Those that know me will know that I say "Mega" a lot. Sometimes I'm just saying it for effect. Sometimes I really mean it. When I say Thomas Tait's A/W 13-4 show was "MEGA", just believe that I mean it. That initial stunned reaction after the show was fuelled by the sort of jubilant energy that we hadn't seen from Tait before. That's not to say that his previous four collections haven't been decidedly assured. From the get go, with support from the likes of Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, Tait has always wanted to do everything right. I requote his extensive interview in the last issue of Bon. "Well, I'm going to pay the bills and I'm going to put the energy into it. I'm taking all the responsibility for it. if it doesn't turn out the way I wanted it to, then why do all of this?"
It's a sensibility born out of pragmatism but also out of wanting to seek perfection. Exacting standards can scare people especially when a designer is as young as Tait is but when his collections have delivered, as they have done every time, and his shows reach zenith highest, like it did in February - you can't argue with that. When I went to the studio to see Tait and revisit the collection, he remarked that there was a sense of triumph on his part. "It's nice that people are saying "Oh I get it now. That's why you wanted to do it that way…"
It wasn't surprising that this show created a shift in perception of Tait. It was fast, swift, active and wait for it… new. That wasn't down to the wizardry of rainbow lights jittering through the underground car park space near Pall Mall (a genius choice - it has to be said few designers would approach the Crown Estate and ask to use a car park out of their extensive property portfolio), created by Tupak Martir of Satore Studio, an ongoing collaborator of Tait's. Although you can't doubt that Tait's show was a brilliantly conceived composite bit of showmanship, where soundtrack, lighting, and venue came together so effectively. In the end, it was definitely all about the clothes.
Although the roots of Tait's stomping collection lay in his watching heightened ideas of modernity and the future in eighties-made films like the cult flick Brazil, the 1984 adaptation of errr… 1984, and even to some extent the cornball delights of Runaway, the results were anything but retrofuture. Instead Tait had synthesised elements of active and sportswear, knowing when to exaggerate and when to exercise his innate right of subtlety and produce clothes that are switched on and engaged with our times.
"It was something that was nagging at me for a little while," said Tait. "Since the second season, there were hints of sportswear creeping in. I wanted to get it out of my system and just go for it all the way." And go for it he did. Cycling jerseys emblazoned with ThomasTait.Com in Blade Runner font isn't exactly subtle. Nor when his name graces velcro neck straps. I didn't spot a lone ThomasTits.Com top the first time round, which apparently is a cheeky reference to Tait's nickname amongst his friends. Who knew Tait, maker of quietly powerful tailoring, would have Tits literally in his collection? Who knew he would turn to puffa jackets either? He found one company in England (his entire collection is made in this country) to fill his standout puffa pieces with down, following a 3D tube pattern rather than the conventional quilted panels. They created vivid belts of Tic-Tac green and orange at the back and sides of leather coats as well as inside cropped bomber jackets.
Tait also cleverly tried to simulate the look of sportswear using his own carefully sourced fabrics - for instance a steely grey water-repellant taffeta from an Italian mill adorned with light reflective panels or a soft cashmere that is meant to look like Old Navy-esque fleece. A Thomas Tait coat has always been imbued with secreted details that only a wearer would experience and here, black leather coats are lined with a noisy nylon fabric which rustles with every move. Tait said that this would be a personal reminder of the speed your body is moving at or more to the point, a positive and upbeat reminder of activity. Airy windbreakers and matching trackie bottoms under the lights of the show were exploited for their sheer and light-diffusing qualities and appeared to be regenerated despite their familiarity. Where Tait challenged silhouette and had the most fun with that idea of heightened superfuture was in the voluminous ski jackets where the elbows were broken up with a tightly wound ripple knit. They were the hero pieces of the collection.
I could go on dissecting it all but as Tait said, it's a collection that was ramped up for specific season and that it was something singular he needed to get out of his system. Now that it's done and dusted, ready to be stocked and bought, he's already moved on to something altogether prettier and quieter for S/S 14 - and we all know Tait can do "quiet" really well. On a side note, on the stockist front, his deliciously crisp skater-infused S/S 13 collection is getting much love from the likes of Louis Boston, Matches in London and Bon Marche in Paris.
Tait also seems to be a dab hand at coming up with innovative sunnies shapes, which like his clothes have deceptive sculptural qualities about them. His "Sadzies" sunglasses from his S/S 12 collection made with Cutler & Gross played on a furrowed eyebrow expression. For A/W 13-4, he has created his sunnies in-house and has based them on the much-loved o_O emoticon - an expression that I do all the time when I scrunch up one eyebrow in a state of weirded out confusion. Now I annunciate that expression with these sunglasses. They will be going on sale pretty soon actually at Yasmin Sewell of Paper Mache Tiger's Beach in the East pop-up store that is opening up this weekend in Shoreditch and towards the end of the month on FarFetch.com so that you can all throw some o_O eye shapes.