Design is always the expression of an idea or a philosophy, and never more so than when implemented in service of a monarch. A building, an object or an outfit becomes an articulation of vision, and can speak to the personality and politics of the institution it represents.
“Without context, without depth, design is meaningless – it’s just a word. It’s only when you break down a designer’s passions, inspirations and influences that you really get to the true of understanding of their vision,” says Hugo.
It’s 8:30 AM in the back of the Taylor Morris Space Pop-Up in Notting Hill. It’s clear Hugo has a voracious work appetite; he’s just returned from his honeymoon a mere 48 hours ago, but is already planning a Taylor Morris road trip that will take their VW campervan to a number of summer events. He looks almost giddy with excitement to be talking design over coffee first thing in the morning.
The initial inspiration for Hugo’s design journey came from a uniquely inspirational history of art teacher, and then from a thorough schooling at the Courtauld Institute of Art – the alma mater of luminaries such as artist Jann Haworth, art critic Brian Sewell and photographer Jeff Wall.
“At Harrow School, my art teacher was one of those proper, Dead Poet Society types – a pure inspiration,” says Taylor. “He was one of those teachers that you’ll always remember, and looking back at that class, it’s amazing how many people in there have gone on to have significant careers either in fashion or in the arts. He effectively inspired a generation of fashion labels.”
It’s when Hugo starts to discuss his love of studying art and architecture that his eyes light up; some of the most exciting moments in his education were the result of study trips arranged by his art teacher to the cultural and architectural capitals of Europe.
“He took us to Florence and Paris,” recalls Hugo. “We’d visit Royal palaces and collections, and he’d tell us about the Medici family – how they weren’t technically Royal, but essentially became Royal through their patronage of the arts – and how different eras of the papacy were reflected through fashion.”
From this early introduction to the dizzying beauty and historical significance of art, Hugo’s interests broadened to include the importance of design to the iconography of the British monarchy.
“Going back to Tudor art and fashion, there was a very clear, conscious effort to turn our Royals into icons,” says Hugo. “It’s essentially the same principles as today with social media and the power of the individual – it’s like Instagram. You think of Queen Elizabeth I and you immediately think of this severe, powerful look that she created, and how it was immortalised in art that travelled all over the world. Those images are still embedded in our collective consciousness today.”
It’s clear that the crossover between art and history is what drives Hugo’s passion for design, and this professional obsession has spilled over into a personal need to devour historical documentaries and dramas – even to the extent of interfering with his honeymoon.
“I’ll be honest, I am a little addicted,” says Hugo. “On honeymoon, Millie couldn’t believe I watched the entire series of Hitler’s Circle of Evil – all 10 parts – but I just found it fascinating. I love getting sucked down little rabbit holes of knowledge – even more so if its art or architecture-related. This is why I love True Royalty; when I went on Netflix they just didn’t give me the depth and quality of documentary I wanted. Now I can carry the greatest Royal Palaces around in my pocket everywhere I go.”
The impact on the Taylor Morris designs is clear – a commitment to classical style and timeless elegance. “We’re not doing things that are wacky or super out-there,” Taylor explains. “I specialised in Baroque architecture – very closely associated with Royalty and aristocracy, obviously – but the modern stuff didn’t come across in anything I did. All that time looking at baroque buildings, proportions, colouring and architectural design – that is what truly informed our principles.”
“That’s where inspiration comes from: watching, looking, deciphering and learning. And we have such an incredibly rich history to draw on.”
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