Recently clara54 was contacted
to do a story on Tennille White, a young African-American designer right here in Chicago, Illinois. After seeing the young lady fashions, this blog was pleased to make her acquaintance… you will be as well. To view designs from The Tennillle Collection log onto her website @http://www.tennillewhitechicago.com/designs…Plus size women wear it well with designs by Tennille! Now the interview…
c54 -I read from your bio that you started your fashion business four years ago at the young age of 25. What motivated you to tackle such a competitive field?
TW- I fell in love with designing at 14. I remember being so excited to go to high school every single day and getting the opportunity to create new and fabulous pieces. So, I guess being so young when I first started the business, I never even thought of it as being a competitive industry. I just knew that this was my first love and I would have been miserable doing anything else.
c54-You sent me pieces from your best sellers…what has been the most challenging instances so far, deciding to design for the plus-sized figure as your first priority as opposed to the skinny runway types?
TW -The actual designing process is a piece of cake and just comes naturally…the most difficult thing is actually getting media coverage for the collection. I have been successful just by word of mouth. It would really help if magazines and newspapers would devote the same amount of coverage to Plus as they do to Misses.
c54- I was showing my daughter your designs as she has a critical fashion eye, and she truly love your pieces, especially the whites. What bold statements do you think will grace the runways for fall? And do you feel pressured to design something that speaks to your authentic vision & yet make an impact in the fashion world?
TW- The collection in the photos you received are from the Spring 2010 Collection that I will be debuting during the Macy’s Runway Show for Fashion Focus Chicago. I think dresses will continue to have a major presence on the runway, along with a softer more neutral color palette.
The one thing that I have learned from my 4 years as a designer is that this is a business first and foremost.
So, although I may want to create something totally out of the box, I somehow can turn on the “business woman” switch in the middle of the design process. My goal is to make each plus size woman look amazing whether she’s just going to work or going to a gala.
c54- I know your clothes are sold in Chicago at Macy’s Department Store… are there other venues folks can find your designs and are they affordable for economically challenged shoppers like myself? (smile)
TW-Oh I wish! It is my dream to forge a partnership with a company like Chico’s or Lane Bryant. One of the big boys…I would love to make the clothes accessible to the everyday plus-size woman.
c54- Do you have a hands on in selecting fabrics for your designs?
TW- Very much so…I select EVERY fabric and design every piece in the collection and design for individual clients that are looking for a custom piece. I’ve done everything from bridal gowns to sportswear.
c54-Tell us how you came to mentor young people interested in having a career in fashion?
TW- When I was in high school I was afforded the opportunity to be exposed to various industries and thus I chose to become a designer. I wanted to give that same opportunity to other young people. Having a goal is extremely important for teenagers these days, especially in Chicago. Just last week I facilitated a workshop with the McCormick Boys and Girls Club and it is truly a blessing to be able to inspire our youth. I am currently the President of the Apparel Industry Board Inc.’s Young Designer Network. Through the Apparel Industry Board, I help to develop and facilitate a program in conjunction with the Chicago Public Schools Education to Careers program for an inner-city high school with a fashion department.
During this year-long program, I teach the students what it really means to be a fashion designer. I expose them to the “real” culture of the fashion industry through interactive activities, lectures and field trips. We all have to do our part!
c54-Tennille White how do you define success?
TW-Success is setting a goal and completing it!