How did you decide on a career in fashion (specialising in knitwear)?
I was working in an estate agents and hated it so much! My family had urged me to get a stable job, and I was working purely for the money - but I’d done an art foundation course and I’d always loved just making things. I did a lot of sewing and knitting in my spare time. So I decided one day that I wanted to make it into a career - the thought of doing something I really didn't like for the rest of my life was awful! I got myself motivated and while I was still working at the estate agents - I spent my days researching alternative careers and courses. I found a short course at the London College of Fashion (Access to HE diploma in Fashion, Media and Communication Course) which I signed up for. I got full marks in every module, resulting in a distinction and was really encouraged by one of my tutors to pursue a career in fashion design. She also taught at Kingston University and so I applied there and got a place.
You were inspired by an unusual source of old photographs for you final collection. Tell us a bit about this.
My final collection is inspired by a book called City of Shadows by PeterDoyle. It's essentially a book of 'mugshots' taken by the New South Wales Police Department in Australia between 1912-1960. The pictures were rediscovered in the 80's and collated into a book. I was so taken with this collection of images - the subjects gaze defiantly and nonchalantly at the camera - reminding us of the harshness of reality, that fate can turn on the best of us, at the worst of times. Almost everyone photographed is dressed in what appears to be their Sunday Best - women wear gloves with beaded necklaces, fur coats and high heels clutching delicate Art Deco inspired bags. Their unfortunate circumstances and bleak surroundings don't seem to detract from the need to take a 'good picture'. There is an overwhelming fascination when one attempts to fathom the sense of a woman retaining an image of fashionable elegance whilst standing in a police cell charged with murder and it's this 'sense' that I wanted to explore in my collection.
Which designers and brands inspire you right now?
There are so many! I just love the way that Mark Fast uses yarn to really flatter the body rather than just cover it up. I like what Christopher Kane is doing with crepe wool lace dresses and the surprise elements of faces and flowers within the lace. I’ve always admired Craig Lawrence who I interned for, because I’m drawn to all things sparkly and metallic and he uses it totally to excess! Sandra Backlund is another favourite of mine – for the way she manipulates knit into sculptural forms is so exciting and interesting. It always ends up in an eye-catching garment – pieces that I will never forget. If I could afford to wear what I really like – I love Cos, Whistles and Reiss knitwear because they use high quality yarns in a simple and sophisticated way.
Images from Tanya's final collection
What particularly attracted you to intern for MM?
The MillaMia stand at The Knitting and Stitching Show really stood out from everything else. I felt that they were one of, if not the only brand offering truly modern, unique patterns that someone even in their 20’s would want to knit! Also Louisa Crompton (former MillaMia intern) and I got chatting at the Show as we were both finalists for the Knitted Textile Awards. She couldn't praise MillaMia enough and offered to introduce me.
What are your future career plans?
I would love to explore couture knitwear. I think my final collection leans more to the couture but at the moment, from a practical point of view I’d like to get a grounding in the commercial knitwear industry. It’s more likely that I’ll get a job that way! If I was aiming high I’d love to design for Celine or Givenchy because they never fail to inspire me.
(posted by Max)