Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

UCA Rochester graduate, Claire Tagg, the runner-up of the Graduate Fashion Week 2017 M&S Womenswear Award, has had a very busy year, the young designer launched a capsule collection on the high street, made her London Fashion Week debut, saw her designs grace the red carpet, and even found the time to launch her own occassionwear label, and FashionUnited caught up with the rising star to discuss life, a year on from her graduate showcase.

“I literally haven’t stopped since Graduate Fashion Week,” explains Claire Tagg following her presentation at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week. “It has been a rollercoaster, I went from graduation to working with Marks and Spencer to preparing for my debut at London Fashion Week.”

Tagg wowed last year’s Graduate Fashion Week with her heavily embellished ballgowns, and the UCA Rochester graduate expanded upon her successful graduate collection for her debut London Fashion Week presentation as one of Fashion Scout’s rising stars, but the emerging designer is humbled at how her journey all started with a successful Graduate Fashion Week and making the Best of Show, which highlights the top 25 graduates.

“Graduate Fashion Week is a great platform to showcase your work to the industry,” explains Tagg. “I can’t explain what it is like when you see all your work going down the catwalk, it is just incredible.”

“I also got some amazing opportunities from showcasing my collection there, including my placement with Marks and Spencer.”

As a runner-up for the M&S Womenswear Award, Tagg was offered a three-month graduate placement with the British high street retailer, and just five-months after graduating from her BA in Fashion Textiles Print, the emerging designer launched an 11-piece ‘Evening Edit’ collection in November 2017.

The eveningwear collection featured dresses, skirts and separates including a kimono jacket that included luxurious prints that had Eastern-influenced intricate motifs, including pergolas and chrysanthemums, which were brought to life with tactile jacquard and burnished metallic thread.

“I was asked to design a collection which was glamorous and high fashion yet wearable for the Marks and Spencer’s customer,” said Tagg. “I had to bear in mind that women of all ages and sizes would want to wear this collection.”

Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

Tagg added: “It was so crazy to see my designs being sold on the shop floor, I learnt so much about commercial design that I could not have learnt from university. It was great to witness first hand how a high street brand operates and it was interesting to see how much work goes into developing an idea into the final product you buy in store.”

The eveningwear capsule line was an instant sell-out, with the then Marks and Spencer design director, Queralt Ferrer stating in a press release that the collection was a “beautiful example of what is possible when experience meets flair” and added that the pieces were “perfect for the party season”.

Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

Emerging designer Claire Tagg takes to FashionUnited about her first year after graduation

The success of her debut high street collection led Tagg to launch her own eponymous label, which combines both destruction with glamour, utilising luxurious prints, rich textures and elaborate embellishment across classic and feminine silhouettes.

It is no surprise that print is a major part of her label’s aesthetic as Tagg states that it was her love of print that made her choose the University of the Creative Arts Rochester: “I wanted to specialise in printed fashion and the BA Fashion Textiles Print was the best course for it.”

Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

In February 2018, Tagg was supported by Fashion Scout and showcased her autumn/winter 2018 collection as a presentation, an extension of her graduate collection, which is based on the concept of my journey as an air hostess.

“AW18 is an extension of my graduate collection, taking inspiration from my dreams as a little girl to become an air stewardess, which I did become,” said Tagg. “Everything about the job, the hard work and how I perceived myself as an air-stewardess and the destruction of the dream, is all illustrated on to the dresses. I then added flowers and more wearable pieces than my graduate collection.”

The cut of the collection explores the airline uniform, inspired by structured airline jackets which are combined with softer fabrics, while heavily embellishments show elements of glamour contrasted against ripped/worn textures, and all the prints used are hand dawn/painted and are hand stitched with ornate decoration.

Tagg explains: “All the prints are hand drawn, I have a sketch book full of my inspirations drawn, and then they are placed into photoshop and all played around with and that’s what comes out.

Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

“The prints are then combined with rich textures and intricate details, I love taking something so glamorous and pretty and ripping into and destructing it, and this debut collection plays with those concepts.”

The ballgowns are instant statement pieces from Tagg’s debut collection, and the designer’s favourite pieces, and she admits that she is always wanting to do “everything bigger”.

“It takes a long time to make a ballgown because of all the embellishments and beading that goes into it,” explains Tagg. “If it was up to me the whole ballgown would be completely beaded to make it more sparkly, glamorous and beautiful, but you have to be realistic with yourself.”

It is hardly surprising that red carpet gowns are her go-to designs as the rising star shared that she wants to be a couture designer, adding: “I want to make beautiful dresses. I want to dress people for events.”

This has already become a reality for the young designer, as British singer Hatty Keane was spotted on the red carpet of the world premiere of Transformers: The Last Knight last year wearing one of her designs.

Claire Tagg: One year on from Graduate Fashion Week

Reflecting on her “rollercoaster” of a year, Tagg notes: “It is very difficult to launch a label when you no longer have the support of a university behind you. Suddenly, you’re totally on your own and you have to make every decision for yourself. I have made a lot of mistakes but I have learnt from them and I love being able to do my own thing.

“It was so exciting showing at London Fashion Week. I never thought I’d get the opportunity, especially so close after graduating, but it’s exactly what I wanted to do. I felt so ready, I thought why wait.”

Tagg added: “I’m also so pleased I chose a presentation over a catwalk for my first show, as you get to see the detail of the clothes, on a catwalk it’s so fast, where at my presentation it allowed people to take it all in and look at the detail and it was lovely to hear such positive comments on my designs after working so hard to put the show together.”

For designers out there attending Graduate Fashion Week, Tagg shared her advice: “Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try not to listen to other peoples opinions, stick to what you think is right.”

Images: by Danielle Wightman-Stone / courtesy of Marks and Spencer