Thomas Tait debuted his first collection in the fall of 2010. Yet backstage after his latest show, he explained that he didn't want to design anything that already seemed familiar. Whereas most young designers are content to mine the space within a self-imposed bandwidth, Tait appears intent to explore any frequency that challenges him to rethink ideas about structure and femininity. This time out, the former felt assertive and the latter looked sleek. Some looks were neither, and there were a few doubters in the audience, but the designer deserves credit: His workmanship is the antithesis of attention deficit design.
While jackets and coats in felted wool or satin shared the same contouring as vintage Mugler, Tait softened the strictness, sharpened the cuffs, and dissected the bodies with color inserts. Then he allowed himself to be wooed by the filmy (daresay scratchy) cling of a silk chiffon woven with Lurex. An avowed primary-color contrarian, Tait confronted red, blue, green, and ocher (his one concession) head-on, combining them into a vaguely Bauhaus arrangement that required a multistage process of stretching and re-pleating the fabric so that the motif appeared flawlessly flush. When he occasionally overworked a garment, presumably it was because he gives himself the luxury of time to consider it.
Recently included on the short list of young designers for the inaugural LVMH Prize, Tait insisted that he did not let a hypothetical boost in exposure dictate the collection. He said he was surprised at how full-circle this lineup became, and he'd concluded that this personal plus ça change revelation was reassuring. "Regardless of whether you are pushing yourself out of your box, you find familiar territory everywhere," he said. Except, of course, Tait's terra cognita remains among the most uncharted in fashion today.