Like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, whenever Steven Tai posts invitations to his presentation you begin to guess the possibilities of the set, based on the piece of paper you receive. Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 were easy, Spring 2017 not so. A pen scratched etching of the brand name. In the end the collection was inspired by a quote from The Beauty and the Beast—an iconic film that is slated to get a modern retelling, with actress-activist Emma Watson playing Belle, next year—which read, “Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she’s feeling well. With a dreamy far off look. And her nose stuck in a book.” There you go—the nerd.
Steven Tai’s interaction with the female nerd has been quite the amusing one. It’s a thoroughly considered portrayal of society’s less-preferred incarnation. The clothes are never gimmicky or overt in their execution. There’s subtlety and nuance, which differs from many others who have made the nerd a cartoonish character. It doesn’t help the way the high street has commodified the traditional views of ‘nerdy chic’, which vilifies many other’s designers options to explore this area.
Tai’s persisting affinity for the “dorky-yet-feminine” woman has seen a new interpretation this season. He successfully steered his show in the right direction—there was the introduction of new silhouettes, they were sugary, swishy and feminine. One or two looks correlated to last season: the duvet dress from Fall 2016 looks to have transmogrified into a dreamy blouse and skirt.
Specific looks were evocative of uniforms. The modest hemlines, the pointed collars, the summer camp high-waisted shorts with overlong sleeves, shorts that pointed back, to the 50s. Here, Tai has modernised uniform tropes convincingly; not only has invented interesting silhouettes but he has also employed unique stitching methods that added flavour and intrigue—many of these techniques contributed to a 3-D, artistic element to the output.
This collection also marks five years since Tai’s graduate collection, which touched upon the bookworm. She’s bespectacled, her big, round frames a defining the face; she chooses functional shoes; her clothes are swishy yet comfortable in varying neutral hues—she’s also everlasting, it appears. Tai hasn’t been hesitant to return to that character time and time again. (He has established his distinct niche in the past five years with aplomb—he has yet to show signs of growing pains, although his brand is still in it’s infancy.) Here she is for Spring 2017, fully-formed, beautiful, bookish and energetic. Has there every been such an exciting mix?
All images are my own