A welcome change of pace in a go-faster industry with increasingly less time to immerse yourself in anything. Thomas Tait sent his models out into Westminster University’s subterranean space in near total darkness, only lit up by snaking, glitchy rectangles of light that showed the way as they walked very slowly across the floor. It was frustratingly difficult to see the clothes at times, but it made you sit up and concentrate (hard) and really look at the garments. Like Giles Deacon’s return to a theatrical runway presentation yesterday, it brought a sense of emotion and drama to the catwalk after years of mechanical and detached conveyor belt shows.
What lies beneath:
Tait is one of fashion’s abstract thinkers and he doesn’t do pre-packaged theme collections. Backstage, he told us about how he’d been trying to explain the garments over the phone to people and it had somehow sounded a bit pedestrian. Of course, it was anything but. The languid, asymmetrical silks, innocent sailor collars and Tait’s kick-ass signature sculpted outerwear were accompanied by what he called “white trashy” elements and the “bionic and supernatural”. Sleeveless mink gilets played on the wrongness of 70s/80s furs with leather inserts and jackets had oversize metal hardware with big zipper rings – used slyly in places like the nipple region. It was normal made unnerving, like a piece by photographer Gregory Crewdson whose way of turning the everyday into something you can’t quite put your finger on had been on Tait’s mind. There was clearly darkness here in more ways than the set. The invitation’s still from Dario Argento’s 1977 horror masterpiece Suspiria was echoed on pleated dresses – a deliberately lo-fi foray into digital print for Tait, made from screen captures done on his laptop while watching films in bed. “They’re kind of really shitty and a lazy way of doing some kind of informal research. I thought it would be really interesting to make these highly intricate garments and undercut them with a crap image from the film I love.” Suspiria’s nearly all-female cast and explorations of the female psyche really ring true with Tait, who doesn’t bend to mainstream society’s obsession with the female body as a Photoshopped sex object. Case in point: a black leather and patent coat with a tuft of red mink showing like a defiant hairy armpit.
Winning LVMH’s Young Fashion Designer prize last year has meant a huge difference to Tait, who like so many young designers struggles with keeping a business afloat – not for lack of ideas, but funds. “The money kept me from going out of business to be honest,” he said. The designer has always produced things to a very high standard, but this season he took it up a notch: LVMH have introduced him to three factories in Europe, who were all in attendance at the show to see the results of their work. “It’s really great because it’s like, this is what it’s meant to look like,” he said. For the soundtrack, Tait worked with Frédéric Sanchez for the first time. “It was amazing because I collected all the stuff I’d done in the past and sent him paragraphs of what I wanted to do for this show and he came back to me with huge zip files of different ideas and took all the old soundtracks and decomposed them and was like, ‘This is what you sound like’, but in little fragments. He totally got it,” Tait said of the dark and engulfing moodscape.
Stream the soundtrack below: