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These days, it seems like the younger a brand is the stronger an ethos beats at its core. The newest generation of designers who have started brands in the last few years all seem to share a sense of responsibility to the planet and whatever community they’re a part of. This often means smaller brands with environmentally conscious production methods, and sometimes, it also means a mission statement aimed at deconstructing the industry as it stands. Toronto’s Tyrell Harriott is no different. He launched his eponymous label three years ago when he graduated from college and saw no space that suited him in Toronto’s design world. So he made space for himself.
In Harriott’s design world, luxury is turned on its head, and feminity takes on a whole new meaning. I’ve seen his barely-there designs lauded for their “heavy femininity” and the statements they inherently make on how sensual a woman’s body is typically allowed to be. Though Harriott is cutting holes and shortening hemlines to reveal the female silhouette, how much skin ultimately gets shown is up to the wearer, for his designs are often adjustable. Dresses can be made shorter, and bralette-shrug sets can be worn as separates. That versatility isn’t just a tool for empowering women to have control over how much of their bodies they want to reveal. It’s also multipurpose. Harriott wants his designs to take women from their day into their night.
The bralette set is already popular among It girls like Amy Julliette Lefévre and Anajah. The six designs Harriott currently sells are all made to order from deadstock fabrics. It’s a statement about production: How are luxury items produced, for whom, and with what intention? With raw hemlines, cutouts, itty-bitty straps, and see-through mesh, it’s clear he’s telling a younger, more radically feminine customer base that made to order is no longer a status symbol but a political message—one that encourages slowing down, paying attention to where our money is going, and dictating how the world gets to perceive us. Keep reading to hear from the man himself.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
My name is Tyrell Harriott. I studied fashion design at George Brown College here in Toronto, Canada, and wasn’t very inspired by the fashion that was happening in my city, so I created Tyrell. I launched it with the intention to make sensual clothes for destinations and create our own vacations every day. I want to design clothes that are striking enough to make memories.
The core of my brand is that you can wear every piece in different ways. I feel clothes should be able to have multiple personalities, and I try to show that in my brand. An important goal for me is to keep my business as conscious as possible, and how I do that is by making each piece to order out of deadstock fabrics. It’s always been really important to me to make sure my brand can operate during a time when that’s something consumers think about.
And if you had to sum up your business in five words or less?
Girl, where we going?
What inspired you to start your business?
I went to Paris in late 2016 and was inspired by the people, the stores, and the women! It put a vision of a specific woman in my mind that I really wanted to design for. After coming back and graduating, I was super ready to make a collection of items I loved. I did a fashion show in 2017 in Toronto that forced me to recreate what had been stuck in my head for a while. I made it to sharpen my portfolio, but when I couldn’t find anything that inspired me in my city, I started my eponymous brand Tyrell. I felt it just made sense, and I got to create my own little world that felt outside of Toronto but still in it.
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
Social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected my business for the better, really. I mean I had a lot on my plate pre-COVID, and it was forcibly cleared once lockdown started. Not basing off the wholesale model and being mainly e-commerce, we weren’t impacted by that part of the business. We’re a small team that does the job using a direct-to-consumer model, so I really didn’t have any middle man in the supply chain that couldn’t get the job done. I was able to put all of my focus and energy into my brand, which I wasn’t able to completely do before, so it’s allowed me to do a higher volume of orders since all the pieces are made to order.
What are two to three of your favorite brands you like to support and why?
I Iove spotlight love! A few brands I actually love to keep track of and support are Mowalola and Telfar! Well, I try to think of them as my peers, being black-owned businesses also, but I think what they do is really needed in this time of redefining what is luxury!
What has been your proudest moment as a business owner?
The proudest moment I had as a business owner was honestly getting my first stockist at a boutique I had always loved from afar and now am a part of. It’s super cool. It’s called The Break in Brooklyn, New York.