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Talia Byre’s Slow Burn

01 May 2024

Talia Lipkin-Connor designs with longevity in mind. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2020, legacy and heritage have been the cornerstones of her design philosophy. Lipkin-Connor’s London-based label, Talia Byre, pays homage to her great uncle’s boutique, Lucinda Byre—a cornerstone for the community on Liverpool’s Bold Street from 1964 to 1982. With aspirations to cultivate Talia Byre in the same communal spirit, the brand launched its first online boutique last week, transitioning from wholesale-only to direct-to-consumer sales. This change enables the brand to connect with customers worldwide and allows its community to expand gradually yet steadily.

Rachel Weinberg Talia, you have been quietly and confidently doing things your own way since starting your brand, Talia Byre, in 2020. You have presented three consecutive collections and emphasised the importance of physical shows, noting that these “introduce people to your world”. You have also stressed the importance of experiencing the clothes in motion rather than seeing them only online. This month, however, marks a new direction with the launch of your e-shop. What prompted you to take Talia Byre online at this time?

Talia Lipkin-Connor We started Talia Byre four years ago and have mostly just worked with big wholesale departments like Nordstrom, SSENSE and Selfridges. Because it was just me early on, that’s all I had the capacity for. But now, with a slightly bigger team, we are reassessing our sales plan and have changed our wholesale approach, so we are now stocked in small boutiques around the world to ensure there are multiple touchpoints for customers. I think people have more of a connection with smaller stores. That’s how I shop, at least. Next season, we’re going to partner with someone who is going to help us branch out to APAC, which is quite important for us.

RW Talia Byre is a tribute to Lucinda Byre, a womenswear boutique in Liverpool run by your great-uncle Ralph from the 1960s to the 1980s. Your great-grandfather was a tailor there, and your late grandmother, who helped run Lucinda Byre, was the main reason for your entry into fashion. I can’t help but think that the e-shop is a step closer to you opening a physical store and reviving the Lucinda Byre community. Does a physical store feel possible for you? Is it something you hope to achieve in the future?

TLC A physical store is definitely the end goal. Lucinda Byre had a very strong focus on community. We’re still in touch with the Lucinda staff and we get random emails from customers! Even the other day, this man wrote to me to say that his wife had sadly passed away. He shared some pictures of her at her wedding in one of Lucinda Byre’s dresses. It was amazing to see.

My family worked at Lucinda Byre for generations. One of the reasons that I decided to start Talia Byre was that my generation was the first not to be involved in the store. The sense of community that was felt at Lucinda Byre is very important to me. It’s central to how we run our studio and events. There are always people in and out and they inspire the collections.

RW There is also the idea of working with a slower business model and opting to take things at your own pace. And I’m sure when you launch a product, or in your case, a collection, there can be pressure to get it out, move it, make it accessible, and make it available. You chose a different approach and decided to wait until you were ready.

TLC Yeah, I hate half doing things. I will only start to tackle something when I know I am ready to tackle it. Longevity is my motto. It’s everything. It’s the name of the game. And that also feeds into the Lucinda Byre legacy. I wanted to carry it on.

RW What can we expect to see stocked in the e-store?

TLC We’re going to start offering made-to-order on certain styles and we’re also going to start doing bridal.

RW Oh, wow.

TLC Yes, that’s actually how I started. I did bridal for my MA collection at Central Saint Martins. I made a pencil skirt that we actually reproduced for a friend a few years later. I always love doing sample sales or personal orders. When you’re only going through a wholesale account, you don’t have any touch points with customers, which is quite bizarre. You are really just throwing product out there and hoping that it sticks.

RW Do you need to rescale or reassess your production now that you’ve launched online?  

TLC We will maintain our current production methods. We operate with two collections: the main seasonal collection and then a line called ‘Icons’. And the website is going to be split by these two collections.

RW Why have you decided to split it like that?

TLC I made that decision a couple of years ago. I was finding it very hard to shoehorn these icons every season. They were quite restrictive, and we felt like we couldn’t be as creative, so we separated it. The seasonal collections are very creative, and the Icons collections are full of styles that I know work. They are trans-seasonal and are available in black or white where appropriate. With Icons, a customer knows what they are going to get, it’s reliable and you can re-buy it. They are all pieces that I have in my wardrobe. I’ve stolen samples that I wear over and over again.

As well as the two collections, we will have exclusive pieces on the website, including our bag that we started last season. We’ve got this mad giraffe pony skin that we acquired for some reason.

Then, in terms of buying, it can be hard to reflect on the season and consider what works. After the show, I always retry the pieces and the girls in the studio incorporate them into their outfits. We work out what’s going to be practical.

