Tanya Taylor: Glorious & Free

Tanya Taylor

Photo: Joanne Ratajzack  

Tanya Taylor’s best thirty-first birthday present came in the form of an Instagram post—a photo from Michelle Obama’s team showing the First Lady wearing one of Tanya’s designs. The occasion was the Obamas’ final White House holiday party, and Tanya had designed the dress specifically for her—a knee-length LBD (“little black dress” in fashion-speak) accented with red and purple embroidered poppies. “Seeing her wear our dress brought so much joy into my life. She has always inspired me to keep going.” Though Tanya’s parents divorced when she was four, both of them have had a marked impression on the person she is today. For years her father taught at universities overseas, before becoming a family therapist; she admits to sharing his analytical approach to understanding people. Her mother, Virginia Shaw, is the former chairwoman of the energy company ShawCor Ltd. Meanwhile, the women in this clan served as some of Tanya’s earliest influences in fashion. “My whole family, they wear one colour head to toe. My grandma is a bright robin’s egg blue, like ice. And then she puts a lot of little diamond bumblebee brooches all over her cardigans. My mom is 100 percent fuchsia; it’s weird, she will buy anything that’s fuchsia.” Tanya’s own signature colour is a fiery tomato red, which, she says, suits her energy and stubbornness. “Most people probably don’t see their life in terms of colour as much as I do. I react very much to colour—I associate every single day with a different one.”

Tanya Taylor

Photo: Joanne Ratajzack

Tanya initially studied finance at McGill University before going on to fashion school in London and New York. “I am not the most introspective person,” she says, “so I never realized I could pursue what made me happiest—hence why I studied finance before fashion.” Tanya’s bold colours and intricate florals quickly caught the attention of high-end retailers, and her clothes are now sold in prestigious shops like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Holt Renfrew. Being Canadian has helped rather than hurt her prospects. “There are a lot of amazing Canadians in the fashion world, and it’s like a secret code when you tell someone you’re Canadian.” Tanya thinks of fashion design as emotional storytelling. “I’m definitely trying to tell a story. I think that designing is a way of talking to people, a way of connecting with them. I’m asking them to let me be a part of their lives. You have to be interested in people to be a designer.” Michelle Obama is not the only political lady to sport Tanya’s designs. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is also an admirer of her style—she notably wore a Tanya Taylor creation for a much-photographed encounter with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Tanya also designed a T-shirt in support of Hillary Clinton; her grey-and-white-striped crewneck with HRC in red, white, and blue was worn by celebrities from Emma Roberts to Demi Lovato. She believes one reason why her clothes have attracted women in politics is their optimistic, joyful feel. “In the US there’s a bit of craziness going on right now. I hope people embrace colour instead of going into depression.”

Photo: Joanne Ratajzack

Tanya Taylor

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