The year is drawing to close, and with it, a number of different entertainment and creative scenes in the city start hitting the reset button and looking forward to the spring. Fashion culture events for next year are already being set up so we can see the designs they'll be working on over the winter. Today we're chatting with local designer Tayler Clark about her career and what she's got coming up, along with photos of her previous work. (All pictures provided courtesy of Tayler Clark.
Gavin: Hey Tayler! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in California and spent my childhood in Utah and Oklahoma. I have lots of siblings; we were one of those LDS families that made everyone else grateful they only had six brothers and sisters. I attended BYU-I and graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. That basically means I made my own degree in fashion, entrepreneurship and visual communications. I’ve been married for almost three years and I am a proud Navy wife. I have a service dog named Zirabi who comes with me everywhere. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to follow. I basically do what I want, which has really helped in my fashion design work.
What drew you toward sewing and crafting as you grew up?
Initially, I hated it. I didn’t want to be a stereotypical girl. My brothers used to say I would be one of those girls who would be "chained to the stove" when I grew up. That crafted me into a little feminist in my own right. I didn’t start sewing until my mom made me stay home for most of my summer break. She thought I wasn’t spending enough time with the family, and told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to until I made a quilt. I rebelled for awhile, but I eventually gave in. Ever since that summer, sewing and I have been two peas in a pod.
What were some of your early creations like prior to college?
Thinking back to my earlier work is always entertaining. I enjoy seeing how far I’ve come. I’ve always had a love for vintage things, so I used to make a lot of vintage dresses in high school. I was originally self-taught, so I didn't use any kind of pattern or follow any rules when it came to the grain of the fabric. I would spend hours in my room creating new things. Sometimes I would stay up all night to make a new shirt or skirt. My parents would often laugh when they saw me in the morning because I would be wearing something they hadn’t seen before.
What made you choose BYU-I and what was your time like in their program?
I applied to BYU and BYU-I. I made it into both schools, and ended up attending BYU-I. I mainly wanted to get away from my family, which led me to the land of potatoes. I also didn’t want to be one of those people who went to high school and college in Provo and then never left. I absolutely loved the program in Idaho. The teachers at that university are amazing. I still have cell numbers for a lot of my professors. They would do anything for their students. The culture at BYU-I is very different than other universities. Every student is so nice. There isn’t a sense of competition in most of the programs because everyone is so willing to help out if someone is struggling.
What made you decide to start up your own fashion line, and where did the name Vintage Pygmy come from?
I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. Both my dad and mom started their own companies. I’ve seen ups and downs that come with entrepreneurship, but the fact that they did it and were able to provide jobs for others while following their passions appealed to me. I’m a free spirit and I can’t be tied down, so the idea of a corporate job or a job in an office all day sounds absolutely soul-sucking to me. Vintage Pygmy came from a pet name my family used to call me. I’m a natural ginger, and apparently my family thinks I have big eyes so they used to call me ginger pygmy with bush baby eyes. For my company, I wanted to have something unique. I didn’t want to be a narcissist and name it after myself. Also, Tayler Clark isn’t exactly an exciting brand name. I wanted to still be true to myself so I ended up combining my love of vintage things with my nickname from my family. And voila, Vintage Pygmy was born.
What was the catalyst to wanting to make vintage clothing with a modern twist?
You probably shouldn’t have asked me this question, because I’m about to hop on my soap box. (Insert exhales here.) In this day and age, most clothing companies use mass production to create their garments. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does have a few drawbacks. In order to make mass production cheaper, they make their designs simpler. Jeans and a t-shirt are a staple in everyone’s wardrobe. Back in the '50s, it was unacceptable for women to clean the house if they weren’t dressed up, heels and all. I’ve seen several vintage sewing instruction books that tell you to make sure you have your makeup done and a nice dress on in case your husband comes home while you are sewing. Although I don’t agree with that, because I love to be lazy, I do miss the elegance and beauty that used to be so common. I love the structure and lines of vintage garments. It speaks to me in a way that nothing else can. Instead of wearing something that is so common, why not wear something that flatters your body?
What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from concept to final product?
A lot of my inspiration comes from classic movies. The way a dress is draped or the pleats in a blouse stay in my mind until I can sketch it out into something that I love. Then comes the pattern-making, which is my favorite
part. My dad used to be a master woodworker. So being able to draw something out on paper and have it turn into a 3D garment is delightful to me. After I’ve perfected the pattern, I usually do a mock-up before I make the final garment.
Do you find yourself changing things mid-design, or do you stick to your plan from the start?
I occasionally change things mid-design. It usually only happens if halfway through I find an easier way to do something. But since I draft my patterns beforehand and I test them, I usually stick with the original design most days.
How has it been for you participating in fashion shows and exhibitions around the state?
It has been extremely exciting. As a designer, you really have to take any opportunity you are given to showcase your work. Each show is a lot of work with countless hours put into finding the right models and HMUA to work with, and of course, making the clothes. After it’s over, I’m always exhausted, but it’s worth it. It gives you an adrenaline rush when you walk out with your models and your pieces. Sometimes I make really weird hand gestures that I can’t control mid-walk, but you really have to embrace it. Even if it's terribly embarrassing.
What was it like participating in the RawArtist Awards last year?
Since I don’t make clothing which is everyone’s cup of tea, I was honored to be invited to showcase with other Raw Artists. I love what the company is doing. Creative individuals usually go unnoticed because they can’t find anywhere to showcase their work. This company is combating that. How could you not love what they're doing?
What made you decide to go strictly through an online store?
Brick and mortar stores certainly have their perks, but I’ve found that with my husband in the Navy, an online store is the place
to be right now. We don’t know where we will be living all the time. In fact, I’m moving in three weeks to his new station in San Diego. Navy life is rather uncertain, and I felt I could reach more customers through an online venue.
Do you have any plans to display at festivals or work with local retailers down the road?
I currently do not. I’ll have to make a lot of new contacts in San Diego, but I am hopeful for the future. I was invited to participate in New York Fashion Week next year, but right now it isn’t in the cards for me. I’m worried about growing too quickly. I want to be able to manage this company by myself, and that will cause me say no to some opportunities.
What kind of designs are you currently working on that you hope to display soon?
Right now I am working on some kids' clothing, as well as some menswear.
What can we expect from you and Vintage Pygmy going into 2017?
I have a feeling that 2017 will be a really good year. I’m planning a lot of things and I am very excited to show everyone what I have been working on. I’m working on my website right now, but if anyone wants to tag along on my journey, they can follow me on Instagram