A Conversation with Teni Adeola | A Fashion Designer to Keep on Your Watch List
Scrolling through the feed of 21-year-old Teni Adeola, also known as Tia, can be an intimidating thing to do. The Nigeria-born, London-raised, New York-based designer is the epitome of cool and class, with hair, makeup and clothes put together to a tee. Other than being cool, she’s the creator behind the very successful fashion brand Slashed by Tia. You’ve probably come across one of her creations on the ‘gram recently. Sported by celebs in the likes of Gigi Hadid, ZSA, Kali Uchis, Dua Lipa – literally every ‘it-girl’ of our generation – it’s safe to say Tia is a rising star in the fashion industry to keep on your watch list.
While working on her brand and collections, Tia is also a student at Parsons, an education she had to apply to in secret as her parents wanted her to stay in London to study law. I was super excited to know how it all began and how the Slashed by Tia brand could blow up so quickly, so I called up Tia to discuss just that. As soon as my call came through and the intimidatingly cool girl on the other end of the line picked up I was blown away by the kindness and honesty in her voice. Not that coolness and kindness can’t be combined, it’s just so rare to meet somebody who fully epitomises both. It’s that type of uniqueness, combined with hard work, that convinces me that this won’t be the last time the name Teni Adeola pops up on your radar.
Read the interview below about Tia’s journey as a designer, balancing work and studies, and finding motivation in wanting to impress her parents!
You’re Majoring in Culture and Media, it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily about clothes or fashion design?
Yeah, not at all. I originally entered the school doing fashion design, but then it was already something I could do. And the process with [learning about design] in school is so long and dreary if you already feel like you have the hang of important things, so I thought I’d switch to something more businessy and culture related.
What are you learning specifically when studying culture and media?
It covers a lot of things. It covers cinema and film, which is something I’m really interested in, it covers journalism a little bit, and radio. You can lean a little more towards the film aspect of it, which is what I’m kind of doing. So I’ve been taking a lot of classes in directing and screen studies and all that good stuff.
So are you thinking that in the future you might branch out into film, or are you thinking you’ll stay in the fashion business?
I will definitely stay in the fashion business, but I will kind of combine everything that I’ve learned – which I’ve already tried to do when I can. When I drop a new collection, for example, I do like a campaign video and I plan it for months and put a lot of thought into it. I work with different girls, artists and videographers.
How come you knew that already you already knew the basics of fashion design when you started college?
Because clothes is just always something I’ve been really into. And growing up in Nigeria, I always had access to my mum’s traditional fabrics, and, you know, I made clothes for my dolls. Also, when I was 13 I interned with a Nigerian designer named Ituen Basi who is pretty cool, she has dressed Michelle Obama and a few other women. And yeah, it’s something I’ve always been interested in and kind of done. It’s not something I woke up one day and was like “I’m going to make clothes now.” But I’ve always been really into clothes.
And how did the Slashed by Tia brand begin?
It began when I moved to New York at 18. I started school in September and I was like, I’m in New York, there’s so much I can make out of it, and then I started interning at VFILES and then I was just surrounded by so much creativity and different people expressing themselves in a way I had never seen before. So I started making these tops, just like in my dorm, and they were cross back tops with a cowl neck front, and I made them because, I’ve lost a lot of weight now, but at that time I was slightly bigger and I wanted a top that could show off my back but could cover my boobs completely. So I started making those and I would post it on Snapchat and had all my friends that I was making at college model them and people started contacting me saying they wanted to buy it. And then I made a Slashed by Tia Instagram page. So if you ever go to the bottom of the page you wouldn’t see ruffles, you would see these little cross back tops.
How did the ruffles come in?
In high school, one of my main subjects was history of art, and I’ve always been really interested in both art and history so it was my favourite subject. I loved my teacher so much and I did my final dissertation on 16th-century Spanish dress. So in studying that, and the paintings of some of my favourite painters, I noticed that in paintings of garments, in particular, one of the main aspects on clothing that you would always see on royals, such as like pearls and velvet, you would always also see a ruffle of some sort. Just because they were so expensive and time-consuming to make at the time. And they just always looked so good so they kind of stuck with me and I was like, ok now I am sort of starting to have this little platform, and ruffles is something I’ve just always been very into, and through these paintings, how do I incorporate them into modern dress?
