From Gigi Hadid to Lizzo, Stars Love This NYC-Based Bold, Young Brand

Welcome to our newest editorial initiative, Who What Wear Spotlight, where we’ll be using our editorial platform, social following, and ad inventory to turn the spotlight on small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Each week, we’ll be highlighting a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.

Some people work their entire lives and see marginal success; some people are just in college when celebrities like Lizzo, Dua Lipa, and Gigi Hadid wear their designs. Teni Adeola is of the latter, and she has no shortage of impressive accomplishments. Among the ones she achieved before graduating from college is debuting her first collection at New York Fashion Week, then under the name Slashed by Tia. She’s only 23 years old, but she already felt it was time for her brand to graduate to a more mature name, Tia Adeola.

Adeola is no stranger to pushing barriers: It’s in the soul of her clothing line. As a Nigerian-born woman, she knows the type of sheer and revealing clothes she creates are taboo and frowned upon, but she sees it as her duty to dismantle those traditional constructs that strip women of their freedom, especially their freedom to express their sexuality. 

And she isn’t just restructuring the representation of female bodies in the 21st century, she’s taking a foundational era of art history and reimagining it with Black bodies. Take one look at Adeola’s designs, and it’s immediately obvious how inspired she is by the Italian Renaissance. It lives in her larger-than-life ruffled sets, collars, and balloon sleeves. And it greets you directly on with tees and dresses printed with classic high-art motifs, like the Pietà and royal portraiture, featuring Black individuals in place of the white people who filled those paintings for centuries.

Thus, Adeola’s designs are statements. So it’s no surprise that some of the most groundbreaking stars wear them on stages, in photoshoots, and while out and about for the paparazzi and world to see. SZA, Kali Uchis, and Lorde are among the other celebrities who have worn Adeola’s designs—a clear indicator that Adeola has a very exciting future ahead of her. I, for one, can’t wait to see where it goes. In the meantime, check out the designs Adeola’s most excited about right now and a few more we’re super into as well.

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I am a 23-year-old womenswear designer. I was raised in Nigeria and am currently based in New York. I started my brand Tia Adeola, which was formerly known as Slashed by Tia, in 2016 while I was studying at The New School and ran the business concurrently with my studies. I graduated last summer and showed my first full collection officially at New York Fashion Week last season. Ever since I have been focusing on building my brand and continuing to study art and design.

And if you had to sum up your business in five words or less?

Reclaiming renaissance fashion with a modern twist

What inspired you to start your business?

My love for clothing, art, and history.

How have social-distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?

It has been bittersweet. It started off confusing and pretty scary, to be honest. They’ve affected my business in a very positive way. The state of the world at present has led me to dig deeper and ensure there’s a message behind my clothing and what it stands for.

What are two to three of your favorite brands you like to support and why?

Amari Carter, who’s an amazing Black female designer and a friend of mine, and No Sesso who are signed to the same agency as me.

What has been your proudest moment as a business owner?

Being able to show my parents that I’m actually making a profit and not just messing around.

“I feel like I played my part by encouraging young people who may not be keen on wearing masks to have one that keeps them and others safe—while looking cool and making a fashion statement.”

“This style became a signature statement piece for the brand and a lot of incredible, powerful female artists and creatives have worn it, which played a part in the development of my brand.”

“I shared the Pieta Tank back in February following the F/W 20 show. The image is a painting I learned about while studying art history in high school. While I admired the work of Renaissance artists, such as Botticelli, Caravaggio, and Michelangelo, their art never included people who looked like me. And when they did, it would only be for a portrayal of slaves and jesters. With everything that has been happening in the world, I felt it was important to incorporate Black faces into important art narratives like Mary holding Jesus, so I worked with a graphic designer to reclaim this narrative and make the subjects Black.”

Up next, how to feel good from the inside out with a little Golde.

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