In the tucked away Elms Lester painting rooms, just off Tottenham Court Road, Steven Tai hosted his AW16 collection in the open, white walled, glass roofed, gallery. The inviting scene complemented the nature of Tai’s designs. Inspired by the phrase ‘an old soul’, models were comfortably lounging against walls and sat gently swaying to and fro in rocking chairs, all carefully embroidering and darning. Steven Tai, famed for his quirky and awkward designs explains that, “his girls are always a bit silly, last season we did a set of young girls in their classroom”, which, instead of being a contrast to this season, was actually still “to do with the same character of girl, but at a different age. We put her back at home, in this winter collection, so she’s at home and doesn’t really want to move, wants to stay cosy in her quilted pieces, with all the pillows, all the duvet looking garments. Quite a bit of which is inspired from old ladies, who stay home a lot and just chill.”
This image is recreated by the way the room is decorated with a fireplace, framed pictures and the clothes, exaggerated in their ‘old fashioned’ style, with cardigans, stockings, glasses on a string as well as the palette he works with of unobtrusive lavenders, navys, beiges and olives.
When asked what are the main visions he uses to conjure his line, he explains “Most of the time when I do research, the people who really inspire me, that make me say ‘Oh my gosh, you dress so nicely,’ are usually the people who are actually ordinary and walking down the street. That’s why I don’t do my reasearch online, on Tumblr or Pinterest, but on the street. I am always on the street, taking pictures, so I think those women are actually my fashion icons.” He goes into further detail explaining “During Christmas I was travelling in Chinatown, in San Francisco, the old ladies there, they go for their sun run in the community parks, those are the old ladies that I get inspired by, because for me fashion icons have already been put together, they have already been influenced by trends, instead of actually being authentic.” He jokes that that “these women, they always put on their sleeveless vests, no matter what kind of weather”. This is prevalent in his collection; the voluminous, white silk quilted blankets constructed into vests, are a new vision to the Steven Tai line which as he says himself are “to protect and style”.
When asked which his favourite design was, he answered that “we do feel really strongly about all the quilting pieces, that’s one story that we feel very drawn towards, from a design aspect, those are the ones we feel most excited about, the printed pieces that Linda is wearing”, gesturing to one of the models, and the “jacquard embroidery” that makes up her clothing, he finishes “is more relatable to girls”. With this poignant remark, he brings up an idea which fashion should strive towards, inclusivity and accessibility, both of which Steven Tai’s line is fulfilling season by season.