There’s a certain magic to the work of an outsider—someone who’s quietly developed their skills without the influence of an Institution to mold malleable talent into a fixed, hyper-trained box. Such is the case with rising LA-based designer Taylor Ross, who developed his buzzing genderless brand Tango Romeo by watching YouTube tutorials and reading online forums.
This DIY mindset is laced throughout Ross’ efforts; his gritty NYFW presentation earlier this month was staged on the city streets with a small lineup of (non-model) models the designer said he “basically cast blindly.”
A thankfully well-balanced display of the racial and gender spectrums, Ross is a part of a younger community of creators embracing non-binary thinking—one male model wore a slim black cocktail dress, while another donned a floor-length sheer number with romantic butterfly embellishments on the chest. “I knew I needed some open-minded guys, who make some of the feminine cuts look hyper-masculine,” Ross said.
We caught up with up-and-coming designer to talk about his bold aesthetic, sexuality and NY fashion.
On growing up in Colorado:
“I grew up in a very small town in Colorado with no real diversity or culture to speak of. I was much more into sports growing up, but I had an art teacher in school that saw something in me and encouraged me to explore creative fields. Eventually I discovered my love for painting, and I’ve been pursuing a career in the arts ever since. When I applied my talent and skills to designing clothes, a new world opened up and I became obsessed. I got a Jean Paul Gaultier tattoo on my forehead and dove headfirst into all things fashion. All those years studying color, composition and even sculpture definitely inform my designs today.”
On developing his skill set:
“I studied fine art in school and was attempting to be a gallery artist for a long time; painting was my main focus. I’ve always been into personal style and a few years ago when I started painting on clothes, something clicked. For this collection, I decided to challenge myself by making it fully cut and sew—everything before had been altering existing garments. I used online forums and YouTube tutorials to learn techniques. I think I achieved the polished look I was going for. This capsule collection was basically a showcase for me—I spent every last dime I had getting to NY to show.”
On his aesthetic:
“The clothes I make are bold, romantic and might verge on trashy at times. My eyes are really bad and I’m colorblind, so sometimes I will think I see something, but when I get closer, it’s something else; I’ll still make what I thought I saw. I can get an idea watching trashy daytime television or reading national geographic. I’m big into documentaries lately, as well as the studies of [Indian Yogi] Paramahansa Yogananda, theories of enlightenment and non-specific genders. Sometimes there might be very light social commentary involved [in my work], but it’s always presented in an open ended way—I prefer the clothes to speak for themselves.”
On his SS ’16 collection:
“This collection was a return to beauty for me. Everything I was making before was dark and ironic, so I really wanted to stay away from that and find out what I think is beautiful. Some of the pieces do still have a darker tone, but the overall color story is sweet, romantic and tribal. This red and cream combination has been in my head for months. I also love the natural elements that came into the collection; the hand-painted monarch butterfly pieces and the wood accessories brought an aspect that is different for me, but I absolutely loved it. The ‘WHY’ pieces were my little statement on the chaos happening in the world and fashion industry.”
On gender and sexuality:
“It was important for me to insert some of my personal quirks about gender and sexuality into the collection. All my friends are so brave in the way they represent themselves and challenge the gender and sex norms, so I wanted to celebrate that. There is something about pushing the boundaries of masculinity that is fun and immediately interesting. It’s been a running theme in my life and it’s constantly coming out in the work.”
On New York Fashion:
“As an LA designer, coming to NY and inserting myself into that world of underground fashion week misfits was scary and fun. I can’t wait to do it again, but hopefully on a much larger scale. I would love for there to be a shift in the way new designers are brought up in the industry, particularly those like me who might not have all the technical skills in the world, but still have a strong, passionate point of view. Fashion by nature, I think, is exclusionary, but I’m realizing my energy is much better spent on creating art, rather than chasing relationships with certain people I think I need to forward my career. It’s hard to live in this constant hyper-creative state as much as I do with little to no financial stability, but I will keep doing it as long as I love it.”