new ideas before the old ones have finished percolating. So, of course, the themes described above weren’t the whole story. There was also antique calfskin, a heavy boiler suit that made the model resemble a totem pole, key rings fastened on the leg, Twiggy eyes reflecting the Space Age feel of the collection, multi-coloured crystals and, finally, bondage — seen in a red belt choker and leather harness details on the knee holes.

In this respect Tait resembles Christopher Kane, another designer throwing up more ideas in each collection than most have in several seasons. But, unlike Kane, he hasn’t found a sweet spot that catapults his designs everywhere and onto everyone. The hard truth is he needs to find it soon, or the fashion crowd will move on.

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