In 2020, Taylor-Bea Gordon launched her brand T LABEL, and with it, a new genre of garments – a style she lovingly calls ‘romantic wear’. The phrase perfectly encapsulates what has become the brand’s design signatures, including satin gloves seductively shaped into bustiers and bras, frilled tulle adorning sheer hosiery and dramatic peplummed boned corsets.
Each item is expertly handcrafted in a Worcester-based atelier using deadstock fabrics and upcycled textiles via a considered made-to-order approach. The designs have since garnered the attention of Adut Akech, Lizzo and Marion Cotillard, and have been styled for The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar and Grazia, to name only a few.
Gordon grew up in an industrial town outside of Birmingham called Kidderminster, surrounded by green spaces and canals. She trained at London College of Fashion before joining the design teams at Erdem and Alexander McQueen, and it was here that her love affair with amorous designs began.
As the brand’s popularity continued to grow, so too did the unique challenges and financial difficulties of the pandemic, and Gordon was forced to leave London and establish the brand in Worcester. “The cost of rent was simply unaffordable, and it remains a mystery to me as to how many up-and-coming brands can afford to operate in the city. Being outside of London presents challenges in scouting models for shoots, sourcing fabrics and creative collaboration,” she explains. Through research, Gordon discovered that Worcester was the home of glove-making in Victorian times, and this inspired her to reimagine the future of British fashion as more decentralised from London, as living costs continue to rise.
For her latest collection, the 27-year-old designer was inspired by the glamour of The Great Gatsby’s 1920s and spell-casting noir femme fatales, culminating in a series of looks created from metallic beads. Delicately knitted and crocheted into organic feminine silhouettes, the garments emulate the same intimacy and nostalgia that T LABEL has mastered in new, solid materials embodying female strength. Each woven design is uniquely shaped, celebrating the body through thousands of sensual gaps in between the threads.
Below, Taylor-Bea Gordon shares how hopeless romance, deadstock fabrics and her Mum have inspired her design development.
What were your earliest inspirations to study/practice fashion design? As a child, I always loved clothes and dressing up because of my mom. She would ask me at Halloween what I wanted to be and go out and get different fabrics and trims to make me a costume. She is where my love for clothes comes from, and she works with me now at T LABEL. Who would have thought we would be building a brand together all those years ago?
My mum is where my love for clothes comes from, and she works with me now at T LABEL. Who would have thought we would be building a brand together all those years ago?
How was your experience studying fashion?
I studied at London College of Fashion, and my course was structured to teach us to create for a purpose, whether sustainability, a specific consumer or a gap in the market. One aspect that I learned and that always stuck with me was to not design for the sake of it; this is something that I’ve really carried forward when I approach a new project.
My course gave me a commercial and realistic understanding of the industry’s workings, which was great because the creative side was already embedded in me naturally. But the business, technical and purpose-driven design is something I had no idea about before university.
What barriers, if any, have you experienced in accessing the industry?
All of the barriers I’ve experienced have been with T LABEL. The industry talks a lot about change and making the fashion industry more sustainable, but it’s a long way to go. An example is my struggle to operate a responsible luxury brand in an industry that expects volume. Because we work with deadstock fabrics and are limited to how many pieces of clothing we can make with each fabrication, we make most of our products made-to-order for our e-store. In some cases, we can only make a maximum of 40 units per item of clothing. These are very small quantities to some stockists that we would love to work with, and working with them would really impact our brand so much if we had the opportunity to collaborate with them with limited edition collections.
The industry talks a lot about change and making the fashion industry more sustainable, but it’s got a long way to go.
This also significantly impacts funding opportunities, as many of the grants and scholarships I have found require you to work with a minimum amount of stockists and show so many collections a year. As a brand that solely operates on its own income with no outside financing, it’s frustrating, and it feels like these opportunities are limited for designers like myself and don’t feel inclusive for the brands that are creating new and innovative production models for a smaller, more intimate brands that are high in demand and profitable companies.
We are perfecting our production model to go hand in hand with our fabric sourcing. It can be scaled up in a very attractive way to those who could support us with fashion funding. Still, there needs to be trust and the right investors taking chances on a new model that doesn’t match the current brands showing minimum twice a year at fashion weeks and working with handfuls of stockists to create mass-production collections.
Who or what has inspired your most recent collection?
We just dropped our most recent campaign to show our beaded collection. It has pieces that have been seen on our Instagram, and some new pieces, including skirts, suspenders and headpieces. At T LABEL, we are always inspired by fabrics first as we prioritise deadstock materials or pieces we can upcycle, so we see this as an exciting challenge to work around. Fabrics we have more of can be great for bigger pieces with more volume. Fabrics we have less of are great for tops, shorts, mini skirts or gloves, so we can produce more of them.
In this collection, we are working with beads, which I love! It’s such intricate work, and every piece is totally unique, never 100% identical – like handwriting!
For shapes and design, we stuck to the brand’s roots, romance and nostalgia. We went back to the 1920s and used reference images of women with a more witchy vibe in that era. The pieces feel like lingerie.