RW I have read that accessory pieces help to sustain growth and maintain stability.

TLC Yes, I’m very conscious not to fall into the trap of ‘emerging new designer’, especially in London. That’s why everyone calls me the slow burn.

RW It’s refreshing.

TLC It can also be incredibly frustrating.

RW Did anyone advise you to take a more measured approach to developing the brand, or did a particular business model inspire your strategy?

TLC The brands that we look to are very long-term brands. The books we look through, the research that we constantly do, and all the archive pieces that we collect from Sonya Rykel or Alaïa are brands that build up a very personal relationship with their customers. And that’s something that I definitely want to work towards. I want it to be about longevity more than trends. I’ve never really been trend-driven. I don’t really know what that means. The collections are mainly based on whatever phase I’m in.

RW And the phase in the studio?

TLC Yes, and people in the studio. I worked in the industry before starting Talia Byre and I knew when I had my own studio, I didn’t want it to be hierarchy-based. I know some people love working in that environment, but I just can’t understand it. Even though I have final say, everyone has a lot of autonomy and power. Even people who have left, like my old assistant, are still very involved and pitch in with a wad of research each season.

RW Tell me about the inspiration behind the Spring Summer 2024 season.

TLC It’s called ‘Don’t think twice’, after one of Joan Baer’s songs. I’d gone through a big life change and was constantly listening to that song. It’s also a strong message and one that I often say to my team. You have to stick to your guns.

RW The collection marks a departure from the more minimal silhouettes in your previous work, adopting bolder materials and patterns. There are polka-dotted mini dresses and tights, and skirts in vibrant blues, pinks and reds. You also used this dynamic diagonal pinstripe, which invokes a sense of movement and geometry.

TLC Yes, it was the first time that we had introduced materials like jerseys and patterns like the stripe. We had only really worked with knit so I’m very proud that we were able to incorporate jerseys. It also has a much more accessible price point. The tops also have knit tape, so they're finished in the same manner as previous collections. And they all retail for under 300 pounds.

In terms of colour palette, there are a lot of navy and greens. In high summer, we’re going to drop all the white pieces on the website; there is a white poplin with a cream polka dot base.

RW The polka-dots are fun.

TB Yes, one of my assistants was going through a mega polka-dot phase so I decided we had to get some polka dots. I became obsessed.

RW You mention your team a lot. They seem important to you. What do you look for in a team member?

TLC I’m not really sure. I think a good team member is someone who’s just willing to pitch in and be able to do their bit. Also, someone who is able to do many things and not be afraid to try new stuff. It’s like one of those things that, when you’re in, you’re in. It’s a small business, so you’ve got to be able to do everything. We’ve got a few people who are in and out. I also teach at the London College of Fashion a couple of days a week, so I’m in and out as well.

The studio is constantly flowing, which is quite nice. A couple of my team members work one day a week because they just want to be involved but are still studying. When it comes to presenting the show or finishing the collection, everyone pitches in.

RW Is there anything that you would want to change about your studio setup?

TLC We’ve never really had an ongoing press person. We’ve always just managed it ourselves, so we don’t do a lot of celebrity work. I’m very fussy about who wears the clothes, so it ends up just being friends of someone in the studio. Our goal is definitely to get on the celebrity train. I think it’s important to establish yourself first, in your own language. But then I think it’s important to consider who you’re dressing. That kind of visibility is so important.

RW Have you started working on the next season?

TLC Yes, SS25. It’s still very early days, but we have started our studio playlist and started researching some animals. I always like to do an animal print or animal focus. I think it's quite fun.

We’ve been looking into crows and deer. A couple of the girls in the studio went to visit the deer in Nara, Japan. They totally fell in love. I’m very into their meanings.

RW Both words have multiple meanings.

TLC I’m obsessed with the implications. Often, you think a crow is a symbol of death but it can actually represent transformation and open-heartedness.

RW Cute.

TLC When we started Talia Byre, we worked with a lot of block colour, so now we’re starting to incorporate more prints and stripes. We’re expanding the narrative.

RW What do the early days of design look like in the studio?

TLC We’ll start with styling. We will pull old looks, vintage pieces and previous seasons together and start building new silhouettes and discovering who the woman is. It might be a slightly exaggerated version of what I might wear on a daily basis, or someone else in the studio. We design for the people we know.

Shop Talia Byre’s Spring Summer 2024 collection at taliabyre.com

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SEE ISSUE #06 HERE. The theme for this issue, Revelations, delves into the unfiltered aspects of life. It’s an appreciation and exploration of raw beauty, where authenticity reigns supreme; the unconventional is not just accepted but celebrated. In a world of manufactured perfection, this issue chooses to validate our quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, they are what make us inimitable.

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