Drawing inspiration from the 1970s, Steven Tai showed to a packed house in the gallery rafters of a vibrant and hopping Shop at Bluebird. As sunshine cascaded onto the venue's rooftop, the crowd jostled to see the action, indicating a particular buzz around the designer not seen previously.
Still sweet, humorous and light-hearted, this season there's certainly a more mature approach to the design. Consistently celebrating “diversity, awkwardness, and geekiness - aspects of us that we don’t normally acknowledge,” here his brand's muse is more-multifaceted. “Right now, now you can’t escape the cynicism that’s going on around us and I wanted to address it in my own way,” Tai explains of his new outlook and with this collection, we feel a slight deviation from his normally single-minded focus.
Across the 22 looks, he takes us on a 70s Safari trip of the West Coast complete with a rose-tinted landscape of tangerine, lavender, and acid green hues. Tailored-flares are matched with soft, prairie-inspired blouses or retro sports-tops. Long, pocketed safari trenches are worn over flecked-jersey two pieces while a chic, floral jacquard with squelches of gold and sky blue makes a snazzy faux-denim suit. Rope-detailing ties the collection together as a recurring motif which is both decorative and functional.
Tai’s new tone is undoubtedly inspired by his co-founded project Portrait Positive - Changing the Way You See with photographer Rankin and Changing Faces, a charitable organisation helping people who are visible different regain self-esteem. Three of the participants in the project's photo book Tai has included models from the collaboration on his runway - a further highly-valuable nudge for the industry to open up.
Ever with an eye for detail, Tai has his models stand beneath hanging rows of romantic hand-made floral packages sourced from discarded or unwatched batches: They were all flowers that were thrown away, we were asking people could we re-love their flowers in our emails!” If the 60s was about free love then Tai's 70s take is definitely about re-love.