Christine Hobbs, Teacher of Fashion at King’s, introduced Tennent to designer Karen Zhang who owns her own store, X-Plain, in Newmarket. Zhang was impressed with Tennent’s personable approach and talent and offered him the opportunity to manufacture his designs using her suppliers in China. His brand will officially launch in 2017. Tennent also had the opportunity to work backstage with Zhang at New Zealand Fashion Week this year.
We caught up with Tennent to get some insight into his life as a budding fashion designer.
Who was your early style influencer?
Robert: My mother was a huge influence as she created her own clothes and knew a lot of people in Cambodia that had their own stores. She would always have them over for lunch or parties. She has a good sense of style. People on social media and different designers around the world constantly inspire me.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is thinking of a career in a Fashion, what would it be?
Robert: I’m learning everyday and I’m still working on my own clothing label. I think it is important to always put a little bit of yourself into the designs. I think this makes the garments more personal and creates a powerful attachment. Design clothes that are important to you and don’t worry about the money. It’s very important to stay true to yourself and remember why you started designing. My final piece of advice would be to not overwork yourself and to take care of your happiness and to learn now to take advice because fashion is an extremely critical industry.
What was it like being at Fashion Week?
Robert: It really opened up my mind to how the fashion industry works. I worked closely with different designers and they introduced me to extremely influential people and took me out of my comfort zone. Previously I had only been in the audience of a fashion show but being backstage gave me an enhanced personal feeling that you can’t get from just watching. It was very insightful and definitely opened my eyes. I loved seeing all the clothes being presented and prepared backstage and I really enjoyed the energy and rush of being there. Even though it was not my show, I still felt very nervous for the other designers.
What did you learn from the experience?
Robert: I learned how to get my own show in New Zealand Fashion Week. All the designers told me to be calm and enjoy the ride and to design clothes that mean something to you. I have learned what it takes to get exposure and how to behave backstage. I think being humble is very important in the Fashion industry. The people you keep around you are very important; they should lift you up and not bring you down. The connections you make are quite important when you are trying to start a business and I met a lot of people who can help me along the way.
What is the name of your brand?
Robert: My brand will be named after my great grandfather, grandfather, and father, Robert Brown. It’s always been a tradition in our family to name the oldest male Robert.
What style will your brand be?
Robert: It’s still developing but I like the contrast between masculine and feminine. It’s that interplay of elements that really interest me, especially the contrast in colours and fabrics.I want to design clothes that are comfortable to go out in and to wear at home. There willbe pieces that will stand out and be worn on special occasions or outings but I want my brand style to be something you can wear to a party at night then come back and fall asleep in. I think my colour pallet will set the mood and atmosphere of my brand, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
What will your 2017 be like?
Robert: Lots of meetings! I will be getting my clothes made and getting some photoshoots done. Hopefully I will be in NZFW and be able to do that all over again. Most importantly I’m just happy with my life and how supportive King’s College has been. Not a single person has been unsupportive and it shows how King’s is a family that does support you when you succeed. I have many more obstacles to overcome and I will have to work very hard to get what I want. I have so many things planned and hopefully this is the start of something big.