BACKBONE, VOLUME 002: in conversation with tyrell harriott of TYRELL
BACKBONE is a new series of interviews that aim to appreciate the work and art of BIPOC designers and leaders who shape and define the fashion industry. For volume two, Fashion Editor Eloise Moulton (virtually) sat down with Tyrell Harriott, the Toronto-based designer and creative force behind TYRELL.
Just as his designs are timeless and sensual, Tyrell Harriott has an incomparable insight on fashion, which manifests through his physical work and personal style. A Toronto native, Harriott is rebirthing design as we know it — because the wearer can still express their unique style while immersing themselves in the unique romantic narrative of his sartotial aesthetic. He creates garments that relevantly take inspiration from his surroundings and speaks to the woman of today: someone who wears clothes for themselves, rather than for others. We talked to Tyrell about his designs, thoughts on fashion's role in the BLM movement, and his plans for the brand's future.
HS: Tell me about the evolution of your design career and brand.
TH: My brand was first inspired by streetwear — especially Rihanna's style. I would say that she is the nucleus of my brand. I never had the intent of launching a brand until after receiving such positive recognition on my first collection, which I did to build my portfolio — and [sic] fun. Later I got into summer wear, clothes you can wear day into night, to the beach, or even grab groceries. That's why most of my designs come in sets; the different pieces can be utilized and styled for any aesthetic or occasion.
HS: Where do you find inspiration for your pieces?
TH: I am heavily inspired by pop culture, art, and the common oddities of everyday life like foods or locations. Even cocktails! I'll take a picture of a drink I like and later use its colors in my designs.
HS: In light of the events that have happened over the past few months pertaining to the Black Lives Matter Movement, what changes to the fashion industry do you think are necessary for it to become more equitable and inclusive for BIPOC?
TH: I think there need to be more Black creatives having a say in executive decisions for larger platforms in the industry. There are not as many creative directors or brand ambassadors at a magazine or design house who are Black, so for there to be true change in this fashion industry, I believe more diverse representation internally or behind the scenes must come to fruition.
HS: With your last comment in mind, could you maybe touch on the subject of why until now has there been significant means of change in the fashion industry, at least portrayed through social media, despite the major push for inclusivity over the past years?
TH: Unfortunately, a lot of the industry's activism has seen most recently is preformative — as people have always been fighting for representation. Black people need to share their perspectives! Change will truly occur when Black people are at the helm and can display the content they want to see, rather than white people making decisions on what they think Black folks want to see.
I am heavily inspired by pop culture, art, and the common oddities of everyday life like foods or locations. Even cocktails! I'll take a picture of a drink I like and later use its colors in my designs.
HS: How does your experience as a Black man impact your creative process as a designer?
TH: Well, if you look at any of TYRELL's campaigns or Instagram posts, you will see that all my models are Black. If Black designers can say with their whole chest that they have some vision of beauty, which is only executed on white models, I can use only Black models. My clothes are not exclusively for Black women, but the models I use will only be Black. As well, Black women in pop culture, like Janet Jackson or Halle Berry, heavily inspire my work, and my brand wouldn't exist without them."
HS: Tyrell, it has been incredible to talk with you — as a parting question, what are your plans for TYRELL for the future, or where would you like to see your brand go?
TH: I do have plans for the future of TYRELL. I would like to have stockists, [because] as of right now my brand is completely e-Commerce. I would also like a bigger team and to show at Fashion Week. As well, my current design practices are very eco-friendly and sustainable; all my pieces are from deadstock fabrics and are made to order. In the future, I would like to continue to focus on sustainability.
Eloise Moulton is the Fashion Editor at HALOSCOPE. She also is a freelance writer and stylist who's worked in the fashion industry for many years. Her favorite things include Ashley Williams hair clips, comfy sweaters, The Girls by Emma Cline, and Studio Ghibli's movie Spirited Away. You're most likely to find her sifting through comic books at her favorite comic book store, Forbidden Planet, scouring for the perfect babydoll dress at L train vintage, or watch RuPaul's Drag Race with her dog Peanut. You can follow Eloise on Instagram @eloisemoulton.