Q&A | Graham Tyler

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![](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b6a_image-asset.jpeg) On a mid-fall afternoon, [Graham Tyler](https://www.instagram.com/graham.tyler/) and I sat down at the High Line Hotel. Surrounded by its collegiate gothic-style architecture and mid-19th-century mementos, we reflect on the time ambiguousness of it— much like his work. Once a student of sculpture and millinery, Tyler found his craft somewhere between bespoke and ready-to-wear, although, he’s not the typical trend-leaning, Instagram-hype designer we’ve become accustomed to. Rather, he’s more introspective, and frankly, unparalleled in his skill. Blending Renaissance, Edwardian, and Victorian silhouettes, Graham modernizes each garment reference through a contemporary lens. In conversation, we spoke of his interests, inspirations, and career from past to present.  ![Flaunt-GT-Look-05-01.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574268648627-ZEE233RVPQA1VVB7D4JF/Flaunt-GT-Look-05-01.jpg) ![Flaunt-GT-Look-05-02.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574268647444-H29VIC28AH36TRTSRIRC/Flaunt-GT-Look-05-02.jpg) #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_160218 .sqs-gallery-block-grid { margin-right: -10px; } #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_160218 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; } **_How did you decide to study sculpture at Cleveland Institute of Art, and how did that lead you to your millinery apprenticeship with Marta Glazen?_** I started with painting, and my work was about the body. When it came to actually choosing my major, I ended up going with sculpture because I was more interested in tactile 3d works at the time. And again, I was making a lot of things about the body. From there, I realized I really wanted to learn a craft and wanted to have a skill— a real solid craft skill set. I was looking around at what would be of interest to me, and then I became kind of obsessive about really fascinating textiles. So just in happenstance, I found a woman in Cleveland that was taking an apprentice. Her name was Marta, and she took me in very kindly, and it was very intense; it was about two years with her. Two years, for five, maybe six days a week. I learned a lot from her. She's worked with everybody, and she was wonderful.  **_How did you decide to switch from sculpture to hats to ready to wear?_** I was making headwear for a lot of different people in New York, from stylists to runway to a lot of nightlife personalities. People would constantly ask me, "Can you make a garment to go with the hats that your making?" So I thought that I probably should learn how to make clothes. I was making a lot of clothing and headwear. Then, some of the designers that I was working with for their own lines said, "Just start your own thing."  Flaunt-GT-Look-04-01.jpg ![Flaunt-GT-Look-04-01.jpg](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b6e_Flaunt-GT-Look-04-01.jpeg) **_You went on to make custom headwear for Lady Gaga, Barneys NY, Adam Selman, and Polo Ralph Lauren, to name a few. What were those experiences like?_** Ralph Lauren for Polo was a full-time day job, and I was doing headwear. That was a really great experience of learning the ins and outs of a brand and how a brand functions at that scale. It's especially nice to work at a brand with such a specific aesthetic. When it comes to celebrities, I work with a few different stylists and such. I largely work with Zaldy, who is a big costume designer. He used to be the designer for LAMB for Gwen Stefani. I worked with him, and it's a really great relationship because he can transfer the information and the aesthetic that they're looking for quite easily. Celebrity work can be tricky because we both come to the table with totally different aesthetics. So I try to translate their thoughts and their words through my hand, which can be kind of a tedious process. It's a lot of give and take on that, but in the end, it's fun. **_Speaking of costume design— have you ever considered crossing over into that category?_** I mean, I now understand why Christian Lacroix decided to be a costume designer. Because there's a lot more freedom in that— I don't think I would, because I don't feel that my clothes and the topics that I'm discussing in my work translate well on stage, so I probably would never become a costume designer. None of my clothes have any historical accuracy. I'm usually re-cutting a historical garment into something totally different, or I cut a jacket as a shirt, and I cut a corset as a jacket. I kind of am shifting and re-translating and re-curating things. Flaunt-GT-Look-03-03.jpg ![Flaunt-GT-Look-03-03.jpg](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b7a_Flaunt-GT-Look-03-03.jpeg) **_Your silhouettes are a modern and original take on historical fashion with an emphasis on curved seams, leg of mutton sleeves, corsets, suit vests, and so on. What era's in fashion do you find most influential to you? And do you see a resurgence in antiquated-style clothing?