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Plus Designer Tennille White from BET’s Rip the Runway

There’s definitely a void for quality, trendy, plus fashion. Born and raised in Chicago, Tennille White, has arrived and is ready to show curvy women just how sexy we can be! I chatted with Tennille last Friday afternoon and in a matter of minutes I fell in love with her spirit, her passion for the curvy world, and her homegirl personality.

Ty: When did you first fall in love fashion?

Tennille: Oh gosh, I was 12.

Ty: Wow really, what are some of your first fashion memories?

Tennille: I really fell in love with it when I saw someone actually make something. So that was kinda like my first experience. My sister is 4 years older than I am and she was in high school at the time. We both went to the same school, it’s an amazing school. Had nothing to do with fashion but it was just an elective. I went with her to the fabric store and I saw the project kinda go from one step to another and it was like oh my gosh, you really made that?! And I’m like ok I cannot wait to get to high school.

Ty: And of course you took that same elective when you got to high school?

Tennille: Of course, of course! Actually they only had two classes. I took it my freshman and sophomore years and I took it up with the principal and she wrote it into the curriculum.

Ty: Oh wow!

Tennille: I know, isn’t it amazing.

Ty: Born and raised in Chicago how do you feel the fashion market there is progressing?

Tennille: It is different and we really only have two seasons, summer and winter. Wintertime we are all so bundled up and we’re more concerned about the weather than fashion. It kinda takes a back seat. We really don’t care. But we’re trying. And there are a lot of different initiatives that our city is doing that other cities aren’y.

Ty: Really, tell us about some of the programs that Chicago is implementing?

Tennille: I am actually a board member of the Major’s Fashion Council, hand selected. And we essentially oversee fashion for the city from a business perspective. One program in particular that was created by in Chicago is the purchase order program. Let’s say a designer gets an order from the store. The designer takes the order from the store; a bank will handle the business side – do a background and credit check. And then the bank will write the designer a check for 60% of that order. So we have some serious programs. Chicago is definitely progressing.

Ty: And you were the lead designer for the Chicago Bulls, which must have been fun?

Tennille: I did, but not the actual teams. I designed for the entertainment acts; the Loveables which is their cheerleaders and the Matadors which is the like the really huge guys that perform. And I also did their mascots. I was a really fun time.

Ty: Have you always designed for plus sizes and where did you get your inspiration from?

Tennille: As far as a collection yes I have always designed for larger women. I was actually always a small girl but I had foot surgery maybe about 5 years ago. So not being able to work out and do my normal routine I gained a lot of weight. I went from being a hot 6 to a solid 12. So it was difficult. The plus size market kinda just fell in my lap. When I first started designing I was doing kinda light airy whimsical pieces that would work for all sizes. I started getting clients that were plus size women. These ladies could go anywhere and buy clothing. Price point was no problem for them; these ladies were the crème de la crème of Chicago. But they wanted quality. They were sick of wearing the white blouses and black slacks to every single event, you know. They were bored. They wanted to walk into the room and have a statement piece of clothing. Not just an accessory. I started my business on that. They would give me suggestions like “This is problem with the arms” or “this should be this” way. It was pretty much paid market research. So now no one can tell me I don’t know what I am doing for the plus size woman. I know her inside and out!

Ty: I definitely applaud your work, as I plus size woman myself I find it very sexy, trendy and young!

Tennille: Awwh thank you!

Ty: Now how did the opportunity with BET’s Rip The Runway come about?

Tennille: A lot of prayer to be perfectly honest. I am not the social butterfly, I don’t really know anyone. So it was sheer prayer and making the connection. It didn’t come overnight it was probably like a 2 year process and then I finally I got the phone call. And things have been amazing.

Ty: The show airs this Monday on BET, can you describe to us what we will see?

Tennille: It’s a lot of color. It’s so funny because you know I designed this collection last February and to see how “on trend” we are with the color it’s phenomenal. It’s a lot of dresses, everything is so easy. All the pieces are so easy to understand. Extremely versatile too. I can see someone wearing this to work and changing their accessories and then heading to a great cocktail party in the evening or throwing a jacket on and then attending a church service. It’s just so versatile.

Ty: What pieces do you love to make?

Tennille: I love dresses obviously and you will see that during the show.

Ty: Do you see yourself doing any red carpet dresses?

Tennille: No my customer really isn’t the red carpet woman. But in the future I would love to do a lower priced line. Every woman can’t afford a $200 dress and I get that. And maybe a fusion line with a really amazing retailer.

Ty: What’s next for you after Rip The Runway?

Tennille: Well we are hopefully, fingers crossed, doing something in New Orleans for Essence Music Festival. Everything should be finalized by April 1st.

Ty: One last question for our beauty readers what is one product that you cannot live without?

Tennille: Palmers! I love it. Every time I go get my makeup done for shoots and events the artists always say, “Oh your skin is so beautiful”, and I’m thinking .. oooook it’s just Palmers!

It was so amazing to chat with Tennille. Now I am off to purchase some items from her new collection. Join me

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