Even before he won the inaugural LVMH Prize in May 2014, Thomas Tait's shows were one of the hottest tickets at London Fashion Week. That's quite a feat for such a young designer – the youngest ever, in fact, to graduate the esteemed M.A. Fashion program at Central St. Martins.
Many young designers struggle to retain their authenticity and original vision when they are first backed by a big industry powerhouse like LVMH or Kering. Huge cash injections and production increases aside, the pressure that comes with it can often derail a smaller brand or at least drastically change their aesthetic, making them more commercial to increase sales.
Thomas Tait, however, has so far gotten better with time, and shows no sign of watering down his ideas or caving to pressure. This season's collection was without a doubt his best to date, and in fact, one of the best of this London Fashion Week altogether.
For this season, he was selected by yet another huge brand, Swarovski, to be one of 15 young designers eligible for its Collective Prize. By incorporating the company's crystals into his collection, Tait is competing against peers including Peter Pilotto and Alexander Lewis to win €25,000. Such a cool, underground brand isn't at first glance a natural fit for Swarovski, and that's exactly why it worked.
Instead of going the obvious beaded dresses and dripping jewels route, Tait showed patent leather miniskirts studded with crystals and metal looped bib chokers peaking out from under gauzy sheer shirts. The real mastery of his Swarovski work showed in the orbs that swung on fine chains from the backs of some looks, bringing movement to otherwise constructed silhouettes. And that in itself demonstrates Tait's ultimate skill – the detail.
The cutout trend we've seen so much of this season has never been done as masterfully as he did it on Monday, in the form of tiny keyholes – an overarching theme in nearly every look. The opening looks showed little architectural holes smattered across silk tunics like constellations. This progressed to a more industrial feel, with tiny cages constructed over holes in the kneecaps of jeans. Western elements, in the form of cowhide skirts and tiny pointed cowboy style collars, also made an appearance. Again, unlike other brands who may have made that seem gimmicky, Tait's nods to the trend are subtle and restrained.
Surprisingly, the pieces of the show that made the biggest impression were the knits and the aforementioned jeans. The show notes described the fabric as "silk denim" and one pair was tightly melded with black patent panels for a distinctly cool feel. The knits were of note purely for their delicacy and the finesse – rarely has anything so fine been constructed so sharply. If this all sounds like we're gushing – we are. This was certainly a collection to remember.