Q&A: Tara Starlet
c/o Tara Starlet
Tara Starlet: the British fashion label making beautiful clothing for women inspired by times past. Founder of this self-titled label, Tara, is here today to give us some insight into her brand from her inspirations to the design process to what’s in store for her next collection. Perhaps you are already a fan of Tara like us, or there may be some of you that haven’t yet been introduced. Either way, you’ll be glad you stopped by today. Without further ado, take it away Tara.
Where does the brand name come from? Why are you called Tara Starlet?
The brand was born as a younger incarnation of my mother’s brand which was in her own name so it made sense to use my name. We took the same designs and started making them in brighter colours, louder prints and with cute detailing, for my age group. My name means Star, and with the inspiration coming from the starlets of Hollywood’s silver screen it just had a lovely ring to it.
What did you do before setting up this label?
I set up the label with my mum when I was only 17, I was working with her on the designs and branding at the same time as studying for my A level exams. I took a year out to help with the business as we had just launched in Topshop, but then I decided to continue my education and get a degree in Anthropology before going full time with Tara Starlet.
Your tag line is ‘nostalgic clothing for modern women’. From where do you gather the inspiration for your designs?
The inspiration comes from powerful women. I love complex, intelligent, deep women. Sometimes I feel like society forgets that glamorous women are beautiful and stylish but so much more. They are creative and strong and inspired.
At Betty HQ we love the 60s and 70s. What is your favourite era and why?
I take inspiration from the 30s through to the 60s but I find the 40s and 50s especially enjoyable to work with. The clothes in those decades were designed to flatter curvy figures, something that a lot of modern clothing cannot do. I have had women burst into tears when they try on my dresses because they have never seen their figure look so good.
Why is it important to you that all garments are made in the UK?
Britain has a rich history of manufacturing, which has almost entirely died out. These days we send a lot of money overseas, supporting the booming economies of countries that specialize in manufacturing. I believe it is critical for the recovery of our economy to support British industry and manufacturing. I also like to keep a close eye on my factories because I know there are lots of issues, especially overseas, with poor working conditions and slave labor. I have an excellent relationship with my manufacturers and they know how important it is to me that their workers are happy, healthy and paid.
Have you had any pinch me moments since launching in 2005?
I’m always dumbfounded when I see my pieces on the telly or amazing bits of editorial coverage. A few pinch me moments were when The Saturdays were on the front cover of Cosmo magazine wearing head to toe TS, also seeing one of my dresses in Vogue (I’ve read my mum’s Vogues since I was a tiny girl), and also showing at London Fashion Week was epic!
Talk us through your design process.
I have a vast collection of books about my favorite eras of fashion, and original vintage sewing patterns. I like to go to exhibitions or watch old movies to get my creative juices flowing. I always remake a few of the classics that my customer loves. When I’m designing new pieces I like to think about what is missing from my customer’s wardrobe and what she would love to find in my next collection.
Does your own style shine through in the collections or is it much more about finding a muse and creating something for them?
My muse is my customer. I know that she loves dancing, so I make skirts and dresses that are perfect for swinging and shaking. She is passionate and political, she cares about the economy, the environment and the wellbeing of others, that’s why my manufacturing process matters to her. She loves dressing up and is confident and playful with her look, so she adores details like heart-shaped buttons, loud prints and fun colours. She is not interested in cheap fast fashion because she knows that a retro look is timeless so she curates her wardrobe to last.
The next collection is going to be a collaboration with artist (and your sister) Poppy Chancellor, of Poppy’s Papercuts. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Poppy and I are half sisters. We have been obsessed with each other since we were little and in many ways we are like twins. I decided to do something completely different for my SS15 collection, to celebrate 10 years of Tara Starlet, and print my own fabric for the first time. Poppy’s artwork is amazing, she creates fantastic pieces using paper and a scalpel, she takes her inspiration from erotica and drama and explores the emotions and desires of complex women. Her technique is heavily inspired by the paper crafts and cultural art of Mexico. The collection is our homage to my mum who passed away 3 years ago, she was obsessed with all things Mexico; Frida Kahlo, bright colours, day of the dead, religious iconography, the food, all of it. Poppy’s work perfectly combines these themes and she has created some beautiful prints for the 10th Birthday collection.
Some of the garments have a name like the Eliza suit or the Caroline cape. How do you think these up? i.e. how do you decide which name should go with which item?
The Caroline cape is named after Caroline from the film Chocolat because the cape reminded me of the scene at the start of the movie where the character Caroline is walking through the snow in a red cape. I love film references and often name my pieces after characters or actresses.
What is the most fun part of your job/day?
My favorite thing is working on the photo shoots, I love planning the concept then seeing my vision and the pieces come to life. After months of working on a new collection it is such a great feeling to see it all come together.
Do you have a go-to outfit for special events?
The Sweetheart Dress is a piece that I have been making for a long time, I am always making it in new fabrics because it is so flattering and easy to wear and it flies off the shelves every time. I have lost count of how many different colourways I have it in and it is a fail safe for any event. It is known affectionately as ‘the perfect wedding guest dress’.
If you could invite 6 people, dead or alive, round for a dinner party who would they be?
Frida Kahlo, Vivienne Westwood, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn and Mahatma Gandhi.
To see the full collection and shop visit the Tara Starlet website here.