Thomas Tait is the winner of the LVMH Young Fashion Designer prize, receiving €300,000 to invest in his eponymous label along with a year-long mentorship.
Tait, at 21, was the youngest person to complete Central Saint Martins’ MA program. After studying fashion in his hometown of Montreal, he moved to London where he debuted his collection right after school in 2010. If Tait is best known for his mastery in combining clean-cut design and fluid silhouettes, it’s fair to say his collections speak of a broader world rather than just clothes. This didn’t go unnoticed by the executive vice-president of Louis Vuitton, Delphine Arnault, and the board of celebrity designers — Nicolas Ghesquière, Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Humberto Leon, Phoebe Philo, Raf Simons and Riccardo Tisci – that constituted the jury panel.
MG You are based in London where you show your collection — in which way does the city feel right for you?
TT It’s just my home, it’s where I’ve studied, where I feel comfortable. I like London because you are able to be invisible. People are not so easily shocked in London so it’s easy to slide under the radar and be who you want to be. This mentality filters through all creative fields here. I think a young designer can get away with a lot more in London because an appreciation for the unusual is so engrained in British culture.
MG You have been awarded with the LVMH Young Fashion Designer Prize. Did you have the feeling you were going to win?
TT Oh no, I was so shocked I didn’t even understand my name when they called it. The prize was open to designers from all over the world, the only requirement was to be 40 years of age or less. The prize drew in applications from every continent so the nominees were naturally an eclectic group of designers each with striking differences. The judges had so many things to consider: creative skills, business ambitions and so on. I don’t think any of the nominees had a clear idea of who was going to win. It was so up in the air.
MG What is special about this prize?
TT I think the prize was really special due to the fact that most of the judges were designers. Designers are by nature very emotional people who work instinctively. I think having so many creative minds on the panel helped create a level ground between the judges and the nominees. They understand first hand what it is to be young, creative and working in this industry. As a consequence the reactions from the judges felt natural and honest. I think it would have been a completely different scenario if the final panel was made of editors, journalists or stylists.
MG How did it actually work?
TT On the day of the prize, the judges were able to browse through each of our collections (6 looks from each of the last two seasons). It was quite informal and gave the process a human feeling. It was nice to see first hand the judges’ reactions. The most stressful moment came later that day when we were asked to present individually in a private room with the jury sitting behind a white table and a clock ticking down the 10 minute time allocation.
MG What happened in the room, did they ask you questions?
TT Not really. I had to give them a bit of information on how I work and what my ambitions are and I think I had a good understanding of what I wanted to say. More than questions, there were a couple of comments: one from Karl Lagerfeld who enjoyed having a look at the sketches that I had done as an example of how I work illustratively. He mentioned it’s something you don’t really see in fashion anymore. Raf Simons was probably the most communicative judge. He said he could see an emotion and a world around what I am doing, rather than seeing only clothing. He also wanted to get the point across to me that it’s great I have a creative vision and that my work is very personal to me, but perhaps he wanted me to be aware that as things go on, more and more work will be demanded of me and there will be commercial responsibilities involved. It helped me think about my responsibilities in terms of commercial development.