EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW| Winner of 'Chloé Design Prize' Steven Tai

Back in February, for the first time, Fashion Scout selected eleven graduates from across the UK to show as part of our Graduate Showcase during Fashion Week. Recently, one of the selected designers, Steven Tai was awarded Chloe's inaugural design-prize at the 2012 Hyères festival. Now a Royal College of Art graduate, and Stella McCartney intern, the young designer's recent successes, and mentions in Vogue are fast-upping his exposure, making him one to keep an eye on. We caught up with Steven following his win, and spoke bespectacled, brace-wearing "nerds", and where he's headed next.

VFS: Congratulations Steven- what are your plans moving forward; any time aside to celebrate, or are you thinking future collections, and where to go next?
Steven: Thank you.  Actually the day after I arrived back to London, I was already back at my internship at Stella McCartney.  It's a bizarre experience to be in the South of France one day for three shows, then at a design office in London the next.  

VFS: How important do you feel the support of awarding-bodies, and design platforms (such as Vauxhall Fashion Scout) are to the initial stages of a design career? 
ST: Very important.  The biggest challenge I find for a new designer is to have supportive platforms to show to an interested audience.  Bodies such as VFS help link the creation to the market.  I am also extremely grateful for these forms of exposure because it drives me and my work. 

VFS: You've said your work's inspired by the "nerd", and their accompanying love of books; can we attribute your accomplishments to a shared work-ethic... or are you just looking out for the book-loving underdogs by celebrating them through your work?
ST: I think it's a little bit of both.  I am quite a workaholic, and I think that stems from the nerdy/ studious side of me; and being a proud nerd with nerdy friends, I wanted to celebrate this wonderful character. 

VFS: ... So, is the "nerd" aesthetic something that might extend to the "Tai" wearer- in terms of the qualities they embody- is this who you imagine in your pieces?
ST: I think the styling helps amplify the concept, and the idea... but the clothing is still somewhat subtle, and I think my women understand the concept and relate to it intellectually.  It is a personal relationship between the wearer, and the clothes.  What the woman might look like might matter less than how she thinks on the inside. 

VFS: Is there a chance next season that we'll be seeing your inspiration step off-campus, and into - say - the corporate world? Or can we expect you to go in a different direction entirely?
ST: Good question!  I am solidifying the balance I want to strike right now, and its a little hard to say exactly how it will be.  I think it will be different... but still nerdy in my ways. 

Interviewed by Sara McAlpine, VFS Sub-Editor
Follow her @sara_mcalpine