photography Sylvain Blais
styling YSO

“The next big thing in fashion,” the British media repeats again and again. At age 24, Montréal-designer Thomas Tait has become the it-thing of the day with his beautiful collections that are destined to someday equal the classics. His unusual shapes with impeccable cuts are testament to movement and his conscious awareness of the relationship that unites the body and clothes. Imbued with a sense of maturity, his style has seduced the greatest in the fashion world.

“My collections are never just one theme,” explains Tait. It’s a very counter-current approach at a time when all the new venues in London are focused on making each collection a declaration of sorts. There’s the one for digital impressionism, the other for asymmetrical knits. For Thomas Tait, the importance is not in the signature look, but the DNA. His work is as focused on volume, as the weight of tissues and the simplicity of lines. It’s an architectural-like aesthetic. The front covered, with the back exposed; coat collars erected high to frame the face. After only four collections, some speak of a certain style “à la Thomas Tait,” as one would say, “à la Coco Chanel.”

With no muse or inspiring trips, the creative process often begins while Tait is on the phone, scribbling away. “A passing idea will become so persistent that I have to stop and draw it on a piece of paper,” says the young designer. Unable to describe off-hand ideas that inspires him, it’s only in hindsight that he understands his influences, sometimes in direct contradiction to his likes. The result: mustard yellows, green foam and browns as seen in his last collection, which he described as, “colours that aren’t necessarily associated with beauty.” And yet, it works. According to Thomas Tait, being at the beginning of his journey gives him a license for creative liberty.

Only the beginning, yes, but a hugely successful one at that. After studying at Montréal’s Collège La Salle, Thomas Tait was accepted, at the age of 20, for a masters at the reputed Central Saint Martins College in London, becoming the youngest graduate of the prestigious program in female fashion design. His final school project made headlines and was selected to show case at the London Fashion Week. That same year, he won the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, along with the praises of the jury and a $40,000 scholarship. Armed with recognition from the industry and financial support from the British Fashion Council, Tait was able to start his line.

“It’s not at all what I expected. It’s better, and it’s worse,” says the designer. “I wasn’t really ready to start my own business.” From design to production, communication to sales, Tait takes care of every aspect of his self-named line, with only one assistant at his side. “I presume that since I’m young I have the energy to attain my goals, but my age is also determining in terms of experience and know-how,” says Tait. “It’s often with mistakes that I learn.”

Thankfully, London is the capital for emerging designers. On top of being over-populated with fashion schools, the city offers many programs to help promising young designers and contests to give them spotlight. Despite the exorbitant cost of living, despite the strong competition, despite the fact that “it wasn’t always easy,” Thomas now says he is becoming more comfortable in London. “I like the diversity, I like how you can meet people from all walks of life that come from all over the world. I like the unexpected.”

— Madeleine Goubau