_** I think the world is consistently reflexive. I think that that is relevant to me. I do see a resurgence in— at least currently, there's a lot of Victorian and Edwardian references transpiring. Especially with puffed sleeves, these are quite popular at the moment. The most recent collection was largely about Mary Shelley and her husband and the Pforzheimer collection at the New York Public Library, which focuses on 1819 to 1845. I mainly stuck to that time period as to the corsets, jackets, and shirts that I was cutting— I was referencing those styles. My work blends Renaissance, Edwardian, Victorian, and some extremely contemporary styles of cutting so that things never feel historical, and they never feel contemporary. They always feel like this very time ambiguous work, which I think is a new way of making clothes — to be very time ambiguous about the way that you're working. Overarchingly, people describe my work as being very Amish. I definitely take that as a compliment, just because I think I cut very graphic shapes, but with very tactile textiles and very hand ROT textiles- and that's kind of an Amish practice. The wonderful thing about Amish is that they look the same today as they did, and they do still.  ![](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b72_image-asset.jpeg) **_Speaking of your SS20 collection, "The Origin of Failure," what's the meaning behind this title?_** It's a long, drawn-out situation. Though the collection was about the Pforzheimer collection and Mary Shelley and her husband, it also was in tandem with trying to figure out what contemporarily is a Romantics approach to making things. I was really inspired by glitch art — also, the act of being romantic about pixelated data. A lot of the prints were all glitched out. I was glitching the images with the love letters. I was typing the love letters into the code of the photos and glitching them through that by putting too much data into the back end. So the long drawn out part of it is that there's only one real piece of critical academic writing about the glitch art that's called _The Aesthetics of Post-Digital Objects_, I believe. It refers to a glitch as the origin of failure. I was really fascinated by that term. Also, it's terminology as linked to Mary Shelley's obsession with failure in her book and most of her literature, but especially in Frankenstein. ![Flaunt-GT-Look-03-02.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574267511928-G52Q0K1CQWUPBFB07IU3/Flaunt-GT-Look-03-02.jpg) ![Flaunt-GT-Look-03-01.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574267512469-5R2CNRBCKL8ZB5YZ7KWS/Flaunt-GT-Look-03-01.jpg) #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_78230 .sqs-gallery-block-grid { margin-right: -10px; } #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_78230 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; } **_What were some of your other points of inspiration for the collection?_**  I was looking at one specific love letter, which is dated August 23rd — my birthday, that Mary Shelley's husband sent to her. Then when he passed away, she rewrote it, and the rewritten version is at the library. That was the main graphic, and then I referenced for the styles that I was cutting a few original Parisian fashion magazines from the early 1800s, these little women's books. Then a diary-slash-entertainment book that a woman named Anne Wagner kept, and I created a dress using her entire book that I reprint. That dress now will be in the permanent collection of the Phorzheimer. They have bought it, and it'll be the only piece of contemporary clothing that exists in their archive, which is really wonderful. Those are the main things that I was focusing on visually.  **_Do you have a favorite piece from this collection?_** The jacquard triptych. The three-piece suit that had their love letters and embroidered into it was my favorite look. That garment is made with this new technology that I'm working on with a computer weaving company in California to be able to create jacquard garments with no wastage. That's how the Mary Shelley corset was also created. They normally create a lot of wastage to make that work. ![](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b76_image-asset.jpeg)  **_Art plays an innate influence in your work. Do you prefer antiquity or modern art?_** It's a big mix in between. I don't think there's an art style that I don't like for the most part, but I'm not a big Surrealist fan. There are a few artists that I'm always thinking about, but I only look at historical art when it's when it pertains to a specific topic. **_I know the Smithsonian Institution in DC was an important gallery to you growing up. What's your favorite museum today?