Tanya Taylor On Launching Swim And Children’s Wear, And Being A Sustainable And Size-Inclusive Brand

Tanya Taylor launched her collection of ready-to-wear in 2012 at the young age of twenty-five. Since its debut, the brand has expanded into other categories, including children’s wear, and she recently launched the brand’s first in-house swimwear collection. Inspired by travel, art, and pops of color, Tanya Taylor is meant to be worn with confidence and a zest for life. Here, Taylor tells us about her start in the fashion industry, her transition into children’s wear and swimwear, as well as world issues she is passionate about. 

Have you always wanted to be a fashion designer?

I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur that connected with women and brought happiness into their lives, I just never knew in what form until I moved to New York City. I loved expressing myself through clothing and painting, and I loved fashion as a mode of storytelling from a really young age. After I graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Finance, I moved to New York City and went to Parsons. It was then that it really clicked that I wanted to be a fashion designer and build a brand. I’m grateful for my finance and business background because it allows me to understand all elements of my business at a core operational level.

What inspired you to start your own line? 

Coming from a long line of entrepreneurial women, I knew I always wanted to start my own enterprise, as it was a mentality instilled in me through seeing the fulfillment they had in building their businesses. I grew up knowing that building a team and a company around your passions is very rewarding. Fashion, specifically, was foreign to me as Toronto doesn’t have a fashion industry, but when I moved to New York and worked for Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen at Elizabeth and James I saw for the first time how I could build a brand that reflected my personal point of view and speak directly to a customer. I started the company at 25 years old because I wanted to share my art through design that was approachable, inclusive, and inviting to women, and I saw a void of female designers in contemporary fashion really connecting with the customer. I wanted to build a trusting and inspiring relationship with my consumer and community and make them feel confident and energized through my work.

Who, what, or where inspires your designs?

Travel and art are my biggest sources of inspiration. I am moved by color and seeing it through the lens of culture. Nothing inspires me more than landing in a new city like Istanbul or Copenhagen, going to an art gallery, and just watching women to see their lifestyles, their individuality, and how they style themselves. I love being immersed in new textures, new cultures, and being a fly on the wall. Before designing a collection, I usually think of a destination and the mood that I feel when I am there. From that point, the inspiration unravels and the team pulls together a color story and design references from the city’s art, architecture, and overall aesthetic.

You recently launched children’s wear. What brought this idea to life? How has the reception been to the collection? 

We had a lot of demand from our customer to celebrate with her family this year and have a matching moment with her mini. It was an exciting launch that we have available on our website and Maisonette and allowed us to focus on the perfect sundress silhouette available in four seasonal prints. The reception was great, we have sold the collection really well, and it has been a new and exciting way to show how the brand can continue to grow outside of ready-to-wear to touch on all aspects of our customers’ lives.

Also, I am the mother of two boys, so this collection celebrates the joy and color that all children bring. The sailboat print, in particular, was something I painted when I was pregnant last summer, so it’s extra special for me that women can now buy dresses to have their own matching moment with their daughters. Our customers have loved the capsule, and we are planning on launching more colors very soon! 

You also just released your first in-house swim collection. What made you decide to start making swimwear? How is your swimwear different from existing collections? 

I have been excited to launch swimwear from the beginning of the brand, I have always felt our prints lent themselves to a resort frame of mind to encourage celebration, a sense of freedom, and happiness. My family has lived in Barbados for the past 20 years and being personally connected to that lifestyle has helped me understand what is missing in the market. 

We have worked so hard this year to develop a sustainable, size-inclusive swim capsule that focuses on amazing fit using high-performance fabrics in our hand-painted prints. It is youthful, flattering, sporty, and feminine and focuses on details such as smocking, wrap silhouettes, and flirty ties that are signature in our ready-to-wear. The thoughtfulness of design is intended to encourage confidence for women in a category that can be intimidating. Swim seamlessly ties back to our ready-to-wear through shape and print but was launched at a more accessible price point to be more inclusive and accessible to our existing customers and new audiences.

