Style File: Tanya Carlson

Designer Tanya Carlson.

Tanya Carlson is known for her impeccable tailoring and beautiful approach to design which mixes romantic and historical influences with unexpected ones to create collections that are utterly gorgeous and always memorable. Tanya founded her eponymous label in 1997 and it’s grown to become beloved by many women who cherish her sharp eye for creating garments that fit sublimely and flatter the female form. Raised in picturesque Dunedin, Tanya is now based in Auckland and produces seasonal womenswear collections as well as bespoke pieces and the occasional wedding gown for clients from her workroom on Ponsonby Road.

We caught up with Tanya to find out more about her latest collection, what inspires her and what you would never catch her wearing!

Tell us about your latest collection? 
Summer 16/17 is a combination of 1940s American sportswear with the vibrant colours of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. The collection features playful, interchangeable separates and relaxed, unstructured tailoring.I also wanted to mash up classic American denim  with colour, stripes and flag-like prints in a nod to this year’s Olympic Games and to capture sportswear in the tradition of Coco Chanel. The collection includes unstructured separates such as blouses, shirts, skirts and blazers – made for the modern woman living a fast-paced lifestyle – after getting a book on American fashion from my friend, the late milliner Lindsay Kennett. I was interested in designer Claire McCardell and her significant contribution to contemporary American fashion, particularly in modern sportswear. Summer 16/17 combines glamour – backless gowns, bell sleeves, lace and silks – with practical details, like pockets, for your mobile, cards or lippy. The Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman collection on in Sydney inspired much of the colour and pattern behind the collection. I’ve always loved Kahlo’s work and seeing it up close was an amazing experience and an important influence for Summer 16/17.

What made you become a designer?
I can still remember as a four-year-old being in love with my mother’s collection of paper dolls from the 1940s and 1950s. It included these amazing couture dresses. I always wanted to be a designer and used to make things from a really early age.

What inspires you?
Everything. There’s no formula to it, whether it’s colours in the sky, driving my Cascada with the top down on my way to a surf, paintings, photography, film, it’s all around you the whole time, it’s everything.

Looks from Tanya Carlson’s Summer 16/17 collection.

Describe your personal style and how it influences your brand?
In the past people have described me as “grungy lady” which I like, though that’s changed a bit over the years. My personal style comes from a strong interest in the history of fashion, and an admiration for the technicalities of construction and pattern making. Particularly it would be the Victorian era, the 30s and 70s, that’s what shapes me. I have a strong interest in art, music, history of fashion. There’s always referencing of all of those things in my collections.

What is your all-??time favourite purchase?
That is very difficult, but from a personal point of view, it would probably be my first surf board (which was gifted to me) that helped me experience one of the best things in the world. Sitting on a surf board out past the breakers and waiting to catch a break is one of life’s great pleasures. It grounds me, relaxes me and inspires me.

What wardrobe item should every woman invest in?
A beautiful tuxedo jacket.

Do you have a style rule you always obey?
No, because I think all of those rules are made to be broken. The minute you start putting rules around things, I think you isolate people.

Looks from Tanya Carlson’s Summer 16/17 collection.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
There have been many highlights – working with the Ballet and contemporary dance companies, the wedding dress exhibition during iD Fashion Week in 2014 at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, working with artists.

What can’t you live without?
My garden.

Finish this sentence – You would never catch me wearing…
Crocs – despite what Christopher Kane did with them.

Lookbook images by David Shields. Images supplied.

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