How's this for precocious? In 2007, at the age of 20, Thomas Tait became the youngest student to join Central Saint Martins' MA in womenswear. This year, freshly graduated, he was crowned the winner of the prestigious Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, edging out Mary Katrantzou, Hermione de Paula and Louise Goldin, among other favorites to win. With a clever understanding of structure and non-fabric materials, combined with a brooding intensity and a healthy regard for couture, Tait is poised to become the UK's next design star. Oh, and get this, he's Canadian...
Let's start with Dorchester...
Well, the sudden attention I've gotten since winning it is incredible and strange. Working is so personal, something you make at home and in the studio and then suddenly people jump on board. One of the judges, Manolo Blahnik, said my collection was clever and would have longevity, which is such an honor, especially since he actually looked at the clothes and talked to me about them.
The collection seemed to show an obsession with hips and shoulders. What do you think is the most exciting part of the body?
I love the back. I find it sexier to show skin in areas that are unexpected. I mean, cleavage isn't interesting or even really nice to look at! I like the muscle structure. I like the bone structure. It's like a canvas. I like the idea that you can come in and be demure and when you walk away it's a different story. I like to surprise people.
What's it like nurturing a young label?
Like having a baby! I'm young and just starting out, so I don't really want what I do to be devoured. It has to be ready to be a part of someone's life.
At this early stage, do you feel every step is crucial?
People have only known who I am for the past few months. The idea of molding an image for yourself in the press is strange to me. It's another reason I think it's important to not give away too much too soon.
Going back to your MA collection, it seemed so black, black, black.
It was meant to be a very dark blue, but the fabric wasn't reacting well with the bonding technique I was using, so I had to switch to another fabric. That fabric was black so I did the whole collection in black. I think people may have jumped to the conclusion that I was some goth designer. There might be an unhealthy undertone to what I do, which people might perceive to be dark or creepy. My work isn't a box of kittens, but it isn't a statement about goth fashion either!
What is your favorite color?
Blue! I like blue-tinted things. I've used midnight blue, white and cream in another collection and there's something fantastic about using color. Something about it feels more alive. When I was a kid, I would go outside and shut my eyes tight and then open them and everything would be blue. I always loved that.
Why didn't you stay in your home city of Montreal?
Montreal may have the largest fashion industry in Canada, but I knew that for what I wanted to do, there isn't an audience in Canada. I needed to be in a place where people respond to the unknown instead of the common, so it made sense for me to move to London and go to Saint Martins.
Do you dream of showing in Paris?
I want to stay in London, as it's the city I feel most at ease in. You can walk down the street dressed however you want and no one bats an eyelash. You can be invisible.
What's the best thing about being young and talented in London?
It seems to be the only place in the world where you can be this young and still make things happen. People here crave young designers. I'm always surprised at how many young people are willing to come to the studio and help out. Another designer, Christopher Raeburn, has a studio across the hall from me. We can be close because there isn't that competitive cattiness. People just get it.