Are there other categories you are interested in? Would you ever consider designing a line for men?

I am always focused on what’s next, and we have a very exciting launch this month that is centered around the tastemaker and entertainer! I won’t spoil the secret, but Tanya Taylor is expanding beyond the closet! 

What world issues are important to the brand and what steps are you taking to address them? What do you wish other brands were doing differently? 

Size inclusivity and sustainability are core values of the brand that we factor into our business model and culture of thinking. We have been producing size-inclusive collections for over four years. It has been a steep learning curve, but it is embedded in all our decision-making from marketing to design. We are very proud to be one of the only contemporary fashion brands with wholesalers such as Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Nordstrom that offer size inclusivity consistently through all categories every season. We take a lot of care to fit on a size-4 and size-18 every season, shoot lookbooks that promote body positivity, and have an open mind on how we can always be improving. I wish more companies saw this importance of inclusivity and saw beyond conventional sizing.

Sustainability is a focus of ours that is woven through our manufacturing choices, commitment to work with recycled materials such as recycled polyamide for our swimwear, conscious effort to reduce seasonal inventory, redesign our packaging to be biodegradable and lastly, upcycle fabrics into repurposed uses such as TT Pajamas and home items. The team knows that small decisions add up to greater impact so instilling a consciousness of always looking for more sustainable approaches is shared amongst everyone at the brand.

Our last focus is around improving access to the arts for underserved communities and sharing our art to impact those who need it. I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to inspire students and young professionals to see all the roles that exist in fashion and create more opportunities. Our team has volunteered time mentoring students through Fashion for All Foundation, we have painted at public schools in Harlem and The Bronx with Publicolor, taught numerous color therapy painting classes for pediatric patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering and for NYC youth. I want to build a brand that impacts the community through color beyond clothing.

Does Tanya Taylor have a specific message to share with the world?

Our mission is to inspire all women to live in color. Through the artful use of color and original hand-painted prints, each Tanya Taylor collection is designed to bring confidence and high-energy happiness into daily life. Each collection is designed with real women in mind. We consider fit and function so that women can use our clothing as a tool to feel like the best version of themselves each day. Fashion can be thoughtful, inclusive, and inspiring – they are not mutually exclusive. 

What is your go-to, everyday Tanya Taylor outfit?

I love getting dressed up — my go-to look is a colorful intarsia sweater, sleeves pushed up, bumblebee Delfina Delettrez earrings, soft midi printed skirt with a tall boot kitten heel, crossbody vintage Chanel bag, and a matching mask.

What has been your pinch-me moment since launching your line in 2012?

Going to the White House with my mom to meet Michelle Obama who continuously wore us and supported the brand while she was the First Lady. I was invited to the Obama’s final party before leaving and it was epic — my mom and I at one point were dancing with Usher, Paul McCartney, and Michelle Obama to Pharrell singing Get Lucky, and I felt so incredibly lucky for having the opportunity to work with someone who was such an inspiration to so many women. 

A totally different pinch-me moment was walking into Memorial Sloan Kettering and seeing our redesign of the hospital curtains for pediatric patients. It made me so happy to see how art was lifting people up, through challenging times and our biggest goal through our designs is bringing people joy no matter how big or small.

What has been your biggest challenge during the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was trying to create a connection when the team was disconnected physically. I was also six months pregnant last March when we started working from home so figuring out, with limited time, how to reset the priorities and recuperate from the losses was incredibly difficult. I overcame every challenge by working with my amazing team, digging deeper into asking the why behind how we were growing the brand, and reconnecting to my instinct. It took a lot of hustle, but we made it work! 

What advice would you give to business owners who have struggled during these trying times?

I would share empathy for the trauma this year has created for business owners. I would suggest they lean into their teams and connect with those that believe in them because they aren’t alone.  

What are you looking forward to most now that the pandemic is ending? 

I am most looking forward to getting back on track with building the brand I believe can make a real impact in fashion and doing it with a refreshed point of view on focus, responsibility, and elevated design. I feel stronger than ever and feel more confident than I would have without this year that we have a reason to shine.

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