In the notoriously fickle fashion industry, success doesn’t always guarantee longevity. For Tanya Taylor, it’s been eight years since she founded her eponymous fashion brand and today, the Toronto-born designer is in the midst of a career high. Her colorful garments have found fans in the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Michelle Obama, Gigi Hadid and Aidy Bryant—whose cheerful, energetic personas embody the upbeat temperament of Taylor’s clothing and own playful demeanor.
Taylor’s early days of working in the fashion industry began when she was just 25, interning at Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s contemporary label Elizabeth & James while attending Parsons School of Design in New York. After two years, Taylor positioned herself as part of the design team until coming to the conclusion in 2012 that she had the ability to fill a need in the market for a company that she felt really heard and understood the customer.
Putting her clientele’s needs at the forefront of her brand has allowed Taylor to build a company that speaks to women of all shapes, sizes, color and age through style, and not necessarily words. The message being, to use clothes “as a tool to feel like the best version of themselves each day.” The 34-year-old, at present, has become a household name amongst Hollywood’s elite but her ready-to-wear collections are undoubtedly created with real, modern women in mind—even tapping her 120K Instagram followers from time to time for feedback.
Not only do impeccable fit and figure flattering silhouettes inform Taylor’s universal designs, she’s also hand-painting her own prints to tell a specific story—often influenced by a muse of her choosing. As both a designer and an artist, she firmly believes in the mood-boosting powers of a wardrobe that’s unapologetically bold, and each of her pattern-oriented collections have a spirit to them that you can’t help but smile at.
Her positive outlook and passion for the arts extends to the brand’s philanthropic efforts as well, working closely with organizations such as Memorial Sloan Kettering, Sick Kids and Sunrise Day Camp. In the past, Taylor has taught color therapy classes, created headscarves for cancer patients and gave exam room curtains at MSK a painterly redesign.
Just off the heels of her most recent Pre-Fall 2020 showcase, I chatted with Taylor to discuss her career beginnings, brand evolution and who she loves seeing wear her clothes.
What inspired you to start your namesake line back in 2012?
At the time I had been working at Elizabeth & James for three years as an assistant designer on the design team. I loved it but I missed creating something that was more personal and that allowed me to wholeheartedly express myself. I also felt that there was space in the contemporary market for a brand that was artistic, colorful and emotional without the designer price tag—so I decided to start my own company. I had a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance, an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons, and wanted to start a career that combined both experiences.
What has been the brand’s evolution since launching eight years ago?
A lot has changed! I started the company with one employee in a 200-square-foot office. We’re now at about 30 employees in a space 20 times the size of where we started. This past year in particular was a big growth period for us; we brought Sales and PR in-house, hired a new design director, a full marketing team and expanded our other departments as well.
The industry has also shifted a lot from when we launched. When we started we were a predominantly wholesale driven business, but we have spent the past few years growing our e-commerce presence and understanding who our customer is on a deeper level, not just how she shops but understanding what she cares about and how she lives her life.
What’s it like for the brand, and you as a designer, to have your looks worn by A-listers and influencers alike?
We love seeing all women wearing our clothes and it’s especially exciting to see the diversity of the women who wear us. It’s a pretty amazing feeling when I see women that I admire wearing my designs, from Michelle Obama to Jennifer Garner and Aidy Bryant, they are all exceptional women and I feel so thankful that they feel good in my clothes.
All of your prints are hand-painted in NYC. What prompted you to explore fashion and art?
I have always loved art and was brought up to use painting as a way to express myself. When I was young, my mom let me use our basement walls as my own canvas and I would spend hours down there painting. That joy of painting carried on into my adult life. When I started my brand, it felt very organic to paint my own prints just as I would do at home. Painting is very personal and I think our customer understands and appreciates the level of artistry and emotion that goes into each print.
What goes behind making a new collection?
The collection inspiration always starts with a trailblazing woman. I get infatuated with a woman and I research how her surroundings, time period and circumstances affected who she was, what she created and, at times, what she wore. We then start painting prints and designing the silhouettes. We’ll get print swatches made in several different fabrics and we start to match the fabrics to silhouettes. It’s a very fluid process and the collection is constantly changing right up until the end.
Photography by Ed Singleton