April 20, 2024

Fashion designer Tanya Taylor thinks of colour as a language that can be used to evoke emotion. “I grew up with a mom and a grandmother who would wake up in the morning, pick a colour and wear it head to toe—it was an expression of their mood,” says the Toronto-raised, New York-based designer whose clothes have been worn by the likes of Michelle Obama, Beyoncé and Mindy Kaling.

Taylor takes an unconventional approach to developing her collections. With an artist’s eye and a desire to get her hands messy, she hand-paints her colour palettes, dreaming up combinations that strike the perfect balance of elegance and exuberance. “Colours dominate my memories, and that’s what creates the mood for me,” she explains. “When I bring them together, I consider how they become fabrics and what they would look like in a print, or in a knit paired with a bias-cut skirt.”

Tanya Taylor in her artfully printed bias-cut skirt. Photo: Cole Burston/The Toronto Star

If you’re trying to build more vibrant colour into your wardrobe, finding shades that generate excitement without being too polarizing can feel like a delicate balance. “I’m always trying to make [my customers] feel like they got to test something that pushed them a little bit and brought out a creativity in them,” Taylor says. “Colour is the way that we really connect with people. We still do black and white and grey and cream, but our most special pieces are the most artful.”

This year, Taylor’s label marks its 10th anniversary, and while she’s preparing to open her first standalone store on New York City’s Madison Avenue this fall, last week she returned to her hometown of Toronto to celebrate with a pop-up of pieces at TNT in Yorkville (10 per cent of sales will go to SickKids). We took the opportunity to chat with the designer and got a masterclass in adding more colour to your wardrobe. Read on for her expert tips.

Tap into your creative side

Tanya Taylor skirt, $575, in-store at TNT
Tanya Taylor skirt, $575, in-store at TNT while the pop-up lasts. Photo: Tanya Taylor

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“Look at art for inspiration. Maybe you love photography or paintings or interiors. Start with a painting and ask yourself, ‘What are the colour combinations in this painting that I like?’ Does it feel like something I could put on my body?”

Pair neons with neutrals

Aldo mule, $95, aldoshoes.com
Aldo mule, $95, aldoshoes.com. Photo: Aldo

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“I’m obsessed with pairing natural colours with surprising tones. Try oxblood or brandy with mint, or khaki with blood orange. A pop of lime green paired with olive and cream feels seasonless. You can wear it through the summer, but also when you transition into fall.”

Add a statement accessory

Dean Davidson necklace, $195, deandavidson.com
Dean Davidson necklace, $215, deandavidson.com. Photo: Dean Davidson

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“Pairing a colourful shoe with a neutral dress is one of the easiest ways to gauge your comfort level. I have a friend who exclusively wears neutrals, but she’ll add a turquoise necklace for a little something.”

Play with pink

Uniqlo shirt, $50, uniqlo.com
Uniqlo shirt, $50, uniqlo.com. Photo: Uniqlo

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“We always have pink in our collection, and I constantly find myself pairing new shades together, like soft peony with bright raspberry hues. It no longer feels exclusively feminine; you can incorporate it into cool, structured menswear shirts to create a unique balance.”

Experiment using layers

Tanya Taylor dress, $585, in-store at TNT
Tanya Taylor dress, $585, in-store at TNT. Photo: Tanya Taylor

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“Take a couple of sweaters in different shades and drape them one by one over a colourful dress,” advises Taylor. “Think: What do those two colours feel like? Do you like heather grey with army green? Maybe that becomes a new duo that excites you, and you can discover new ways to incorporate it into your wardrobe.”

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