Pixies and fairies unite! Perched on leaves and petals the Thumbelina-esque character of Tyler McGillivary SS22 shows we never need to stop being the forest creatures of our childhood. It all started with a flower top she made for her graduation in Visual Arts, Sociology and Art History at New York University’s Gallatin School. Today, she tells us she will soon launch a new brand with her bestie Beepy Bella for SS23. For now, we can obsess over the botanical-garden inspired prints and colours in her signature stretchy, inclusive tailoring.
Your designs appear to be consistently joyful playing with blocking and tailoring that is fun to wiggle in. What soundtracks the boogie?
I love this question. Our boogie would heavily feature music that sounds like bubblegum - like Hannah Diamond, Kim Petras, Vendredi sur Mer, Sean Nicholas Savage, or yeule mixed with our studio soundtrack of sparkly sad girl music like Lael Neale, Jenny Hval, Phoebe Bridgers, Broadcast, and Sky Ferreira. Realistically, when I am sketching I have a hard time listening to music and just put on true crime podcasts for hours, but that would make for a very morbid boogie.
Colour combinations at Tyler McGillivary are found in natural compositions you find day to day, such as a “pink flower bouquet next to rows of oranges [where] there happens to be a piece of neon green tape hanging from the edge of a shelf”. What influenced the palette this season?
This season was heavily influenced by moss covered forests, orchid sanctuaries, the fake flowers in the flower district and the faded tones of old hand done animated movies like Alice in Wonderland and Bambi. I recently got a book called A Dictionary of Color Combinations by Haishoku Soukan I think is about to change my life…
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Tell us, what makes you smile?
My friends more than anything. A good bad joke. Cartoons and great wine and appetisers. Big fields of flowers and the shape of a star on anything.
As we spoke about earlier, your starting point to design comes from photographs you take of your surroundings in New York. After designing you usually source materials in India. How do you feel like the two places relate to each-other aesthetically?
Beyond the obvious similarities inherent to globalised cities, I actually find them to be incredibly different in the best way. New York is quite grey in terms of its architecture and the popular style of dress, whereas the streets and markets in Delhi and Noida (where I spend the bulk of my time while in India) are absolutely bursting with print, texture and scent and the general aesthetic of dress is much more colourful and traditional. A lot of the buildings are still similarly concrete at their core, but the signage, food, products and mass amount of people in brightly coloured clothes allow the city to feel infinitely more vibrant. I find when I’m there, I am already at the end of the design process and am looking to fill specific needs in terms of fabric etc. so I mostly just get to enjoy my surroundings and soak everything in.
Dressing up feels like putting on a new character sometimes. Your beautiful spiral shoes – the Lou heel and Maris Sandal - give off a pixie fairy feeling, and the just--released flower laser cut Gemma dress look like the outfit of a 70s icon. What characters do you imagine when designing?
I try to imagine what cartoon characters would wear in my most ideal versions of their costumes. I actually just watched the movie Belle and in one scene she wears a dress that is a glittering pink rose and I thought to myself maybe we should make that in real life. Similarly, she wears a kaleidoscope dress and I had been thinking for so long about making a print that is multiple faces of light reflected like a diamond. I try to make pieces that feel like you’ve stumbled upon them in your dream vintage store.
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You have chosen to position your brand at a reasonably affordable mark in the high fashion world. Why did you make that decision? Was it about inclusivity?
Yes, definitely. As I wrote above, I felt like there was a bit of a gap for piece that feel one of a kind and special, but are somewhat affordable in the way vintage pieces are. Of course, we are still priced high enough that many people are unable to afford our pieces, but it is important to me that we pay our producers living wages and maintain quality while still trying to make the pieces relatively accessible.
The butterfly is having a bit of a moment, seen on the catwalk interpreted through the noughties at Blue Marine SS22 denim butterfly crop top and draped in full over the body at Tyler McGillivary. Is it about feeling finally out of the isolation cocoon and back into being a social butterfly?
We conceived of our Elsa Dress last Summer and it’s definitely our best-selling piece. It came from the idea of a butterfly garden and the thought that it would be incredible to look as if you were covered in butterflies. I think it’s having a moment due more to nostalgia than anything else. Beyond just that they’re incredibly beautiful and have a mystical, fairy like quality, butterflies are rooted in my mind in a certain 2000s nostalgia and a desire for youth or the simplicity of just accepting that you are drawn to something that obviously beautiful.
Butterflies famously don’t live very long, only 15 to 20 days, however the polyester these dresses are made from is eternal (and non-biodegradable), however it is easily recyclable. How do you weigh in on sustainable practice? In 2019 you said to i-D you were looking into using fully recyclable packaging, have you been able to implement that?
We’re in the process right now of flipping everything! We’ve just placed an order for our packaging tissue paper to be fully recyclable etc. so that felt exciting since we could order a big enough quantity where the cost of the packaging rivalled non-sustainable alternatives. I’m hoping we can keep flipping our textiles to recycled fibres as well as we continue to grow and maintain the same price point.
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When asked to sum up your brand in 3 words you said: “Greenhouse. Disco. Party”. Do you love a good botanical garden?
Botanical gardens are probably my favourite places on this planet. I recently got to go to the orchid show at the Bronx Botanical garden after two years and it was better than I even remembered it. I’m fascinated in the idea of botanical preservation and rare plants and feel the most inspired in those spaces.
We love the campaign images for SS22 putting a beautiful Thumbelina in a psychedelically enlarged world. Can you tell us more about the concept?
We worked with our branding team at Leslie David studio to conceptualise this idea. I think what I love about it is that it plays with the scale of pieces that are already warping the natural scale of things. For example, our butterfly wing dress is made from magnifying the image of a butterfly and distorting it to fit the shape of a dress pattern, which was then laser-cut out to mimic the wing. To have our model wear that dress on top of an enlarged daisy brought the scale back to what is naturally is. There’s something incredibly surreal and wonderful about the shoot that matches the clothes perfectly, toeing the line between reality, the natural and the deeply unnatural.
What’s next?
My friend, designer Isabella Lalonde of Beepy Bella and I are starting a new brand that we’re hoping to present for SS23. It’s something we’ve been daydreaming about for a long time and it’s finally in motion…
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