And what year was that?
I believe 2017, or 2016.
So things have been happening pretty fast for you.
You could say that, yeah.
How do you find the time to manage a brand that has an increase in demand while you’re still in school?
Honestly, I don’t really think about it. I just kind of do everything. As I’ve grown up, I’ve just matured living in a city as tough as New York. I just know what I want and that helps me be very rational in my daily life, so I have a pretty robotic schedule. I have my time when I wake up, when I have to do Slashed by Tia related stuff, and then I know in the evening I’m like I have to do my homework now… I just try to stay as focused as possible and stay away from things that distract me or keep me off track.
You sound like a very disciplined person!
I mean, I’m not! I feel like I’m coming across as like “oh yeah, I have all my shit together.” I definitely do not, but, I try my best to kind of be responsible.
And what is your goal with everything? Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?
I definitely hope to be making couture, like, one-off pieces. Still keeping the affordable clothes that, you know, every girl can buy, but definitely kicking things up a notch and keep making more extravagant pieces when I have the time and money.
Who would be your ideal person to dress?
Bianca Jagger… love her! She’s just always had style, you know? Not everyone has genuine style, and the pictures you look up of her, her suits by YSL were always so perfectly tailored… she’s just what I would want to look like in a couple years.
What else are you inspired by, other than Bianca Jagger?
Not necessarily celebrities, but just my family. Growing up in a family with two really hard working parents, always striving for the best. Honestly, what inspires me is just impressing my parents, you know, my parents are African, so they’re not really into the whole fashion thing. But obviously, they’ve definitely seen growth and it’s exciting when I can tell them things that have happened that they actually know about, or like working with platforms they’re familiar with, that’s always really exciting and it pushes me to do even better.
Were they sceptical or supportive when you decided to go into fashion at first?
They were definitely sceptical… they were definitely not for it. My mum wanted me to go to university in London and study Law, she was very particular about me studying law. I actually secretly applied to Parsons, I didn’t tell anyone, I applied with one of my teachers in high school that I just had a really good relationship with. I actually got through to a scholarship and then I told my dad, and he is slightly more relaxed than my mum and he was just like “keep going with it, no need to tell your mum yet.” Now they’re all for it, but they definitely weren’t supportive initially.
What do you think won them over?
I think little things like, I had a show in Paris in March this year, and my mum and older brother were able to come. It was at Le Grand InterContinental in Paris and it was just such an amazing show with such an amazing audience, my mum was definitely blown away. And I was also recently featured in an article on CNBC, which isn’t as exciting as other features, but for them it was a platform they were familiar with, so it was exciting, you know?
It feels like I’m seeing your designs everywhere, which got me to thinking… are all these original Slashed by Tia designs? Or are you seeing a lot of people copying your aesthetic?
I mean, it’s definitely human nature to feel like people are copying you. Especially when the concept came from such a pure place for you… I’m definitely grateful to the Slashed by Tia audience but it doesn’t help when you get DMs from people almost every other day, like “girl, have you seen this,” or like “they are totally ripping you off.” I’ll be totally honest, if you were speaking to me a year ago, I would have had a completely different response. I would have definitely gone off. I used to cry and get upset about it but as I’ve gotten older and just continued to create and come up with more ideas, I feel like now I take it as a form of flattery and it just motivates me to work even harder till I can’t be imitated. I’m working very hard on my show taking place in September, this New York Fashion Week, so I’m trying to keep off social media and all that.
How are you feeling about the show in New York that’s coming up?
You know… I just want to make sure the collection is perfect, that’s all. That’s all that I’m thinking about every single day, every single second. I mean I have great people I’m working with, I think everything will turn out well, but my concern right now is just making sure the clothes are what I want them to be.
It feels like with your determined spirit things will go so well!
Thank you so much! I mean I’m not always this determined, you know, you’re hearing the best of it. But I try to stay positive and I hope everything goes well.
Yeah… and I think you can speak things into reality too.