Have you ever met someone and just been in awe of their style, their passion, their kindness, their intelligence, just everything about them? That’s exactly how I felt when I met Tessy, the founder and designer of Tesslo. I first came across Tesslo on Instagram and as I was scrolling through her feed I kept saying “Oh, I love this!” “OMG this is stunning!” “I’d love to wear this!” I think you get the picture-I was in love with everything Tessy designed!
After reaching out to Tessy I had the opportunity to meet up with her at Mood Fabrics. We walked through the store, chatting as we looked at fabrics. Tessy’s story is incredible, her passion unmatched, and her designs, well they are what dreams are made of!
I’m honored to be able to share a bit of Tessy, her story, and her style. I know you are going to love Tessy’s designs as much as I do. She is truly a talented designer.
What is your background and how did you learn the techniques/skills to design and sew clothes?
I grew up among five brothers. I was the only girl in the family. Fashion for me has always been a natural passion. I believe that I was born with a talent for fashion. I doubt that I could have been anything else other than a fashion designer. I think that being the only girl in the house also contributed to nurturing that inborn passion. I had my early education in Nigeria and I proceeded to London where I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design from Middlesex University. After my studies, I returned to Nigeria in 2005. In 2006, I won the Best Fashion Designer Award at the Nigeria Fashion Show (NFS). It was one of the biggest moments of my career. This was a big event that was televised live and featured over 125 contestants across Nigeria. I showcased the winning collection at the Nigeria Fashion Show in Paris sponsored by Air France.
How did you get started in this business?
When I returned from London to Nigeria in 2005, my mum gave me a tiny space in her house in Lagos to start the business. At the beginning, it was just myself and a tailor who was my first staff. I had three sewing machines, an ironing table and a pressing iron. It was pretty tough. So, this was the capacity at which I was operating before I won Nigeria’s Best Designer Award the next year. I strongly believe in taking baby steps. I was able to work from home—networking around the city of Lagos, meeting celebrities and TV personalities and making clothes for them in exchange for promotions and “red carpet shoutouts.” I did this for a couple of years before I was able to rent a place that I used as a flagship and office. Interestingly, like déjà vu, I am going through the same process as I start afresh here in the city of New York.
Do you have a favorite material to work with?
Actually, I work with all types of fabrics. Back in Nigeria where the weather is like summer all through the year, I worked with cotton, damask, crepe, etc. But here in the U.S., the different seasons dictate the type of fabric I work with. During summer, I love working with fabrics that are 100% cotton or linen, etc. But during winter when I’m doing my coats and blazers and all of that, I love working with wool, tweed and denim as well. Wool is my favorite because it enhances the volume and structural aesthetics in my designs.
Where does your inspiration come from as you’re designing new styles?
My inspiration is diverse but particularly, I am often inspired by people, cultures, the environment, and architecture. Because I make clothes for people who want unique or exclusive clothing that cannot be found elsewhere in any store, I mean people who love to stand out with “statement pieces”, I keep a very open mind and allow my creativity to roam. One of the unique things about Tesslo is how we globalize local aesthetics. By this I mean, being inspired by local ideas from different parts of the world and interpreting them in a way that appeals to a global audience. You can call it the glocalization of fashion. This also enables us to experiment with what I call “cultural fusion” – fashion inspired by different cultures and eras in fashion history.
Do you have a piece you’ve designed that has special meaning to you?
My wedding dress! It took me eight months to design. From the moment I had my engagement, I started working on my wedding dress. This was a very important and once in a lifetime event. I just wanted to make the best wedding dress ever for myself. It was the first wedding dress I have ever created. Nobody was going to make this dress for me, so I did it all by myself. The experience was fun and unforgettable.
What is your favorite part of owning, designing, and running a clothing company? What is the hardest part?
My favorite part of owning, designing, and running a clothing company is knowing that I can create something from my imagination and then see it come to life on the body of someone who is happily wearing it. It gives me a feeling of great fulfillment. Nothing beats the joy of seeing that smile on my customers’ faces when they wear the clothes I designed. The hardest part is knowing that you are part of an industry that is oversaturated and very capital-intensive. This is an industry where creativity and talent can be subjective. With so much competition in the market and lack of product awareness on the part of many buyers, it has become increasingly difficult for true talent to stand out. It is even more complex for startups. For a brand like Tesslo that is having to start all over again here in the U.S., you have to do everything yourself. You are the fashion designer, seamstress, model, make-up artist, photographer, videographer, social media manager and more all rolled into one. While it can be a lot of fun, it can also be very challenging.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day can be a combination of hectic and fun. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and after my prayers, as early as 8am, I’m putting together my to-do list for the rest of the day. Sometimes, the flow of ideas and inspiration can disrupt the day’s plans. There are days when I wake up and the first thing I want to do is pattern cutting for an idea I was thinking about throughout the night. I can work on that pattern for another 4 to 5 hours before my first meal of the day. When I am done cutting my patterns, I move to the execution stage on the sewing machine. Depending on how extensive the project is, I might be up late at night working till past midnight until my husband insists, “Baby, it’s enough! You have to shut down that project now and come to bed.” (Laughs) Sometimes, I step out into the city with my husband for a photo and video shoot for social media content. That can take several hours. There are days when I do fabric sourcing and visit fabric stores. I can spend hours checking varieties of fabrics while trying to decide which one to buy. There are moments when it’s just my husband and I researching on the Internet, brainstorming and discussing strategies about how to grow the business. On a typical day, you can have all of these or several of these activities happening back-to-back.
How did you choose the name of your business?
Actually, my brand name Tesslo is from my first name Tessy and maiden name Oliseh. So “Tesslo” is a combination of my first name, excluding the last letter “y” and the first two letters of my maiden name “Ol” spelt backwards.
Where do you sell your clothing?
I currently sell my clothes online. I have my website www.tesslo.shop where I sell my products and I also sell directly through word of mouth and referrals.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
That’s a huge one. In the next 10 years, I will be so happy to see Tesslo high up in the ladder in the fashion industry as a global brand that you will be able to recognize worldwide; a brand that will be a household name in fashion.
This is one of the hardest posts I’ve had to write. I so wanted it to be perfect for Tessy and then I realized it doesn’t matter what I write as her designs will speak for themself! Tessy creates beautiful, custom designed fashion for both women and men. I love how she and her husband wear only clothes designed by Tessy. When you see them together their coordinated outfits make such an incredible statement!
Reach out to Tessy and let her create the perfect outfit for you! You’ll feel so glamorous you’ll never want to take it off!