In 2010, Michelle Taylor launched her independent brand Tallulah Love at Salon International de la Lingerie in Paris. Five years on, she returned to the show with a new investment partner and a collection that took the exhibition by storm. Here, the designer chats to Sarah Blackman about her new-found freedom to experiment with shape, styling and materials.
Walking around the exhibition hall at Salon International de la Lingerie (SIL) in January, there was one brand that caught my eye, not just because of its beautiful underwear, but because its creator was beaming from ear to ear.
“I’m so excited to talk to you about our restructure and our new collection,” said a glowing Michelle Taylor, managing director of Tallulah Love, as I stepped on to her stand.
Tallulah Love has recently received equity investments and is now working closely with a support network of industry professionals to grow the label after a short break from the sector.
“It’s been brilliant – we’ve invested in marketing and branding,” said Taylor. “We’ve also taken on a new team, so we’ve got Gaynor Millican, who’s working on marketing and administration, Kathryn Lowes, who’s working on product development with me, and Melissa Duncan, who’s our marketing and communications director.”
Taking a breath, the designer explained that she launched her British label at SIL in January 2010 and had worked alone up until last year.
“I took charge of the business and it was really successful at first, but it gradually became quite difficult to manage on my own,” she reflected.
“We had quite a few seasons of not being able to develop that much product. So it was really innovative at first, but it got to the point where I thought ‘I’ve really got to take this to another level’ and I couldn’t do it on my own.
“So I started to look for investment last year. We approached about 10 companies and we found the right partners in July. They are quite heavily involved in the business.”
Finding an investment partner has meant that Taylor has been given a sense of freedom; she can now concentrate on what she does best – designing.
“Designs have been building up inside of me and I used to get so frustrated because I could experiment with colour, but I couldn’t experiment with shape, whereas now we’ve introduced longline bras, bodies, slip dresses, and I can just be me, which is brilliant,” she explained.
“Working with a team has really helped as well because I can say ‘what do you think?’ And I really ask for their feedback. I’ve got so much more input now. It’s not just about what I like,” Taylor continued.
Returning to the Paris show this season has been a key step in Tallulah Love’s development plan and a chance to showcase its refined collection of garments.
So how have buyers reacted to the new changes? “Everyone at the show has been saying how different the collection is. I think the product has changed quite a lot because if you look at the images from when I first launched, there were big bows and lots of trims, so I’ve tried to refine everything so the lingerie is flattering under clothes. It’s sleeker, more sophisticated and grown up,” said Taylor.
“Coming back to Paris is a completely different ball game now. I don’t have my mum and dad carrying the leaflets for a start! I seem to have been taken more seriously.
“We had a big order from Saudi Arabia yesterday and that will be sold over a chain of a few shops. Hearing me say that sounds ridiculous! I can’t believe it,” she added, smiling.
‘Hidden Secrets’ is the inspiration behind Tallulah Love’s AW15 collection. With pops of rich colour amongst sophisticated neutrals, the collection conjures up images of winter berries and weathered garden statues.
“This is the Vintage Doll and it’s the collection that I’m most proud of,” said Taylor, passing me a longline bra and high waist brief from the range, which also includes a non-wired bodysuit.
“I designed something a few seasons back called Lavender’s Blue Dilly Dilly and everyone absolutely loved it – it was different shades of lilac. So this, I guess, is my sophisticated version,” she explained.
“It’s designed with different shades of mauve with spot mesh, corded lace and antique gold hooks and eyes. I’ve also designed a body and I love it, but I wasn’t sure how people were going to react to it, but everybody loves it. I used to work with highly contrasting colours on one garment, whereas now it’s subtle contrasts.”
“Then there’s Memoirs of the East,” Taylor added, pointing to a playful range made up of a black silk kimono robe, high waisted suspender belt and soft bra.
“I designed the embroidery based on a vintage gold fan and we contrasted the satin against the lace,” the creator explained.
Tallulah Love’s signature hummingbird design also reappears this season, in the form of a subtle digital print on duck egg blue silk. This exclusive fabric is used across the Courtesan collection and, for the first time, a babydoll has been added.
“I see the hummingbird as a cheeky character,” said Taylor. “The brand is more sophisticated now, but it’s fun as well. We work really hard, but we also have a laugh, so I want to get that message across in the product.
“It is so exciting for us to be back at Salon de la Lingerie with a collection which takes Tallulah Love to a level of greater sophistication. But we wouldn’t be Tallulah Love without our quirkiness and we’ll never lose that.”
Our interview comes to an end as the sound of Salon International de la Lingerie’s daily catwalk show plays behind us. Tallulah Love is featured in the show and a giddy Taylor doesn’t want to miss it.
“I’ll speak to you very soon,” she said, as she dashed off, still beaming with joy.