“Plus size women wear it well with designs from Tennille!”That slogan I’d cleverly coined from my first interview with Tennille White in October 2009 seemingly has gained a bit of a following as has its subject matter. I recently noticed the onslaught of traffic here at clara54 the last few weeks pointing in essence,to the first interview clara54 penned with the young fashion designer who folks in the industry say is setting the Chicago Fashion Design Industry on fire. Curious, I contacted Tennile to get the 411 for my readers & she was keen to giving clara54 an exclusive today (Monday) via telephone once she’d landed safely back home in Chicago from New York City:
C54. Congratulations on your recent accomplishments Tennille. I’m looking forward to hearing it all, but first, let’s recap a bit. In the October interview you pointed out how you’d had an interest in fashion from the age of 14. Who were your mentors & advisors?
Tw. I really didn’t have any to be perfectly honest.There wasn’t really a fashion mentor. It was moreso my parents. My dad was a small business owner but that was back in the day. I have really good girlfriends who had nothing to do with the business side of things. I kind of found my way, doing church events and going from one thing to another. The very first event was at my dad’s school in Depaul Ill for Black History Month. I was a speaker.
I was always self-motivated. I learned how to sew by taking classes and honing my skills in college. There was no one to actually direct me. The other designers were very nice people and they’d tell me about programs & church fashion shows & stuff, but we were just different people. I was just always motivated. I started working 2 weeks after my fifteenth birthday and worked full time while in college.
C54. When did you identify your passion/vision for fashion?
Tw. Back in high school at 14. My sister is four years older than I am. She took a sewing class in her senior year, making all sorts of things.Watching her helped keep me very, very focused.
C54. Was your interest alway in plus size clothing?
Tw. No, it really wasn’t anything in particular. It sort of fell into my lap, if that makes any sense? I was pretty small in college until I injured myself and couldn’t workout or do anything and I picked up a little bit of weight. I was like how can I hide this or whatever (clothes)… literally by word of mouth, individual people came to me. All of these people have the same issues. They could go anywhere in dept stores & they’re telling me they can’t find anything to wear.
C54. The last time we spoke, you were finishing up Fashion Focus Week 2009. How did that work out?
Tw. It went great. I’m on the mayor’s Fashion Council here in Chicago. I took part in the Macy’s Show. It went really, really, well. I participated in a two part fashion seminar on a panel of 8 designers where we answered questions and offered young designers advice. It was a four day event.
C54. Ok, now, tell me about the big blowout!
Tw. “haha!” I literally was talking to my assistant/friend and two young ladies who are actually like her fashion assistants this morning on our way back to Chicago & we’re like “Did we actually do that!?! We left last Monday (Chgo) and we’re back today (monday) What happened last week? pause…We/I was featured as THE Celebrity Plus Size Designer at BET’s RIP THE RUNWAY!
We showed 15 books / girls ranging from size 12 to size 22-24 for the Spring Collection to premier March 15th in New York. We’re launching The Tennille White Collection on Monday March 8th. It was a great opportunity. It was a great production. These are the same people who produces the Grammys and Award Shows…its not a reality show. If you don’t know Tracy Reese (only one of the top designers who designed for the first lady!) It was fabulous. The Bet family totally embraced me. It was one of the best times of my life. I wish I could like video tape it for my own eyes so I can play it back. It was really fabulous.
C54. Do you have favorites in your pieces?
Tw. It’s so hard to pick a favorite. It’s like your children and the last thing you say, is “this is my favorite.” You know what I mean? They’re all my babies, but I don’t have children! It’s hard, there’s a little cream design that’s great, but, its like your children and it’s hard to pick…I don’t have favorites but we have some great colors for spring.
C54.Tennille , thank you so much…I’m proud of you.
Tw. You know what? I want to thank you because out of all the people we sent press releases to, telling them about Fashion Focus Week, you were the first to write about it. I’m a loyal person and whatever I can do…my company continue to grow whatever, I will give you an interview… whatever I can do.
C4. That’s a big deal Tennille. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Tw. I appreciate you.
C54. Thanks & keep dancing… (designing)
Tw. Thank you…
Ok, so clara54 is just a big ole softie when it comes to the creatives out there finding their passion & doing something about it… next!
BTW…For more info about the upcoming BETs Rip The Runway featuring Tennille’s fashions, go to http://www.bet.com/riptherunway/2010 and remember to watch BET at 9pm on March 15th…Also Tennille White Collections are seen on her new website launch March 8th…