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Q&A: Canadian designer Tanya Taylor talks S/S 2017 trends and being worn by Michelle Obama

06/01/2017 Jennifer Braun

Canadian designer Tanya Taylor finished 2016 with a bang last month when the former first lady, Michelle Obama, wore to her final White House holiday party, a number by the Toronto-born, New York-based designer.

“It was nuts,” Tanya explains, as she found out that Michelle Obama wore a frock she designed through an Instagram tag.

Before setting into holiday mode, I met with the designer behind her self-titled label to talk Spring/Summer 2017 fashion trends, Michelle Obama, and to find out her must do's in Toronto:

So now that you’re in Toronto does it feel like you’re home for the holidays or is New York your home now?

New York is home, but I am here for the weekend. My best friend just had a baby in Vancouver so she’s coming to town so I can meet her son. There’s lots of holiday parties happening and all my friends are here, so it still feels like home.

Is there one thing that you absolutely have to get or do when in Toronto?

I have this routine where I love going to Pusateri's and getting amazing pomegranate seeds. For some reason they taste better than in New York. So that’s my first stop that I go to and then I like shopping here, and I need to get some christmas shopping done, and we’re looking for furniture. We have an apartment at Bloor and Avenue, so I love shopping around there. I love Pink Tartan they have a great mix of brands that they carry and I’ll go check out the collection at Saks Fifth Avenue and Holt Renfrew.

So why did you decide to launch your label in New york?

Well I moved there to go to school at Parsons. Then I worked for three years for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and while I was there I felt like it would be the perfect place to start a company. It’s awesome because we develop everything in New York and we’re able to have the factory so close to our office. It just feels like an inspiring city, but it’s also super efficient to be a brand there.

Speaking of your brand, what would you say makes your label special or unique?

Definitely our sense of colour and optimism. I think we are probably the more colourful brand that exists. I paint all of our prints, so I think that makes it unique. And then, ironically being a female designer and designing for women that are similar in age is ironically unique. There’s a lot of male designers, so it’s nice to have that differentiating point of view.

And what type of women do you have in mind when you’re designing?

I like someone who definitely enjoys getting dressed. I think there is this art of dressing that I always had with my mom and grand-mother when I was younger. They were playful, they used fashion as a sense of expression, and I think a woman who is wearing our collection is having fun in it.

So you have pieces here from your Spring/Summer 2017 collection, can you tell me a bit about it?

So we showed it a New York Fashion Week in September and I had gone on a trip to Cuba and Capri, my mom lives in barbados, so I wanted to have this collection that embodies a lot of those trips, specifically Cuba. For the first time, I also brought my paint set on my trip, to cuba, and I was able to paint while I was there, which was an interesting way to create prints that were very authentic to the inspiration.

So what’s that process like when you’re painting to create a print?

You have to think about repeats. For instance, if you paint a flower It’s only one part of the puzzle. It’s not just what the print looks like. You have to think how the flower is moving on the fabric and how is that connecting to other motifs.

Is it hard to work with so many colours and motifs?

I don’t think it’s hard because I love it, but you have to make sure the story feels concise.

Do you foresee any big trends for spring/summer 2017?

A lot of tassels I was seeing. People also want like ‘fancy casual’. There’s this conversation around not feeling too dressed up, and evening shouldn’t feel like evening. So I think that people are getting a little more eclectic with mixing kind of a polished and rough look.