From a young age, Tessa Louise felt a passion for creating original work in illustration and sculpture. Her love of fashion was discovered when she began thrift store shopping in High School, searching for items with character to pair with simple items. In many ways this experience is what planted the seed for the Tessa Louise brand down the road. Why are there two distinct categories - character, bright statement items and simple, everyday wardrobe basics? Why can’t items be a balanced mixture of both?
Tessa majored in Clothing Design at the University of Minnesota and discovered her passion for innovation and taste for wearable art - essentially merging her two passions. Tessa is dedicated to the fundamental design process of draping each design directly on the human form to achieve the most flattering cut and wearable versions of her ideas. In 2012, Tessa began the namesake label Tessa Louise (her first and middle name) in Minneapolis. Tessa Louise has since become a resource for women that demand quality, seek innovation, and love the personalization and versatility that Tessa Louise items allow. For Tessa, the goal is to develop items that her clients reach for first and never want to take off.
Talk about the beginnings of Tessa Louise Clothing. What inspired you begin this endeavor?
When I began Tessa Louise, I knew at my core that I loved the creative process. I knew that I wanted to continue to use my degree in Clothing Design and that innovation was my favorite part of any work that I do. My initial thought was to make clothing that filled in that gap between wearable and progressive. Many of my friends and family would tell me that they enjoyed wearing unique things that were special, but that they weren't confident about HOW to wear them or that they could "pull them off". I have always had that concern for making people feel good, feel confident and empowered in the back of my mind. I want my clients to see something unique in my items, but also see how they could wear it with items they already own and make their own statement.
Have you always been creative? What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
Yes, I have always been creative but not always in the sewing realm. My parents helped nurture that side of me by entering me in drawing, painting and sculpture classes at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts when I was in middle school. Gesture drawing and portraits have always been my favorite fine art medium, but in High School and College I also dabbled with ceramics. My love of fashion was always a separate thing when I was younger. I would scour thrift stores for items that I could mix into my wardrobe and take little fashion "risks" on and it was kind of addictive. Now looking back I can see when I merged the two loves of art and fashion, it's quite obvious to me now how clearly those are linked.
How has your clothing evolved? How have you evolved as an artist and businesswoman?
The first collection under the Tessa Louise umbrella was an entirely jersey collection- which was a strategic decision as knit helped with the fit process and to keep things cohesive without investing in a huge gamut of fabrics. Incidently this helped develop a clear vision for Tessa Louise- as I started to receive strong responses from my clients regarding the quality and unique designs of my knit pieces. I've really embraced my focus on knitwear and frankly having a little focus helps me push boundaries in other ways.
Over the past 4 years I have become more savvy about what I will or will not invest in, how I spend my time, and what I do or don't listen to. I've realized that of course you should listen to your clients, listen to feedback, but also to read between the lines and consider that not everyone is your client. My intuition is the #1 thing I listen to, above all else. In my opinion, if I listen to that consistently then my own taste will continue to run through each collection and ultimately create a clear, cohesive brand.
What is your artistic process like from start to finish?
My creative process is not always the same. Sometimes I am insanely inspired and I can sit down and sketch for hours. Occasionally I will see someone on the street and the way she's wearing something will inspire an entirely new design. Suddenly I will find myself driving and designing in my head. Once I have an idea I always, always drape it on my dress form and consider all the proportions and functionality of it in its physical form. Then I question everything about it. Should it be longer, sleeveless, tighter, is this the right fabric? And I don't stop myself from wandering down a new rabbit hole and forgetting my original idea if something more exciting presents itself.... then fabulous. Because of this process, I almost never end up producing the exact idea that I sketched or first was inspired by. The evolution of it as it's created is how it gets better.
How has living and making in Minnesota influenced your creative work, specifically through Tessa Louise Clothing?
Minneapolis is such a vibrant and beautiful city that I am honored to live and create in. The most obvious way that this city influences me is by how the weather changes my mood and ultimately what I want to create. I have also been so lucky to find a supportive group of fellow designers and fashion lovers through participating in local fashion events, the local design haven Showroom, and creatives from parallel fields.
Do you like to experiment with different materials or techniques in your work?
I love to experiment with new techniques and new materials. For me, the most experimental part of my work is in construction and design/shape elements. But the exciting part of that is that it all depends on the fabric. Often an amazing fabric is what drives the question "what can I make this do?".
Do you feel like your work allows you to contribute to something bigger than yourself?
My favorite moment as a designer is when I hear that someone loves how they look and feel in my work. That never gets old. I think my brand is helpful on a smaller scale right now. As in TL helps women feel confident and empowered by what they buy. Not only do they feel good in it, but they feel good about supporting me directly and knowing that their dollar is going towards a small and growing business. Into the future, Tessa Louise will continue to manufacture in an ethical, socially responsible way by treating my employees fairly, and by not over-producing. Ultimately I dream of someday creating a fund in which I donate part of my proceeds each year to the growth of another socially and environmentally conscious company.