_** As a child, we went to that museum almost every summer in DC. There's a Vermeer room that was important to me, and the room about Alexander Calder in the Modern was significant for me as a kid. The feeling of uncanniness inspired me in his work. I recently went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. That was probably the most fantastic art experience I've had because it's really beautiful to experience art of that nature and of that caliber on non-white institutional walls. ![Flaunt-GT-Look-04-02.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574268132603-5W75I5RV71KFUKE53E4K/Flaunt-GT-Look-04-02.jpg) ![Flaunt-GT-Look-04-03.jpg](https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/56c346b607eaa09d9189a870/1574268190495-JUG4JR45R7BCFJ2QOUDF/Flaunt-GT-Look-04-03.jpg) #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_118877 .sqs-gallery-block-grid { margin-right: -10px; } #block-yui\_3\_17\_2\_1\_1574264828076\_118877 .sqs-gallery-block-grid .sqs-gallery-design-grid-slide .margin-wrapper { margin-right: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; } **_What are some of your favorite art movements and painters?_** My favorite artist is Joseph Cornell, who created these incredible little boxes filled with objects. He dealt with melancholy, nostalgia, and love in the same way that I do. I have a soft spot for miniatures and small works of art. I am more inspired by the underpaintings of paintings than I am of the paintings themselves. The color palettes from my work are based on Versailles' underpaintings, which are black and white paintings that they do before they do the painting on top. Any of the artists in the Baroque time period did that a lot. I look at Baroque paintings and Baroque unfinished works of art quite often. I also look at Jasper Johns work a lot. Currently, there's an artist Jefferson Hayman. He's a photographer, and he does these really beautiful little photographs that are my current obsession. **_Your last two collections have focused on the use of muted colors. Why are you more drawn to grays and blacks, and do you plan on reintroducing color in future collections?_** I'm partially color blind, and managing all of those colors was very hard for me. I realized I was in a very different place at that point in time. The short answer is no; I won't be going back to color. I consider those first two collections iterations of me attempting to figure out what I wanted to make. Then the most recent collections are me telling the world what I am making and what I am planning to continue to make. Gray, black and white will always be the base, and I will softly incorporate beiges and taupes and rusts, and some kind of soft lilacs. Everything else will stay rooted in those colors. I also like that you could, in theory, take any piece from those collections and moving forward be able to put them together because colors will always match up. I think that's important for the people who look at the clothes and also wear them. Flaunt-GT-Look-02-04.jpg ![Flaunt-GT-Look-02-04.jpg](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b66_Flaunt-GT-Look-02-04.jpeg) **_How do you achieve your impeccable tailoring? What's your trial and error process like while developing silhouettes each collection?_** My suits are sewn by hand. They are quite meticulously sewn, and I make all of the patterns and samples. I keep everything really structured, largely just because I'm drawn to those really aesthetic lines. It was more so a very long learning curve to have to teach myself how to sew a suit like that. I was looking at a lot of old designer suits who made stunning haute couture suits. That's where I learned how to make the ones that I make now. **_So what's next?_**  I'm launching e-commerce in the next month or so with some of our core styles and shapes. I am really focusing on the dress shirts. That's kind of everyone's favorite item from us. I'm currently in the Elaine Gold Launch Pad program, so lots of things to come through the CFDA and the EGLP. Then I am already starting the textile development process. The process is very long, and we create entirely new textiles every season, almost every textile is exclusive to the brand. I'm in the process of ideation and also agreements between what collection I'm going to be allowed to use next. There's a lot of logistical things with these collections, so I'm working on what collection I'll be using next. Flaunt-GT-Look-01-03.jpg ![Flaunt-GT-Look-01-03.jpg](https://assets-global.website-files.com/62ee0bbe0c783a903ecc0ddb/6472bb4e3903396dec103b62_Flaunt-GT-Look-01-03.jpeg) * * * Clothing: [Graham Tyler](https://www.grahamtyler.gallery/the-origin-of-failure) ‘The Origin of Failure’ Produced and Directed by: [Morgan Vickery](https://www.instagram.com/morganvickery/) Photography by: [Jack Belli](https://www.instagram.com/jackbelli/) Styled by: [Noah Diaz](https://www.instagram.com/noahrosadiaz/) Hair by: [Takuya Yamaguchi](https://www.instagram.com/tak8133/) using [R+Co](https://www.instagram.com/randco/) Makeup by: [Mia Varrone](https://www.instagram.com/miavarrone/) Model: [Inga Dezhina](https://www.instagram.com/ingadezhina/) at [Supreme](https://www.instagram.com/suprememgmt/)