Can you describe your design process?
Fabric sourcing and researching the mood of the collection – they go hand in hand and must be done at the same time, picking the direction of the collection and grabbing what deadstock fabrics we think are interesting. As resources and fabrications grow, it’s about gradually merging the two, figuring out what fabrics and textiles can complement what visual direction the most. We love textiles at T LABEL, and we love developing textile manipulation in the research progress.
As resources and fabrications grow, it’s about gradually merging the two, figuring out what fabrics and textiles can complement what visual direction the most. We love textiles at T LABEL, and we love developing textile manipulation in the research progress.
Are there any materials that are significant in your work?
I imagine many people think of T LABEL and envisage our transparent fabrics, textile manipulations and upcycling of beads. I love to think of our organzas and tulles as ‘barely-there’ fabrics, as I think layering can be really fun to experiment with transparent materials. The human body itself is often overlooked. I want everyone to feel confident and sexy enough to show their body, whether it’s on a special occasion or daily. For me, there should be no shame in loving and exploring your body through clothes.
In textile development, I love repetition and feeling limited to re-invent ideas. The biggest example is our use of bias binding. We spend so much money on it! It’s used as straps, and we have used it in panelling and to highlight cut lines; we are now pleating it in our next collection to make a furry, hair-like texture. It’s a bit bizarre, but I can’t wait for people to see that one up close!
Our beads, all upcycled from pre-loved clothing, unpicked, cleaned and re-woven into the new T LABEL design. We get a lot of second-hand pieces from vintage shops, charity shops and second-hand selling platforms, so it’s amazing that our sourcing budget goes directly into charitable organisations or everyday people’s pockets instead of big companies.
Who would you love to see wear your designs?
I would love to see Nadia Lee Cohen, Solange, Rosalía, Palomja Elseser, Ashley Graham and Mona Tougaard, to name a few.
How do you like to present your work? Do you think this will change in the future?
We had one experience of Paris Fashion Week so far, and it was an absolute whirlwind! It was entirely self-funded. We have yet to have any funding and no sponsorships for the event, so it was a lot of work for our small team of four at the time! We were extremely fortunate to have friends and so many amazing content creators – some just absolute one-of-a-kind talents, to feature in the show. We did it our way. It was intimate, filled with a lot of love and was a celebration for us to meet so many of the creatives we had collaborated digitally with through COVID.
It will look different in the future as we aim to do it again after we get sponsorship, and that will allow us to get more prepared by having a consistent PR team and more people to help on set. But in terms of creativity, I hope all our shows and events won’t feel like a traditional fashion week format and, instead, you feel like you are stepping into a world with the models together.
Our Paris show was super interactive; models were in different windows of a hotel we booked out, and guests watched in a bar across the street and in the street itself. The more the show went on, all sorts of random people were watching; children, older generations, and chefs were coming out of their restaurant kitchens to watch. Models interacted with anyone and everyone, saying hello, and giving them flowers. It was super intimate and really inclusive. Not just for fashion crowds.
How would you like to see your work develop and how are you approaching this?
I like a lot of things about where the brand is at now, I just want the work opportunities to grow, which can be done through expanding the team in the right way. That’s where we hope expectations of fashion brands will change from funding opportunities. I think what Julie Pelipas and her team at Bettter has just achieved with the LVMH Prize is really inspiring for me to see, a brand with an upcycling model where they are actively working around limited fabrications every day. It’s a really positive change and a step forward in a genuinely sustainable direction.
I’m obsessed with what I do and I literally never stop because I love it so much. I do, however, think there is so much fashion – I’m always so overwhelmed every time fashion month comes along because there really is just so much stuff! I think it’s going to have to change, because do we really need to see 40-50 look collections?
How do you think the fashion industry will evolve over the next five years? How do you feel about that change? I love fashion so much, I’m obsessed with what I do, and I literally never stop because I love it so much. I do, however, think there is so much fashion. I’m always so overwhelmed every time fashion month comes along because there really is just so. much. stuff! I think it’s going to have to change, because do we really need to see 40-50 look collections? Maybe less actually can be more, and that’s so much better for the world we share.
What changes would you like to see, if any, and how is your brand contributing to this?
I worked and interned at a few fashion houses before I started T LABEL, and seeing the unlimited resources some of these huge fashion houses have is quite overwhelming to process, like the sheer process of if you want to experiment with something, you can with no financial limits, no fabrication limits, no international limits. I believe it’s really healthy to work around what resources we have already and not have such luxury to do whatever we want with sourcing and making new materials. It’s one of the things I’m really proud of at T LABEL. We are constantly faced with limits with what we can create with fabrics, but it’s really rewarding when we find a way, and we don’t need to search through an unlimited, global database of resources. Shout out to other brands like Bettter, Ancuta SarcaandMaison Cléo, who are finding their ways to upcycle and use deadstock materials too.
To shop the new beaded T Label collection, head to the brand’s online storeand follow on Instagram for the latest updates.
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