NEW YORK — They’re not the sort of sweaters one would expect to find at the gym, but a new knitwear collection launching for fall called Tao takes its inspiration from the comfort and freedom of an athletic lifestyle.
Formed as a partnership between Clare Cook, who had been a sports marketing agent, and Dorothy Szeto, a veteran designer, Tao was conceived as a fashion collection that incorporates contrasting aesthetic and athletic elements. It mixes its metaphors from Eastern philosophy with high-performance activewear fabrics, with results that at times border on the abstract.
With a base of stretch knits made of nylon and Lycra spandex that are designed as pants, asymmetrical tops with built-in bras or a jumpsuit with ergonomic seams designed to enhance the derriere, several pieces are meant to be worn during active pursuits such as yoga or to knock around on a weekend.
But Tao adds an unusual dose of fashion with a collection of sweaters made of cashmere or mohair in cable-knit styles that wrap around like a straitjacket, a traditional cape with one end that loops through as a scarf, or another jacket that emulates a puffer coat with a neckline that would double as a life preserver. Some pieces would not be advisable for strenuous activities, as they are hand-washable only, but the point was to approach a fashion line with the underlying concept of “freedom of the body,” said Szeto, a former designer for Emme and Tse. In other words, it’s yin meets yang.
“People are understanding that it’s a new concept we’re creating,” Cook said. “It’s lifestyle pieces that meet the individual needs of a woman.”
The collection, based at 499 Seventh Avenue, wholesales from $45 for a T-shirt to $350 for a sweater coat.