September 7, London – words: Silvia Bombardini
“Look there she goes, that girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she’s feeling well. With a dreamy far off look. And her nose stuck in a book.”

Belle – Beauty and the Beast
The nerd, smiling or yawning in pale pastel blouses, was steventai’s muse ever since the brand’s earliest days. As it’s in her nature to shy away from the spotlight, for the coming spring Tai leafs back to the character’s debut, in his 2011 graduation show, to properly celebrate the bookworm once more.

In his universe, she’s got the brainy small-town charm of pre-Beast Belle, as well as the geeky pride of a bespectacled Margaret Hamilton, standing in 1969 next to a pile of printed code almost as tall as she is. She’s an old-school intellectual with a sense of humour, an obstinate optimist with a paperback tucked into her high-waist trousers.

Her wardrobe a more refined, more wearable, yet equally complex update on what she wore in 2011. For example, the papery texture given by panels of fabric layered one upon the other like pages of a book, is reissued in lighter organza, patiently hand-cut on bias, then folded with zig-zag stitching across all hems, as painstakingly long a process as it sounds. Or a range of items are assembled without seams, all woven together from squares of net, with a tiny cotton ribbon.

A sense of ingenious innocence runs throughout, of pre-digital curiosity: like how the punch cards of the jacquard loom were conceptual precursor to the development of computer programming, steventai’s collection is meticulous, cerebral, and oddly poetic.