Morning in London dawned overcast and cold today. So it wasn't exactly a pleasure to find out that Thomas Tait's 9 a.m. show was taking place outside, in the skate park below the South Bank's Queen Elizabeth Hall. But Tait, damn him, had chosen his location well: The graffiti backdrop, and indeed the chill in the air, effectively underscored his tale of alienated youth. You really got the Gus Van Sant, Paranoid Park of it all.
Let's stipulate for the record that young Tait, a Central Saint Martins alum and Dorchester Prize winner, is one of the most talented emerging designers in London. For starters, his technical skills are outstanding—witness the just-so, sloped-shoulder tailoring of this season's oversize silk coats. And each of Tait's collections, including this one, has been stocked with pieces that are compelling, sophisticated, and rigorously luxe. So why is the Thomas Tait brand so conspicuously buzz-free? You couldn't help but wonder, watching the angsty looks go by today, whether the designer was reflecting on his own, relative outsider status in the London fashion scene.
If he was, then good, and Tait should keep plumbing his agita for material. More than in the past, you felt the designer's real, idiosyncratic voice coming through. That was particularly true of the simplest looks: The standout today, oddly enough, was an aggressively unassuming outfit comprised of a slouchy white tee and black shorts. The T-shirt was actually done in a superfine-gauge knit, and the shorts were something magical, a black silk pair patterned to capture the motion of a skater catching air. Here, in this plainest of ensembles, Tait found fit purpose for his meticulous material sense and remarkable skill as a patternmaker. Elsewhere, this season found Tait making a strong statement of color, a first for him. The palette was quite effective in its tart pastels, in particular the yellow he used like a highlighting pen.
Overall, this collection felt like the start of something new for Tait. Although it had more than a few looks overly reverent of Céline, the general affect of the collection was unique, and belonged to Tait. Whatever he's been doing, he ought to keep doing it. Except showing outside. At least, not in February, please.